Saturday, October 31, 2020

Butterflies released at Monarch Butterfly Festival join the great migration

The Bob Jones Nature Center hosted the City of Southlake’s 2nd annual Monarch Butterfly Festival on the morning of Saturday, September 26. 280 guests of all ages joined in the release of 400 monarch butterflies to celebrate the monarch migration.

The Perennial Garden Society (PGS) sponsored the butterfly purchase with a $1,500 donation. Master Gardeners from the Tarrant and Denton County chapters spent the entire summer working hard to prepare the garden beds around the Nature Center for butterfly and human visitors alike. Their hard work paid off, too, because the grounds are absolutely stunning.

With help from PGS, all 400 butterflies were “tagged” with a small sticker on their outer wing printed with a unique identification number. All butterflies released are registered with Monarch Watch, a University of Kansas research project focusing on the migration and well-being of the monarch population. Any citizen who finds a tagged butterfly can contact Monarch Watch, report the identification number, and assist researchers in tracking this year’s migration.

The monarch migration continues to be one of the most intriguing events in natural history that inspires and amazes scientists, naturalists, and onlookers alike. “Being able to partner with the Perennial Garden Society to be a part of this research project is so important for us,” said Nature Programs Coordinator Hannah Nyquist. “Southlake’s position along the migration path gives residents the opportunity to observe and aid monarchs as they make their journey. Having a combination of nectar plants and milkweed (a host plant for caterpillars) available is incredibly important for the success of the monarch population.”

This year, the COVID-19 outbreak posed a unique challenge for the event’s organizers considering the event has seen hundreds of attendees in years past. However, the Southlake Community Services team was able to successfully recreate the structure of the event in order to keep attendants safe while still hosting a beautiful and educational celebration of the amazing monarch butterfly. “At first we weren’t sure we were going to be able to have the event,” says Special Events Coordinator, Sarah Binion. “But this event is important for the community and we were determined to find a way to make the festival happen. It brings so much joy to the people who come and we didn’t want our residents to miss out. Especially in a year when so much has already been taken away, we wanted to be able to give the community this special day.”

Instead of one large gathering and a scheduled release of all butterflies at once as is typical for the festival, the event was divided into pre-registered sessions to maintain smaller numbers. Each family group was escorted to a private station where they were instructed about how to release their butterflies. This new setup inadvertently created a much more intimate and personalized setting for each group to move at their own pace, making this year’s event a truly unique experience.

For more information on how to help monarchs year-round, please visit monarchwatch.org.