Butterflies make Heart-Fluttering First Flights at Springfield Monarch Festival
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 2, 2016)
Davisburg, MI – When he was just 11 years old, Christian Kopicko started volunteering with Monarch Watch and raising butterflies at home to set free in the wild.
“Only 2% survive from egg to butterfly in the wild,” Kopicko said. “If we raise them at home they have a better chance.”
Kopicko and about 30 other volunteers made the Springfield Monarch festival a success. Kids and adults gathered in Davisburg for the annual event to celebrate the emerging of butterflies from their chrysalises and to help release them into the wild. For a small donation people can take home a caterpillar and leaves for it to eat, and they can tag and release a monarch into the wild.
Kristen Gauthier and her son are raising monarchs at home for the first time this year. “It’s very easy,” she said. “You have to clean out their container and make sure they have fresh leaves and when they hatch you have to help them hang onto the side [of their habitat] so their wings can dry straight.”
For Kopicko the most insightful thing about raising monarchs was seeing first hand how pesticides harm nature. “We have caterpillars in the back yard and when they sprayed for mosquitoes the caterpillars started to get sick. They threw up and you could tell they were not moving right. When they spray it doesn’t just kill mosquitoes it gets on everything. It gets on the vegetables that we eat. We need to think about the environmental impact of things.”
Yvonne Cameron and Nancy Obatich of Garden City are part of SE Michigan Butterfly Association. They each released a female monarch into a field of wildflowers and grasses. They put a special sticker on each one with an identification number. As the butterflies migrate to Mexico, those who find them (dead or alive) can go online to www.monarchwatch.org and put information in about the butterfly they found. Those who released butterflies can track the progress of theirs. For Cameron and Obatich the numbers are WC2 295 and WC2 223.
“It’s fun,” Cameron said. She raises butterflies inside at home and grows milkweed in the yard to encourage more butterflies. “Look at them. You watch something grow and change, then it comes out into the world for the first time and it flies. You think about what a miracle that is.”
She said that she’s raised monarchs and swallowtails. “The monarchs come out and they flutter around kind of cautious at first, looking at everything around them. But the swallowtails they just soar. They see that sun and they go right up into the sky.”
Muriel Lentz of Macomb came to volunteer for the first time. “I don’t know a lot about butterflies but I’m here to help any way I can,” she said. Lentz said she has a friend in the Davisburg area that she drives to Gilda’s Club in Royal Oak. “He has cancer and I like to help him whenever I can. I know he really enjoys helping the butterflies, and he invited me to come out and volunteer today so I said of course!” The young man was shy about having his name included, but said he likes being able to help the monarchs.
For Lentz, being able to volunteer and connect with people is one of the best things about life. “It makes me feel good,” she said. “When you give back to society you feel like a part of everything, connected. You see that other people have needs and you being there can help keep someone else going. Today is nice. You can see the smiles on the kids’ faces. And they’re here to learn. It looks fun but they are learning about life. When they take that time to care for another creature – whether it’s a dog or a little caterpillar – they step away from just thinking about themselves, and they learn to think about the needs of someone else.”
Olivia Hughes and her sleepover buddy Gracie Molena came with Hughes’ mom to see the butterflies. Wearing a monarch cape and a butterfly-print shirt, Hughes said that butterflies seemed really happy and colorful. Her mother, Katy, said she loves how events like the Monarch Festival get the kids outside and being social. “We come out and they get to learn new things and talk to new people. They’re learning but they they they’re having fun,” she said.
The educational component of the day was a very hands-on, personalized look at the lives of butterflies. Volunteers sat at multiple picnic tables with netted cages so children could get an up close look and one-on-one time with an expert to ask questions of. They got to see caterpillars at various ages, to learn the timeline of the chrysalis and why it changes color as it matures, and how butterflies have to hang an dry for a couple of hours before they are able to fly. ”
Debbie Jackson of Rose Township works with Monarch Watch. She too began raising butterflies when she was 11. For the past seven years she’s been sharing her passion with others as an educator. Each year the festival grows and this year’s was particularly enchanting for Jackson because of the increased opportunities for more in depth learning. “We are very fortunate for the quality of speakers we have here today, experts in their fields. And all these volunteers to make sure everyone gets their questions answered. I am so grateful for everyone making this event great.”
Visitors were encouraged to take home a caterpillar and some milkweed to raise and release. They also sold low-cost milkweed plants, which are essential for the monarch population.
Learn more by checking out the links below:
SE Michigan Butterfly Association
Springfield Township Recreation
OC115.com Event Page
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