All about the monarchs and habitat

Annual monarchs and milkweed event was a crowd pleaser

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ
The second annual “Monarchs and Milkweed for the Marshalltown Area” program was held Saturday afternoon at the Marshalltown Public Library and at Grimes Farm. Attendees got the chance to catch and tag monarch butterflies, as this family did. Pictured is Yvette Meyer, and her children, Ethan and Natalie.

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ The second annual “Monarchs and Milkweed for the Marshalltown Area” program was held Saturday afternoon at the Marshalltown Public Library and at Grimes Farm. Attendees got the chance to catch and tag monarch butterflies, as this family did. Pictured is Yvette Meyer, and her children, Ethan and Natalie.

The second annual “Monarchs and Milkweed for the Marshalltown Area” program combined scientific research with art and hands-on learning.

This year’s theme was: “If you plant it, they will come.”

The event kicked off Saturday afternoon at the Marshalltown Public Library, whereby attendees were given an overview of the plight of the monarch butterfly, with a presentation given by Stephanie Shepherd from the Iowa DNR. Afterwards, families had the chance to do free arts and crafts projects, including creating butterfly suncatchers, painting pots, coloring and building butterfly feeders.

“We had 85 people come to the library for this event,” said co-coordinator Anne Selness, who serves as the director of the Marshalltown Parks and Recreation. “The butterfly feeders were fun to make. We used red plastic plates, as monarchs like red, and then added beads.”

Attendees got to take home free milkweed plants and seed packets, as a way of encouraging people to start growing these types of plants at home. Monarchs lay eggs on milkweeds — which are the only food monarch caterpillars eat.

“We brought in a map of the city and had people mark their addresses on it, so we can track where the milkweed stations will be set up,” Selness added. “Iowa is in the center of some of the prime land for monarchs, as they migrate through here on their way south, so the more milkweed we can plant, the better.”

The event concluded with some hands-on butterfly catching, on the prairies of Grimes Farm and Conservation Center. Little kids especially enjoyed chasing butterflies, trying to capture them using nets. Those butterflies were then evaluated by Mike Stegmann, who serves as director of the Marshall County Conservation Board.

“We tag monarch butterflies to track their migration to Mexico,” Stegmann said. “Monarchs have experienced a significant decline in population over the last 15 years, upwards of 90 percent. There is something wrong in our environment, whether it’s chemicals, habitat lost, changing temperatures, etc., causing the decline in population.”

People also caught other species of butterflies, which were not tagged.

“Painted Ladies and Viceroys kind of look like monarch butterflies, and people have been catching those too,” Stegmann added. “There is a large population of Painted Ladies here. Butterflies are attracted to the flowers we have in our prairie that are blooming late into the season.”

After folks got done catching and tagging butterflies, they got to enjoy refreshments inside the nature center, including lemonade and cookies shaped like monarch butterflies and caterpillars.

“We’re teaching the next generation of citizen scientists to help us with monarch butterflies,” Selness concluded.

“Monarchs and Milkweed for the Marshalltown Area” is co-sponsored by Marshalltown Parks and Recreation, the Marshall County Conservation Board, the Marshalltown Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Iowa DNR, and funding by the family of Donna Hoop and the Morning Optimist Club of Marshalltown.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com