Monarch butterfly program slated for September 9th

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
The second annual “Monarchs and Milkweed for the Marshalltown Area” program will be held Saturday, September 9, starting at 1 p.m. at the Marshalltown Public Library. A presentation about the life of the monarch butterfly will be given, free activities for families will be provided, and milkweed seed packets/plants will be handed out free of charge. From 2:45-4 p.m., the program will continue at Grimes Farm, whereby participants will get to tag monarchs, to track their migratory path south.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The second annual “Monarchs and Milkweed for the Marshalltown Area” program will be held Saturday, September 9, starting at 1 p.m. at the Marshalltown Public Library. A presentation about the life of the monarch butterfly will be given, free activities for families will be provided, and milkweed seed packets/plants will be handed out free of charge. From 2:45-4 p.m., the program will continue at Grimes Farm, whereby participants will get to tag monarchs, to track their migratory path south.

“If you plant it, they will come.”

These words represent the theme of this year’s second annual “Monarchs and Milkweed for the Marshalltown Area” program.

On Saturday, September 9, a free, family-friendly program will present the plight of the monarch butterfly and other pollinators, as experts explain the ways in which people can help protect and promote the well-being of these creatures.

“Monarchs have experienced a significant decline in population over the last 15 years, upwards of 90 percent,” said Mike Stegmann, who serves as director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. “There is something wrong in our environment, whether it’s chemicals, habitat lost, changing temperatures, etc., causing the decline in population.”

The program will kick-off at 1 p.m. at the Marshalltown Public Library, wherein Stephanie Shepherd from the Iowa DNR office in Boone will give a short presentation about monarch migration.

“I will talk about what makes monarch butterflies so special, why there is concern about their habitats, and what people can do in their own backyards and neighborhoods to help,” Shepherd said.

Next, a series of family craft activities will be offered, including make your own butterfly feeder, painting pots, coloring, and making sun catchers. At around 2:15 p.m., milkweed seed packets will be handed out, as a way of encouraging people to start growing these types of plants. Monarchs lay eggs on milkweeds — which are the only food monarch caterpillars eat. Pollinator plants will also be given out, while supplies last.

“We want people to plant milkweed at their residences to attract butterflies and other pollinators to help rebuild their populations,” said Marshalltown Parks and Recreation Director Anne Selness, who is helping to coordinator the event. “People don’t need a lot of space to grow milkweed plants.”

She noted how efforts have been made to plant milkweed in most of the city’s parks.

“What we did after last year’s event was have people let us know where they planted the milkweed plants, and then we [charted the progress] on a map of the city,” Selness said.

Then at 2:30 p.m., attendees will travel to Grimes Farm (providing their own transportation). Once at Grimes Farm, participants will be shown how to capture and tag butterflies, before the butterflies embark on their journey to Mexico. A limited supply of butterfly nets will be available, and people may bring their own.

Staff and volunteers at Grimes Farm tagged roughly 300-400 butterflies last year.

“At least four of the butterflies we tagged last year made it to Mexico, but they were found dead, which means, they can make the journey but they can’t sustain life,” Stegmann said. “Monarchs are an indicator species, and other indicator species in our past that have died out, have alerted us to harm to humans.”

Special “If you plant it, they will come” t-shirts are available, at a cost of $12. For more information about the event, or to purchase a t-shirt, contact Selness at: aselness@ci.marshalltown.ia.us or 641-754-5715.

To learn more about efforts to increase monarch survival, visit: monarchjointventure.org

“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