Monarch program nets fun time at Grimes Farm

T-R PHOTOS BY JOE FISHER — Naturalist Emily Herring asks attendees of Thursday’s monarch event to identify whether a monarch is male or female.

Monarchs are moving their way through Marshall County, due south to Mexico.

County Naturalist Emily Herring said many of the orange-clad butterflies actually stayed ahead of the cold front that came through this week, but there are still some hunkered down in the prairie on Grimes Farm.

During Live and Local Thursday, Herring welcomed families to Grimes Farm to talk about monarch butterflies and even try to catch some. There was not any luck in netting one of the butterflies, but children still wrangled a few various little bugs.

“We had a big influx last week,” Herring said of the monarchs. “Now with the cold front coming we’ve been having trouble finding them. I saw a couple around three this afternoon.”

Herring said Marshall County Conservation generally tags about 500 monarchs during their fall migration. Researchers in Mexico will actually see these tags and report to the University of Kansas where monarch populations are being studied.

Naturalist Emily Herring identifies a daddy long legs spider caught by Cohen Althaus and his mother Jess.

Herring — with the help of a couple young visitors — tagged and released two monarchs at the end of her presentation Thursday.

Then nets were handed out for families to try their luck at catching monarchs and anything else they could find. For one child, it was a daddy long legs spider and for another it was a small grasshopper.

After attendees returned with their bug nets, they were given care packages which included milkweed seeds. The family of monarchs seen in the area at this time of year are what Herring called “milkweed butterflies.” Monarchs are picky eaters, Herring said, and their larva will only eat milkweed. This is why a healthy habitat of milkweed is important for promoting the monarch population.

Because the monarchs in Marshall County will migrate to Mexico, it is important for them to have a healthy habitat in both of their homes, Herring said.

Marshall County Conservation has done a monarch program for several years, according to Herring.

Naturalist Emily Herring tags and releases a monarch butterfly during Thursday’s Live and Loud event at Grimes Farm west of Marshalltown.

While the monarch event was happening, the sounds of the Dueling Fiddles could be heard ringing from the nearby Leonard Grimes Memorial Amphitheater. Dueling Fiddles features violinists Genevieve Salmone and Hanna Wolle. They played familiar tunes like Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to an audience of more than 100 people.

Herring said attendance at Live and Local has varied this year much like it would any other year.

“We’ve had decent turnouts all summer,” she said. “This is the first time we’re doing a kids program with Live and Local. It’s a fun way for kids to get involved and their parents to listen to music.”

Naturalist Emily Herring examines a grasshopper caught by Eliana and Damian Arellano of Marshalltown during Thursday’s monarch event which ran alongside Live and Loud at Grimes Farm.


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