Brenda and I have just returned home (Midhurst, Ontario) from a trip that took us to two Monarch Teacher Network workshops. Our first stop was in New Jersey to visit Eric and Kris Mollenhauer. Eric runs the Monarch Teacher Network out of the EIRC (Educational Information & Resource Center) in Sewell, NJ.
These are 3-day workshops, and we were able to help out at the first day of the EIRC facility workshop, before heading down to Virginia for the three days at Belmont Elementary School (Prince William County, near Washington, DC.)
It is Brenda, who is 'the teacher', but over the years of attending and helping at the workshops with her, I have become an honorary member of the MTN. My main interest has been in horticulture, but this ties in very well with the monarch part. Without the milkweed and the nectar plants the whole monarch experience will not happen.
I got to do fun jobs such as feeding (and showing others how to do it) the monarchs that were at the workshop, staffing the milkweed table as participants moved through 'stations', as well as helping with the explanation about the 'milkweed community'. This is all fun and we all learn so much doing this, but seeing the excitement build as the participants learn more and more is even more wonderful. I got to meet many people with whom I have corresponded with on Monarch Watch forums and e-mail lists.
Our field trip was to a nature reserve and we met Larry, who works studying the monarchs, not only counting, tagging and observing, but even weighing them and keeping records on that. We saw lots of butterflies on the field trip and also on all legs of our trip through NY, NJ, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Whether near the coast or along the ridges of the mountains, monarchs were always in evidence. They have had a good year in these areas and the butterflies are still laying eggs in these southern (to us) regions.
Most milkweed seemed to be through flowering, but the boneset and Joe-Pye weeds were filling in as main nectar sources along the highways. At home, our monarchs are now starting to gather and prepare for their journey south. We are hoping to find a few eggs for Brenda's class (school starts Sept. 4) but it seems that our monarch mindset has now turned from breeding to travel.
The crew at the ERIC in NJ
Feeding the workshop butterflies. The feeding room was cool enough that they did not fly from their little pads with sugar water.
Staff and participants in Virginia