Blendon Woods MetroPark (Columbus OH) has gone “buggy” over monarch butterflies! Our annual celebration started in 1985 under Jim Fry’s direction. I took it over in 1988 and got hooked. The “DAY” has largely been at Blendon since then except for a few years that I was stationed at Blacklick Woods. Each year the celebration has grown until now it dominates the end of the warm season.
We began participating in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) in May this year, checking two locations in the park each week for eggs/caterpillars. Results this year reflected the generally low populations nationwide. We’ll keep this up yearly and see if we don’t learn something about the workings of the monarch population in Central Ohio. We did get the opportunity to share the monitoring process with park visitors through scheduled programs and impromptu opportunities. Second Avenue Elementary School (a year-round Columbus Public school) students came out in July to help monitor one location and were thrilled to find a couple of caterpillars.
Come August we began gathering eggs/cats outside the park to give away to schools. We gave monarchs to 26 teachers, some classroom, some homeschool, and figure we reached over 1000 children this way! When September came we hit the classrooms to teach youngsters about these fascinating insects. Monarchs make a great kick-off for a science program and we’re happy to have this chance to get into classrooms and make contact with teachers.
The challenge, after fifteen (!) years, is to find something NEW to add to the day. This year we came up with not only a new craft (Lindsay’s stained glass/tissue paper monarchs), Lindsay’s new “take your photo as a monarch” board (see picture), and also a new display for the monarchs. We put up a large screen tent, stocked it with all the flowers and feeders a monarch could desire, and let them fly around in there for a few days before release. Since there was a butterfly kite with a five-foot wingspan up on the tent, it drew a lot of folks who might otherwise have missed the inside displays.
Finally came Monarch Day. We had volunteers stationed in the fields all day tagging, we had puppet shows and slide talks and crafts, and a migration game, and the butterfly display and fortunately, a beautiful blue sky day! Even our little maple tree in front of the Nature Center got in the spirit and turned bright orange! Not only was our attendance phenomenal but some folks stayed for hours, doing all of the various activities. I saw one little boy get carried off to his car screaming that he wanted to “staaayyyy” – ain’t that great!
Records show that we tagged at least 116 monarchs this year, a good number in a low population year. Hopefully several of them will make it to Mexico and get reported back to us.
This year Monarch Months aren’t over yet – on October 18th I’ll host a teacher workshop for Columbus Public Schools’ Central Inservice Day – then I’ll take a winter rest and begin planning for next year!
Thanks to all who helped make our Monarch Months a rousing success!