Club learns to care for butterflies

Published 9:46 am Thursday, September 13, 2018

BERMUDA RUN – The Bermuda Run Garden Club held its annual September luncheon, celebrating 34 years since being charted.

The beauty was enhanced by hostesses Linda Ernst and Diane Burke’s decorations. They used a center piece of Mrs. Ernst’s prize winning dahlias. Members’ places were marked by butterfly boxes containing a Milk Weed Seed Bomb for late September planting. This will provide habitat for Monarch butterflies next fall when they migrate south.

Program co-chair Amy Bridges introduced guest speakers Karen and Mac Macaulay, Wild Life Experts from Hillsborough.  The Macaulay’s became knowledgeable about butterflies while volunteering at a butterfly house in Dayton, Ohio.

Their focus on the Monarch was because its population is declining significantly. Named for William III Prince of Orange, the Monarch has a short life span. It progresses from an egg on a milkweed plant to a larvae to a caterpillar to a chrysalis to an adult butterfly who only lives two weeks in the butterfly stage, flying from flower to flower.

The Macaulays provided a slide presentation on Monarch butterflies who travel a migration route along the Blue Ridge Parkway in late September into early October. The Monarchs can be observed in Daughton Park at Bluff Mountain (Mile Post 238.5-244.7}; Cherry Grove Overlook (Mile Post 415.7 south of Mt. Pisgah);  Chimney Rock State Park on the west shore of Lake Lure; and at Table Rock in Linville Gorge.

The Monarchs begin their southern migration September to October.  By the end of October, the population of Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains migrates to the sanctuaries within the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt pine-oak forests in the Mexican states of Michoacán and Mexico. They arrive in their roosting sites in November and remain there during the winter months.   On the East Coast the Monarchs migrate south to Florida, then along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico of our southern states, and then to the mountains of Mexico.

Migration northward of the Monarchs begins in the spring.   In March they start breeding and fly north to lay eggs.  Because the distance and length of these journeys exceeds the normal lifespan of Monarchs, no individual butterfly completes the entire round trip.  The first generation leaving the overwintering sites only migrates as far north as Texas and Oklahoma. The second, third and fourth generations return to their northern breeding locations in the United States and Canada in the spring.

These migration habits were not known until 1975. The University of Kansas has a program for collecting data. They provide stickers to be placed on a butterfly wing. The University then pays people in Mexico who turn in a sticker. This also encourages Mexico to maintain the mountain habitat for the Monarchs.

The sharp decline in Monarch population has been caused by loss of habitat, predators, loss of host plants, changes in climate, pesticides, and herbicides killing milkweed. Only one egg in 100 develops into a butterfly.

There are some things people can do to help the Monarch population. Consider planting milkweed that is not contaminated with insecticides. Plant nectar flowers. Repurpose farm fields on the “migration highway” to have some areas of milkweed. Establish some milkweed areas on federally owned land.

There is more interest in preserving the Monarch these days, including placing them on the endangered species list. Just being aware of the decline in population will improve their future and will encourage each to do their part for these beautiful creatures, the Macaulays said.