Kerry Jarvis, who began the Monarch butterfly conservation initiative with partner Melitta Smole in Saugeen Shoresin 2014, recently addressed the SouthPort Horticultural Society about the on-going progress of the organization, Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores (BGOSS).
Jarvis explained the many advances that the BGOSS has made over the past four years in conservation efforts for the Monarch butterfly. When Jarvis and Smole began their attempts at establishing conservation methods for the endangered species, there was little if any effort that had been made locally or provincially.
The couple began to cultivate an environment of awareness of the delicate balance in which the Monarch was trying to survive. Given that the butterfly relies on specific plants for procreation and nutrition, they began in earnest to find means by which they could established ‘butterfly-friendly’ gardens. or pods.
As more people began to realize the precarious state of the Monarch, they began to become more interested in its survival and a movement quickly began to grow to help the species.
Jarvis and Smole approached their community and organizations who came on board with funds and other means of support to take on the intiative of saving the Monarchs.
Today, the community has become a leader in establishing gardens or way-stations, for feeding and pollinating, that help the Monarchs on their migration, where they cover thousands of miles, that result in their generations returning northward in the spring.
The primary food plant for the Monarch is the milkweed. Once considered a noxious weed by governments, it has now been recognized as a valuable food source for the endangered Monarch and has been removed from the ‘noxious’ listing in many jurisdictions because the Moncarch is considered a valuable pollinator species like the bee.
According to Jarvis, a growing number of homeowners are establishing butterfly gardens by cultivating plants such as, purple cone flowers (Echinacea purpurea), coneflowers, sunflowers, marigolds, poppies, cosmos, salvias, some lilies, asters, coreopsis, daisies, verbenas, lantanas, liastris and milkweed (especially for the monarch butterfly, whose caterpillars feed solely on this plant), the butterfly bush or buddleia), zinnias, pentas, porterweeds, and others.
BGOSS has also branched out in several areas to keep the interest in Monarchs growing. The group recently produced an activity book that is based on local butterfly gardens/pods to encourage young people to become interested in the Monarch butterfly. With the help of Power Power, the book features graphic designs for colouring, puzzles, information about the Monarch and the locations of the various pods throughout the area where Monarchs are known to lite. The free book is available at Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre, Libraries and Chambers of Commerce offices in Southampton and Port Elgin.
The group has also established a free ‘nature’ library at the foot of High Street in Southampton. Books are free for lending to young readers but it is hoped that the books are returned or new ones placed in to the library.
This upcoming week, on August 28th at the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre in Southampton and on August 31st at the Captain Spence Trail on the Southampton shore of Lake Huron, butterfly tagging will begin. For those who have never experienced a butterfly tagging, the tags that are gently pressed on to butterfly wings, contain coded information so that if they are found, it can be determined where the butterfly originated and the distance that it flew. In the winter of 2017/18, two butterflies tagged in Saugeen Shores were discovered in Mexico, a rare happening. “Two years ago,” said Jarvis, “we tagged some 80 butterflies. Last year, 2017, we tagged 300 and this year we hope to tag even more so their population is growing thanks to people who care.”
Everyone is invited to come out and experience a butterfly tagging.
BGOSS continues to expand it education and awareness when it comes to the Monarch butterfly and other pollinating species. Jarvis said the he and Smole have spoken in many communities through Huron, Bruce and Grey Counties where people want to learn more about the Monarch butterfly and how they can help ensure its survival.
For more information, visit: www.butterflygardensofss.ca .