Wings of Change’ – Monarchs begin to make a comeback

¬† ¬† ¬†Melitta Smole and Kerry Jarvis (R) demonstrate the markings that denote gender with hand-made¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‘Monarch capes’
  From the beginning of the life cycle to the end, approximately 40 visitors had the chance to learn, first-hand                                                        and up-close, about the Monarch butterfly
  Determining gender through                            markings

Lead by Kerry Jarvis and Melitta Smole of the Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores, the visitors learned how to catch Monarchs, determine their gender and then tag them before they begin their long journey to Mexico.

Care, commitment and dedication by volunteers has resulted in the endangered species increasing in numbers over the past two years. “We’ve seen more ‘roosts’ (name for Butterfly gatherings) this year,” says Jarvis.¬† “One roost on Laird Lane here in Southampton, had upwards of 200 Monarchs.”

Kerry Jarvis demonstrates mid-air               netting technique

Before the group set off to find Monarchs, Jarvis demonstrated the proper netting and holding techniques so that the butterflies would be not be injured.

“Each butterfly caught is kept track of by date, gender and location,” explained Smole, who documents the details. “There is a 1-800 number that can be called by anyone who finds a tagged Monarch in Mexico and to provide an incentive to report, those who do receive $5.¬† Last year, we received a confirmation that one of our Southampton tagged butterflies was, in fact, found.”

A small white circular ‘sticky’ tag is gently pressed on to the underside of the wing of a butterfly and it is then released.

The concept of tagging butterflies was started by Fred Urquhart, a Canadian Zoologist with the University of Toronto in the 1960s.

Kian Selby about to release his butterfly
¬† ¬†Bruce Power ‘netters’ (L-R) Taylor Kidd-Milne, Samantha¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† (Sam) Lourenssen, Cassandra Harris and Emily Johnston
Cassandra Harris and Emily Johnston try to determine the gender as Melitta Smole holds their ‘catch’
Sam Lourenssen then tags their butterfly
The Butterfly Gardens project¬†has not only resulted in many butterfly ‘pods’ being planted throughout the community to attract and sustain Monarchs in their quest for food, and as an attraction for other pollinators, but has also encouraged residents to create butterfly gardens on their own properties.

Once the explanations were made by Jarvis and nets were provided, it was time for the group to set off with their nets down Captain Spence Trail to see if they could find Monarchs and it didn’t take long.

 Craig Selby nets the first Monarch

The first Monarch was netted by Craig Selby, who also maintains one of the pods that is located in front of his lakeshore home.

Selby also invited the visitors to his garden to see first hand the Monarch caterpillars that have made their home¬† on his ‘swamp milkweed’, before they chrysalise on their final step toward becoming a butterfly.¬† For many of the visitors, it was the first time seeing Monarch caterpillars

    Craig Selby points out     caterpillars to the visitors
Kerry and Ainslyn determined the gender …
… then, Aislyn Hood and mom, Amber, release their Monarch
Brothers Anderson and Beckett Haugh with their ‘catch’