Tag Archives: Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

Monarch Citizen Science at John Heinz Refuge!

In addition to preparing for their annual Philly Fall Nature Festival, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia staff took time to participate in a fantastic citizen science research study for the monarch butterfly! Monarch Watch, who organizes this research, uses information collected by citizens to study the monarch butterfly migration and population!

Butterflies migrate to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve every year, where the temperature and humidity is just right for them to survive. Monarchs huddle together by the millions until the following spring. By placing a small, informative sticker under the hind wing prior to the fall migration, you can gain information about that specific monarch when the tag is collected next spring.

Staff members at John Heinz Refuge were able to share this incredible process with students participating in the Philly Nature Kids program. Two classes were lucky enough to witness the monarch emerging from their chrysalis! Students learned about the lifecycle of the monarch and will participate in a symbolic migration by sending paper butterflies to students in Mexico who will watch over them for the winter.


Only hours before the monarch emerges, you can see the black and orange wings.

Only hours before the monarch emerges, you can see the black and orange wings.

A monarch begins to emerge.

A monarch begins to emerge.

Additional monarchs will be released during the Philly Fall Nature Festival on October 1! All are welcome to witness the send-off of these beautiful, long distance fliers. Learn more about how you can support monarch conservation efforts!

Visit the refuge’s Facebook page for information about the festival.

Philadelphia Flower Show: Presenting Pollinators!

Yesterday, I had the incredible opportunity to speak about monarch butterflies, pollinators, and native plants at the Gardener’s Studio at the Philadelphia Flower Show! The incredible audience was very receptive and excited to bring home materials that would help attract pollinators to their home gardens.  With the support of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, we were able to share the story of the monarch butterfly with nearly 300 people.

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On stage at the Gardener’s Studio!

After explaining how monarchs and pollinators are essential to our agricultural crops, flowers, and ecosystems, participants in the audience dove at the opportunity to create seed balls and bee bundles to take and use at home. Gardener Studio attendees made about 250 seed balls, containing Pennsylvania native wildflower seeds, which will contribute to the restoration of pollinator habitat. Throwing the seed balls into a sunny spot is all it takes, no maintenance required! This hands-on activity was a hit, especially with kids that wanted to get a little messy.

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Lamar Gore, John Heinz Refuge Manager, demonstrates the optimal seed ball strategy.

Bee bundles were constructed by cutting up sections of Japanese Knotweed, an invasive plant, and tying several sections together. The plant stems contain diaphragms that allow solitary bees, like the mason bee, to burrow in for shelter.  Hanging the bee bundles near the garden encourages bees to linger and pollinate garden vegetables and flowers.  Re-purposing the invasive knotweed was another great opportunity to discuss the importance of native plants to our local wildlife.


Participants making a bee bundle

IMG_0776 (1)The audience had so many great questions about the monarch life cycle and great migration. They were eager to learn how to help out these beautiful butterflies and we quickly distributed 200 packets of common milkweed seeds, the monarch’s host plant. I had a blast sharing the story of the monarch with others, and I was lucky enough to visit the National Park exhibits and Butterflies Live after the presentation!


Me at the Butterflies Live exhibit.

Click here to learn more about the monarch butterfly and what you can do to protect this iconic species.

Monarch Strong

On February 26th, 2016, our partners in Mexico released that their estimates of the overwintering monarch butterfly population has increased by 255%! This year, monarchs are inhabiting approximately 10 acres of oyamel fir forests, which is up from 2.8 acres last year. This is a great accomplishment for the iconic species, but more work is needed to restore the eastern monarch population to historic numbers.


Monarchs cling to each other in dense groups during the winter months. Photo Credit: Pablo Leautaud, Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/atiVia)

Best known for their extensive 2,000 mile migration, monarchs travel from southern Canada and the United States every fall to their overwintering home in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. Here, the monarchs gather by the millions in oyamel fir trees where the weather is mild enough to survive the winter. This dense gathering also allows scientists to accurately estimate the monarch population, based on the total area they occupy. It is important to know the health of the monarch butterflies because they serve as an indicator for other pollinating insects. Pollinating insects are crucial to the success of our agricultural crops and native wildlife!


This monarch has been tagged for research to learn more about the monarch migration! Photo Credit: Monarch butterflies by Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS.

On their return flight to the United States and Canada in early spring, monarchs utilize native wildflower meadows and milkweed plants along the way. These areas allow monarchs to reproduce so the newest generations can continue north to their summer grounds.  Milkweed is the monarch’s host plant, meaning they need these plants for survival. The Service has been diligently working to improve this monarch habitat and increase the overall population. Although we have made significant progress this past year, our job is not done! Help save the monarchs by reducing your use of pesticides and planting more milkweed and wildflowers!

Click here to learn more about how you can protect the monarch butterfly and other pollinators.