The Peterborough Examiner
September 3, 2014
By: Jessica Nyznik

A flock of butterflies began their journey to Mexico on Tuesday when they were released from GreenUp Ecology Park.

Thirteen Monarch butterflies that had been raised from egg to insect at the GreenUp Store over the past month, received their final feeding and were gently tagged before venturing off on their 4,000-kilometre trek.

Travelling to Mexico is part of the species natural migration, just as salmon make their way up stream to spawning grounds, said Marcy Adzich, GreenUp Ecology Park manager.

However, in the last three years, Monarch’s numbers have significantly decreased, which has added the butterfly to the endangered species list, said Adzich.

The disappearance of the fluttery creature is a result of climate change and habitat loss, such as urban development and pesticide use.

Milkweed, which is often considered a persistent pest among gardens and lawns, is the host plant to the Monarch Butterfly, and is the only place the creature lays its eggs.

As milkweed is removed and destroyed, the butterflies loose their breeding ground, making it difficult for them to find sufficient amount of the plant to reproduce.

Adzich said GreenUp decided to raise and release the butterflies, not just to help increase the Monarch population, but also to raise awareness about the importance of milkweed.

GreenUp held a small celebration at the park and encouraged the community to come out to feed and tag the butterflies before sending them on their way.

Despite the heavy rain, nearly 20 people gathered at two sheltered picnic tables and softly held the butterfly’s wings while placing them in sugar water, where they soaked up the nectar like juices.

After their meal, tiny number-coded stickers were placed on their wings, which enable the GreenUp team to track their flighty friends.

The tags and tracking is part of the Monarch Watch Program, which thousands of organizations and individuals take part in, with the aim of trying to rebuild the species to a safer status.

Members of Mexican communities are encouraged to find remove the stickers and enter the tracking number into the website, in order to help keep track of butterflies progress.

As an incentive to participate, each entry is rewarded with five pesos.

With so many Monarchs in Mexico, Adzich said there’s no guarantee that GreenUP’s butterflies will be found, even if they do successfully make their way down south.

It can take six to eight weeks for the butterflies to reach Mexico, depending on the weather, said Adzich.

This is the first year GreenUp has raised the insects and it is something that Adzich said she would like to continue.

She said that the organization wants to do what it could to help out, even if it’s just 13 butterflies at a time.

jessica.nyznik@sunmedia.ca