MDC and partners host Monarch Madness Event Sept. 12

News from the region
Saint Louis
Published Date

St. Charles, Mo.—It uses clues yet unknown to science to navigate a vast landscape. Each autumn it journeys 3,000 miles by air, driven by instinct alone and in perfect synch with thousands of its kind. Its odyssey takes it to one certain mountain range in Mexico—a specific roosting site with a climate custom-made for its needs.

But it's not a bird. It's a butterfly.

Monarchs, showy and familiar orange and black butterflies, are the only species of insect that makes this amazing migration. The route of this incredible trip goes through the Show-Me State, and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and its partners are celebrating the monarch migration with a special event. Monarch Madness takes place Saturday, Sept. 12 from 10 a.m.—3 p.m. at the Weldon Springs Interpretive Site in St. Charles. The event is free and everyone in the family is welcome.

Though monarchs are the front liners, Monarch Madness will celebrate all pollinating creatures that help our plants thrive. "This event is going to be the most interactive and fun way that anyone could choose to learn about our pollinator declines and what they can do to help," said Monarch Madness Event Coordinator Samantha Stolle.

As monarchs flit from plant to plant in search of food, they spread pollen crucial to the reproduction of their host plants. It's a relationship vital to the survival of each. The decline Stolle referred to however is a source of concern among scientists. It's estimated that in the last 20 years, monarch populations have gone from more than 1 billion to less than 60 million. Declining habitat for these colorful butterflies is believed to be the source of the drop.

Participants will have the chance to hear keynote speakers each hour discuss butterflies, native plants, pollinators and other related topics. These include former MDC Natural History Biologist and pollinator expert Mike Arduser. Native gardening demonstrations will let visitors interact with gardening experts. A headline activity will be the butterfly tagging and release every two hours. "Monarch tagging is always one of my favorite programs because it gives all people the opportunity to learn about butterflies in such a powerful, hands-on way," Stolle said.

Other activities will include guided hikes on the site's 150-acre restored Howell Prairie, educational stations and hand-made product vendor booths, and crafts for kids like making butterfly seed bombs from native wildflower seeds.

In keeping with the "journey to Mexico" theme, Taco Truck StL will be on hand offering its authentic Mexican food for sale. "People are also welcome to bring their own picnics and everyone will be able to enjoy their food to the sounds of local musicians," said Stolle.

Though the numbers for monarchs may seem grim, Stolle emphasized there is hope. Backyard butterfly gardens can help monarch populations recover. Planting milkweed and nectar plants can also give them a boost.

"Luckily it is not too late," Stolle said. "Through educational activities, it is our goal to not only inform about the declines but also to empower everyone to be a part of the solution by planting native flora where they live and work."

Other partners making the Monarch Madness event possible are the U.S. Department of Energy, Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri Master Naturalists, and Missourians for Monarchs. The Weldon Spring Interpretive Site is located at 7295 Highway 94, approximately two miles south of I-64/40.