Monarchs Take Flight at NKE

9-17-Ruhde-MonarchAmid all the back to school excitement this fall, many of our NKE kids are thrilled to get the class in the morning and check on their caterpillars. We have 15 classes this fall where the kids are carefully caring for monarch caterpillars, feeding them fresh milkweed every day as they wait for them to transform into a chrysalis and, before long, emerge as a monarch butterfly that is destined to fly all the way to Mexico! What a fun, engaging project for our NKE students.

Besides the obvious benefits to the kids, this project has greater meaning: We are taking part in monarch tagging through Monarch Watch. This organization started in 1992 as “an outreach program dedicated to engaging the public in studies of monarchs and is now concentrating its efforts on monarch conservation.” When our monarchs are ready to be released, a very small sticker with tracking information is attached to a wing. If a tagged butterfly is found, the data can be used to determine the pathways taken by migrating monarchs, the influence of weather on the migration, the survival rate of the monarchs, etc.

You may notice that we now also have a certified Monarch Waystation at NKE close to the tree we refer to as Mother Oak. Planting native plants that butterflies love to get nectar from is one way to help prevent their decline. Some other things you can do to help combat the decline of the monarch are:

  • Plant milkweed. It’s where they lay their eggs and is the only plant monarch caterpillars eat!
  • Limit use of pesticides or, even better, avoid them altogether.
  • Create inviting monarch habitat. In addition to the plants mentioned, Include large, flat rocks where monarchs can warm up in the morning; a spot where they can drink; brushes and trees for night cover; and, a particular butterfly favorite, mud puddles.
  • Encourage the preservation of grasslands and the planting of natives plants in local parks, along roadsides and more.

If you’d like to learn more, visit monarchwatch.org. And if you’d like to get involved in our outdoor education efforts at NKE, please let NKE principal Chris Kluck know.

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