The last few years have seen devastating declines in the Monarch Butterfly’s population, with encroaching development in the U.S. and deforestation in Mexico. When Milford Garden Club member Lisa Willard suggested a speaker on the topic of the Monarch and its plight, as well as having club members take on the rebuilding of its habit here in Milford, Michigan, I was thrilled. Considering her request brought to mind an unforgettable experience my hubby, Jim and I had when we took a trip to Mexico back in March 2001 where we visited three Monarch sanctuaries where millions of butterflies come to overwinter. That experience made such an impact on me that I knew I wanted to attempt to see if other club members and the board would be interested in a project that through Lisa’s suggestion would present a wonderful opportunity for our club members to act on behalf of this precious species in our little corner of Michigan.
My memories of the Monarch came from a phenomenal adventure we had driving up the mountainside to visit the Monarch sanctuaries . . . that I share below with excerpts from my travel journal:
“Butterflies started to appear, increasing more and more . . . doubling and quadrupling as we twisted, turned, bumped and jostled up the mountainside in the back of a pickup truck and then higher riding on horseback. Our eyes were drawn to a distant scene. It was a stand of evergreen trees that were completely ORANGE . . . like burned dried up dead trees. It took some seconds until we realized in amazement that those weren’t dead trees, they were The Monarchs that we’d come to see. It was a most striking and unforgettable sight”. Those memories are still vivid in our minds to this day. “Hiking higher to reach our destination, our attempts to sidestep and not squash the Monarchs became more and more difficult. We had to slow our pace to a crawl. Monarchs were EVERYWHERE!!! We saw them covering the ground drinking water from puddles, perching on anything and everything as well as landing on us. It was a DELIGHT – one of those exceptional experiences – an experience of a lifetime. The air was ALIVE with movement and the sound of their wings. AND most marvelous of all was when we saw them cascading out of the trees”—a most amazing phenomena where tens of thousands of butterflies (and I’m not exaggerating) would suddenly lift up from their perches, en masse, and fall downwards for 15 or so feet in tandem, then all flying in unison all moving in the same direction for several minutes, until they dispersed and landed again on the leaves or branches or trunks of trees or whatever.
Check out this video to see scenes that show just what we experienced in Mexico—you’ll be amazed: http://youtu.be/adB638SIE1k.
When the idea of helping the Monarch was raised to the membership, needless to say, we had an outpouring of support from our enthusiastic members! Several members volunteered to head up our eight committees—yaaay! Many members signed up to work establishing a butterfly garden in Arthur’s Park and planting milkweed in the Village of Milford. Even our village municipality was willing to help us find sites-fantastic! From volunteering to do research and writing articles, put on presentations, helping a preschool design a butterfly garden, packaging milkweed seeds, making displays, speaking to visitors at our Earth Day celebration and the Garden Club’s Plant and Bake Sale -and- even making GIANT Monarch butterfly wings that members will wear to draw attention of our events, our efforts were underway.
As a result of Lisa’s request, my beautiful Monarch memories and willing enthusiastic garden club members and the board, the Milford Garden Club Monarch Caper project has TAKEN FLIGHT. I am very proud to be working with everyone as the Monarch Caper Coordinator and I want to send THANKS to ALL in the Milford Garden Club for making our ‘MONARCH PROJECT’ possible. Check back with us frequently to see what we are doing for the Monarch in Milford.
Kathy Mikuska-Vice-President of Programs