In September 2016 I wrote about attending an event sponsored by the Madison Audubon Society at Goose Pond Sanctuary where people were invited to help tag monarch butterflies to study their migration. This September I had another encounter with monarchs at a monarch release coordinated by David Thompson, the co-chair of Friends of Lake Wingra.
The Friends of Lake Wingra established a program called Monarchs for Kids, the goal of which is “to introduce children to the miraculous life of monarch butterflies.” To this end, they distribute monarch eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalids to schools and families for educational purposes. On this day, children — young and old, big and small — gathered at Dudgeon Monroe Prairie to learn about, interact with, and observe the release of scores of monarch butterflies.
The monarchs arrived in a small blue tent, which was subsequently covered with a larger screened tent. They were released into this larger tent so that onlookers could observe them through the screens. David spoke to the crowd about the life cycle of these amazing creatures and then released the first batch from a small screened cage. We all watched as they took to the sky.
Visitors were then invited to enter the tent four or five at a time where they could hold the butterflies and feed them using cotton swabs dipped in sugar water. Some had fun putting the butterflies in their hair and on their noses. Even the young children carefully held and observed them.
After we all had a chance to meet these quiet colorful insects face to feelers, it was time to release them. The tent had no floor, so by slowly turning it over the denizens of this screened classroom were allowed to fly away. Many of them stopped at the nearby prairie flowers (as shown in the opening photograph) to fuel up before heading on their 2000-mile journey to Mexico.
For additional photos from this event, please see the Monarch Release slide show.