Monarch butterflies in Ontario are considered a species of special concern, because loss of habitat, climate change, pesticide use, reduced plant diversity and human activities in their overwintering sites have devastated their populations in recent years. CLOCA staff has received extensive training from the Monarch Teachers Network Canada, and are part of this group of dedicated volunteer teachers who provide others with a variety of tools and experiences to create an awareness and appreciation of the Monarch butterfly.
“The Monarch butterfly is a fascinating insect!” says Cathy Grant, CLOCA Education Instructor. “Monarch butterflies weigh 1/5th of the weight of a penny and migrate to Ontario each year from their overwintering sites in Mexico and we want to be good hosts when they are here.” To that end, protected natural areas and gardens throughout Durham Region do just that by simply growing native milkweed plants, the only plant the female monarch will lay her eggs. When the egg hatches a caterpillar emerges that is not equipped to eat anything by the felted green leaves and milky white sap of the Milkweed plant. The milky white sap is full of cartenoids, a toxin to other wildlife, except the Monarch. “We have been able to find plenty of eggs on our milkweed plants, and are currently rearing those eggs into adult butterflies over the next couple of weeks,” says Ms. Grant. “These will then be released if they are ready, and used as living examples at our Monarch Madness Extravaganza.” Each trained CLOCA staff member is permitted to raise 20 butterflies at any one time.
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