Fresh Pond Monarch Watch

monarch butterfly pair

The beautiful and ecologically significant monarch butterfly has been in decline worldwide in recent years and its annual migration down the eastern seaboard is believed to be under threat.  This raise-and-release project is a combination of volunteer stewardship, invasive plant management, native re-vegetation, and public education all aimed at encouraging a monarch population at Fresh Pond. Read on!

The 2016 Monarch Watch program series was a success! Raising and releasing monarch butterfly caterpillars was just one part of the process; help from volunteers at all of the events made the whole thing possible. 

2016 Monarch Watch events included:

Milkweed Planting & Kick-off!

Monday, July 11th 5:30-7pm, at Lusitania Meadow

The monarch butterfly is increasingly threatened, but we can take action to stop this beautiful species’ decline, starting here. Join the effort to protect monarchs at Fresh Pond - starting with the habitat they depend on! We’ll plant the milkweed monarch caterpillars need to thrive in preparation for the arrival of 28 caterpillars Reservation staff will be raising for release in August.

Cambridge Pod Patrol Weed-Outs! Monarch Prep

Saturday, July 16th, 1 to 3pm and Monday, July 18th, 5:30 to 7:30pm

Help us patrol the reservation for black swallow-wort, an invasive, non-native plant that threatens monarch butterflies. We will be releasing monarchs later this summer to help a struggling wild population: getting rid of black swallow-wort will help our Fresh Pond Monarchs thrive! We will pod-pluck our way around the pond at a moderate pace-no experience or equipment necessary. 

Caterpillar Check-Ups!

July 14th, 20th, and 28th, 1pm-3pm, meeting outside the Ranger Station, inside if raining

Reservation staff are raising monarch caterpillars for release! This butterfly species is under threat and we’re taking action to protect them (and help our local habitats) at Fresh Pond. Come see how the caterpillars are growing, learn how you can help, and prepare crafts for our big release!

Monarch Butterfly Release Parade!

Saturday August 6th, 2 to 3:30pm, rain date Sunday. Parade starts from Water Treatment Facility at 2pm!

This is the big day all our hard work has been for - the release of our monarchs back into the wild!  A parade - open to all; costumes and noisemakers encouraged - will take us from the Water Treatment Facility to Lusitania Meadow where we’ll send our butterflies off into the flowers.  Feel free to just meet us as the meadow too!  Volunteers needed to help with costumes and decorations.

2016 Events Included:

July 11: Milkweed Planting in Lusitania Meadow

July 16 & 18: Pod Patrol Weed-Out!

July 14 & 20 & 28: Caterpillar check ups-Come see how they are growing!

August 6th: Butterfly release parade!

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is an amazing insect and pollinator.  Migrating every late summer-early fall, a single individual may travel thousands of miles to overwinter in warmer climes; even a monarch from Canada will travel to the forests of Mexico on its small wings!

Unfortunately, this inspiring species is threatened worldwide.  In North America, the population is estimated to have dropped by nearly 90% from the 1990s to the present day.  While monarch butterflies face numerous threats throughout their life cycle – both natural and human-induced—it is widely acknowledged that habitat loss is the single most devastating blow to the species in North America.  Specifically, monarch butterflies depend upon milkweed (Asclepia spp.), which is generally in decline across the country, for their caterpillars to hatch and mature into adults.  Additionally, overwintering sites in Mexico are under threat from logging.

But we have a chance to make a difference here at Fresh Pond!  In this project, we will:

  • plant milkweed to bolster the plant’s spread on the Reservation
  • plant additional butterfly-friendly wildflowers as nectar sources
  • weed out invasive black swallow-wort, which pushes out native nectar plants and also (as a relative to milkweed) upon which monarchs mistakenly lay eggs, poisoning caterpillars
  • raise 28 monarch caterpillars and release them

While we hope this will benefit the monarch population, this project will also improve habitat for other pollinators, upon which healthy native plant communities depend.  Healthy plant communities improve natural water quality protection, biodiversity and the overall aesthetic of the Reservation.

Learn more about the magnificent monarch butterfly and conservation efforts at: Education, Conservation, & Research

Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

University of Minnesota: Finding, Collecting, and Growing Milkweed Journey of the Butterflies

News articles: article: Monarch butterflies are headed for extinction. We may have to get creative to save them.

Telegraph article: Monarch butterflies use internal compass to find their way Cambridge declares war on invasive vine

Contact the Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator with questions about this project at (617) 349-6489.