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. Click here for the flyer with butterfly identification and event info!

Raising and releasing the monarch butterfly caterpillars is just one small part of the process. We need lots of hands on deck to prepare for their arrival!

Join one or more of our upcoming Fresh Pond Monarch Watch events to learn more about the butterflies, and help them thrive at the Reservation and beyond. More to be scheduled in August – including the release! For more information, contact Kirsten at (617) 349-6489 / klindquist@cambridgema.gov.  Help us spread the word - click here to download our informational flyer to share!

Monday, July 21: Milkweed Planting & Kickoff!
6:00-7:30pm
Meets at Lusitania Meadow  -CLICK HERE FOR MAP & PARKING INFO
“The monarch butterfly is now endangered worldwide, but we can take action to stop the 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.”

Wednesday, July 31: Caterpillar Check-up & Release Prep
1:00-3:00pm
Meets outside the Ranger Station (inside if raining)

“Reservation staff are raising monarch caterpillars for release! These butterflies are very endangered 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 in August!”

Monday, Aug 4: Black Swallow-wort Pod-a-Palooza!
6:00-7:30pm
Meets at the volunteer trailer (located in the lower parking lot at 250 Fresh Pond Pkwy)

Not only does invasive black swallow-wort push out the milkweed which monarchs depend on,
it also confuses monarchs who accidentally lay their eggs on it, poisoning the caterpillars.
Help stop the spread - pick seed pods with us! This a low-impact weeding activity appropriate
for all ages - bring friends and family! Bug repellant recommended. Rockstar apparel optional.

Tuesday, Aug 12: Caterpillar Check-up & Release Prep
1:00-3:00pm
Meets outside the Ranger Station (inside if raining)
“Reservation staff are raising monarch caterpillars for release! These butterflies are very endangered 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 in August!”

Monday, Aug 18: Pod Patrol
6:00-7:30pm
Meets at the volunteer trailer (located in the lower parking lot at 250 Fresh Pond Parkway) 
This is round two of the pod-picking campaign to stop the spread of the highly invasive black swallow-wort. This will be a low-impact weeding session great for all ages! Every pod we pick equals hundreds of seeds that won’t sprout. Tools and gloves provided. Sturdy shoes, water bottle and bug repellant recommended.

Saturday, Aug 23: Monarch Butterfly Release and Parade!
2:00-3:30pm, parade starts from the 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 (decorations and noisemakers encouraged!) - will take us from
the Water Treatment Facility to Lusitania Meadow, where we’ll have a little ceremony
and finally send our butterflies off into the meadow. Feel free to just meet us at the meadow too!

 

 July 21: Milkweed planting in preparation for the butterflies’ release.  CLICK HERE FOR A MAP of the planting area and meeting details. Caterpillars also arrive during this week! Visit them at the Ranger Station and at the caterpillar check-up.

July 31: Caterpillar check-up and release preparations.

Early August: Butterflies are released!

Spring 2015: Keep your eyes open – hopefully we will see some monarch butterflies return!

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:

 

MonarchWatch.org

Xerces.org

PSB.org

 

Contact Kirsten Lindquist with questions about this project at (617) 349-6489 or klindquist@cambridgema.gov.