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 2017 monarch release parade is coming up!


Monarch Butterfly Release Parade!

Thursday, August 17th, 1 to 2:30pm, rain date Friday 8/18 at the same time. Parade starts from Water Treatment Facility at 2pm!

This will be 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.

2017 Monarch Release:

Thursday, August 17th, 1:00- 2:30 pm: 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.