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!

Monarch Butterfly Release Parade!

Butterfly Release on Sunday August 18th at 2PM

The 2018 monarch release parade was a great success! Families came to learn about monarch butterflies, make crafts, and celebrate the release of another generation of monarch butterflies.


Rangers getting the butterfly cages ready

See the different stages of life up close and personal!

The table that contains the monarchs to be released

Looking at wings under the microscope

Facepainting at the release celebration

A monarch chrysalis

This event is also another opportunity to earn a Fresh Pond Jr. Ranger Badge! Complete the required sections in the free activity booklet provided!

A Fresh Pond Junior Ranger Badge

Monarch Release:

The 2019 Monarch Butterfly Release Celebration will take place on Sunday August 18th from 2:00pm to 3:30pm

See the butterflies up close and personal, make some crafts, earn a Jr. Ranger badge, and learn about this fascinating insect from 2:00-2:30

March down to the native meadow at 2:30 for a 2:35 release of all of the butterflies that were raised by rangers and volunteers

Feel free to hang out in the meadow and observe the new population of monarchs flutter by, maybe one will even land on you! Learning opportunities about milkweed, migration, Mexico, pollinators, caterpillars and more are available until 3:30

Feel free to visit the caterpillars in the Ranger Station until the 18th to check their progress!

Monarch caterpillars eating a milkweed leaf Cage setup in the Ranger Station

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 50+ 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 Tim Puopolo, the Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator, with questions about this project at (617) 349-6489 or