BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST POINT – It was a cool day, and butterflies tend to hide from a cool breeze, but the Lee County Conservation District entertained about 15 students Friday evening at Pollmiller Park on the migration of monarch butterflies.
Stephanie Paeg, a naturalist with the Lee County Conservation district, along with Rick Tebbs, LCCD wildlife manager, took the children around to different areas of the park looking for the fleeting colorful blank and orange rhopalocera
If you wanted to track an animal, a mountain lion or elk, how would you do that,” Paeg asked.
Aiden Woods, a Hamilton student, said he’d use a camera. Paeg said that’s a good idea or a GPS tracking device, but you can’t saddle a monarch butterfly with a tracking device.
Paeg said a scientist named Frederick Urquhart from Canada hypothesized that the monarch migrate from Canada to Mexico every year.
“Flying 1,800 miles, just from here, for those insects to hang out in Mexico – that’s a really long journey for something four inches long to make. They go way up in the sky. That’s kind of a crazy story.”
But she said Urquhart was determined to prove that the butterflies migrated and employed students to help with process by catching monarch’s in a net.
“He came up with an idea where he made really special stickers that sit on the wings of the butterflies and sent them to schools who were raising monarch’s in schools could put the stickers on the butterflies.”
The stickers had a number and special code on them so if someone found a dead butterfly or caught one they could contact the organization on the sticker and they could relay the information.
“We’re going to continue that tradition today if we can catch some, Paeg said. “In this kind of weather it might be a little tricky, but we’ll look and we might even find some other creatures, like the monarch’s predator, the Praying Mantis.”
The children then took nets and walked into a prairie planting on the north side of the park. A few smaller butterfly species jumped up from the flowers and native grasses in the prairie, but monarchs were not to be found.
Several of the children had come up from Rand Park in Keokuk where they had been catching monarch’s earlier in the day.
The Lee County Conservation District regularly schedules programs with children in Lee County parks and wildlife areas including the Heron Bend Conservation Center in Montrose. Organizations such as Lee County Pheasant’s Forever, Duck’s Unlimited and Quail Forever, and other conservation-centric organizations donate time and resources to the district for the annual programs. More information about programs can be found at the district’s website at https://www.leecounty.org/offices/conservation/.