Bye Bye Butterfly: Estuarium event held to show importance of protecting endangered species

Published 4:41 pm Monday, September 12, 2022

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The monarch butterfly is now classified as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In response to the announcement made in July, the North Carolina Estuarium in Washington held a “Bye Bye Butterfly” event to release seven monarch butterflies and teach children, families about the butterflies’ contribution to ecosystems. The event was held on Friday, Sept. 9. 


According to the IUCN, monarch butterflies’ existence is threatened by habitat destruction and climate change. 


“The Endangered migratory monarch butterfly is a subspecies of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). The native population, known for its migrations from Mexico and California in the winter to summer breeding grounds throughout the United States and Canada, has shrunk by between 22% and 72% over the past decade. Legal and illegal logging and deforestation to make space for agriculture and urban development has already destroyed substantial areas of the butterflies’ winter shelter in Mexico and California, while pesticides and herbicides used in intensive agriculture across the range kill butterflies and milkweed, the host plant that the larvae of the monarch butterfly feed on,” per the IUCN, 


“Climate change has significantly impacted the migratory monarch butterfly and is a fast-growing threat; drought limits the growth of milkweed and increases the frequency of catastrophic wildfires, temperature extremes trigger earlier migrations before milkweed is available, while severe weather has killed millions of butterflies.” 


 Sophia Phillps, science programs educator and Lucy Herdelin, guest relations facilitator,  for the Estuarium collaborated to create a program earlier in the summer to teach children and families about monarch butterflies. The program included ordering butterfly larvae online then growing the larvae into mature butterflies. The larvae was ordered at the beginning of August. 


Lucy said it was an “exciting” night of helping the community learn about monarchs ‘We definitely want to let people know we are here for the community. We wanted to have something to involve the community.” 


She continued to say kids who visited the Estuarium were very excited to see the caterpillars. The Estuarium hopes events like this will inspire kids to want to learn more about protecting endangered species. 


From community members, the Estuarium received larvae from a type of swallowtail butterfly they will keep for educational purposes. 


Children enjoyed face painting, coloring pages with butterflies, a butterfly puzzle as well as pizza and cupcakes decorated like caterpillars. 


Each entry required a donation of either dog or cat food that was donated to the Beaufort County Animal Shelter. The Estuarium donated over 450lbs of dog and cat food and pet supplies.