Guest Columnist

Iowa City/Cedar Rapids co-op supports monarchs

Patty Ankrum (from left) of Mount Vernon, Barb Horak of Cedar Rapids, and Bruce Bachmann of Cedar Rapids stand next to milkweed as Horak holds a tray of two recently emerged monarchs in Cedar Rapids on Friday, June 27, 2014. Ankrum, Bachmann, and Horak run a group called Monarchs in Eastern Iowa. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
Patty Ankrum (from left) of Mount Vernon, Barb Horak of Cedar Rapids, and Bruce Bachmann of Cedar Rapids stand next to milkweed as Horak holds a tray of two recently emerged monarchs in Cedar Rapids on Friday, June 27, 2014. Ankrum, Bachmann, and Horak run a group called Monarchs in Eastern Iowa. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

The seasonal clock is now at 9 p.m. Fall migration for monarch butterflies is in full swing, passing through Iowa.

Many lucky people are discovering overnight roosts of hundreds resting in trees. Then morning sun warms them up, and they continue their southerly path. You can find them feeding like crazy on native flowers in reserves, fields and ditches, and other good nectar sources in urban gardens. These migrator butterflies, each the weight of a paper clip, must store immense energy resources, constantly replenishing, for this seemingly unfathomable transcontinental journey from Canada to the mountains of south central Mexico for semi-hibernation in higher cooler altitudes. Then, this early Spring, the very same monarchs will get frisky, feed, mate, and begin their journey back to North America. Makes me wonder how old would an eight month old migrator monarch be in human years? Breeding monarchs during the summer only live between two to six weeks.

Over the years, including this one, New Pioneer Co-op from Iowa City and Cedar Rapids has generously donated thousands of compostable containers and lids to Monarchs in Eastern Iowa (MEI) members, just the perfect size to raise a monarch caterpillar until it becomes an adult butterfly. We in MEI value these containers, used not only to rear our own caterpillars for release into the wild, but to use for many of our outreach programs, Adopt a Monarch events held by local groups such as the Monarch Fest at Indian Creek Nature Center. Get up close and intimate with the mystery of a monarch’s life cycle, and — perhaps — taking care of each other and the wild things that share our environment will make even a bit more sense, once we see these are synonymous.

New Pioneer Coop is a strong advocate for the environment, and with their help and support, we have reached into neighborhoods, towns, and classrooms of thousands of people, who threw their own pebbles into ponds, and their monarch butterflies into the wind. Ripples haven’t stopped yet. Thanks to all of you who have helped spread wonder and hope through a single monarch released into the sky. Last year alone, we released 20,036 butterflies, not counting the many caterpillars adopted out at programs, and many of these were raised in your New Pi containers.

Patty Ankrum of Mount Vernon is an administrator for the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa, a Facebook group with over 1500 members.

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