In honor of the monarch butterfly’s annual migration across Asheville and the surrounding region, The North Carolina Arboretum is hosting several educational events and classes. “We know that the butterflies pass through Western North Carolina on their way to Mexico every September, although we never know when they will first appear,” says George Ivey, director of public engagement for the Arboretum. “Monarch Month is all about celebrating that journey and teaching visitors about these impressive creatures.”
Inside the Education Center’s Nature Discovery Room visitors can view metamorphosis with a special pop-up monarch nursery chamber on display. Harvested eggs are placed inside the protected chamber where they transform from larvae to caterpillars to chrysalises, and ultimately hatch as adult butterflies.
For children in kindergarten through eighth grade, ecoEXPLORE kicks off its Entomology Season in September, as participants learn more about the science of insects through on- site programming at the Arboretum and at local libraries. Adult offerings include a two-part Ecology of Insects class held September 11 and 18 from 1–4 p.m. and a Build a Better Monarch Garden class on September 28 from 10 a.m. to noon.
“These annual programs continue to raise awareness,” says NC Arboretum marketing and public relations associate Janet Moore. “So much so that where I live at Crowfields Condominiums we are working to make our campus, which is right in the heart of South Asheville’s development, a monarch way station.”
The month’s activities culminate in the Arboretum’s wildly popular Monarch Butterfly Day, September 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This fun, family-friendly event includes create-and-make butterfly crafts and educational programming that focuses on monarchs’ fluctuating populations and opportunities to conserve their habitats. The highlight of the day occurs when trained Arboretum educators, in collaboration with local butterfly enthusiasts, tag and release selected adult butterflies into the wild. The Arboretum’s tagging contributes to the body of knowledge scientists are gathering regarding the butterflies’ journey from Asheville to Texas and across the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
On Monarch Butterfly Day, the Arboretum offers milkweed plants for purchase. Because the butterflies feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed, they can’t complete their life cycle without it. Planting milkweed in home gardens helps to make up for the loss of farmland to urban and suburban development, the single biggest reason for the butterfly’s decline.
“We’re planting milkweed in our community, and we now have an entire garden given over to pollinators,” says Moore. “Earlier this summer we found our first monarch chrysalis and we are seeing more butterflies of all kinds.”
The North Carolina Arboretum is located at 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way in Asheville. Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, April through October. Admission is free. A standard $14 per vehicle parking fee is required for non-members. Learn more at NCArboretum.org.