The monarchs were not the only butterflies in attendance at Mile Square Regional Park’s fourth annual Monarch Butterfly Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, hundreds of kids showed up in their best butterfly wings and accessories ready to celebrate the day’s festivities in style.
While the official California Western Monarch Day is Feb. 5, officials at OC Parks moved the event to Feb. 2 so more people could attend. And attend they did. At one point, so many people were lined up to get inside the butterfly house, park rangers had to remind the people waiting in line of all the other fun activities they had to offer.
There was face painting, a balloon artist, a puppet show and art stations where kids could color pictures of butterflies, make their own butterflies out of pipe cleaners, or string beaded butterfly bracelets.
The biggest attraction, however, was the butterfly house—a small netted tent with several potted plants and butterflies. Ten at a time, people walked into the tent and were handed a tiny plastic fork with a piece of watermelon on it. The butterflies would sit on the chunk of watermelon and eat, while adults and kids alike marveled at the rare opportunity to see a monarch up close.
Amanda Swift and daughter Natalie drove out from Orange for the event. Natalie, who came dressed as Cinderella, practically danced out of the tent with a wide smile on her face.
“It was fun,” she said.
Her mother was equally ecstatic.
“It sounds weird, but you really don’t get that close to butterflies when they’re flying around,” Swift said. “It was really cool to have them just sit there right in front of you. You get to see how beautiful they are.”
For those willing to get their hands dirty, the park also set up a planting activity in which you were given a shovel, potted plant, soil and bucket of water. Once equipped, you could plant your monarch caterpillar food in any of the designated areas along the nature walk.
Nancy Boyden and daughter Kiley planted a nectar plant together.
“This is a great event,” said Boyden. “Hands on, and educational.”
Their love of monarchs began about a year ago after Kiley went through the Junior Ranger Program. It was there that she learned about monarchs, and decided to plant some milkweed in their garden at home in the city of Orange.
For organizers Priscilla, Joseph and Joe Cruz, the event was a family affair. While Joseph headed the butterfly house, his wife Priscilla answered butterfly-related questions at the information booth, and his son Joe helped out around the other activities.
Priscilla and Joseph, who live in Fountain Valley, have been involved in raising awareness of the decline in the California monarch population since the late ’90s. They believe it’s important for people not to simply know about the dwindling population of butterflies, but to know how to help. For that, they have adopted the saying “Plant milkweeds, plant nectar plants, and get that population up!”
Did you know...
• The Western Monarchs migrate from Canada down to the Southern California coast.
• It takes four to five generations of the Western Monarch to make the full migration.
• Monarch caterpillars eat the leaves of milkweeds, and monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the milkweeds.
• Monarch butterflies go through four stages in their life: egg, larvae (caterpillar), pupa, and adult butterfly.
• There has been a 92 percent drop in the California Western Monarch population since 1997.