Manhattan woman’s butterfly hobby takes flight

By Corene Brisendine

Barbara Green has turned her yard into a Monarch butterfly way station and hatchery.

“I really like Monarchs,” she said. “So after I retired, I started reading all I could about them.”

Green said she got involved with a non-profit organization, Monarch Watch, soon after she retired about four years ago.

Green taught elementary and middle school for almost 17 years, mostly as a substitute teacher in Manhattan and elsewhere.

After studying up on Monarchs, Green began raising and tagging them as a way to help revive the population.

“When I was younger, I remember seeing them everywhere,” she said. “Now, you can hardly find one.”

She said the Monarch population has been hit hard by farmers using herbicides that kill most of the milkweed across the U.S. Without milkweed, the butterflies have no place to deposit their eggs or feed along their long trip from Canada to Mexico each year.

“Because of the farmers planting the ‘Roundup Ready’ corn, it has almost completely destroyed the Monarch population,” she said. “Monarch caterpillars will only eat milkweed.”

After the caterpillars pupate into butterflies, however, Monarchs will feed on a variety of nectar producing plants, she said.

Green planted a tropical milkweed in a pot on her front porch. In addition to collecting the eggs from “wild” Monarchs, she also enjoys watching the giant butterflies feed off the nectar the plant produces.

She said a butterfly can lay one egg per leaf — and lay up to a thousand eggs during its lifespan.

This year, Green has tagged 32 Monarchs, and most of them she raised. She still has a few more getting ready to break out of their cocoons, but she said they should all be gone by the second week of October.

She collected the eggs during August.

The growth of a Monarch from egg to butterfly takes about 25 to 30 days, she said.

Green said one of the interesting things she has discovered about Monarchs is they are territorial. She said she has seen Monarchs attack birds that come too close to their milkweed — and males often fight each other, as well.

Green said she waits each year to see if one of her tagged Monarchs is found and reported on the Monarch Watch website.

Members of Monarch Watch tag thousands of Monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico in an attempt to track their migration.

When a tagged butterfly is found, people are asked to report the tag number. Then someone at Monarch Watch posts where the butterfly was tagged and how far it traveled.

Green is still waiting for one of her butterflies to be tracked.

Even though she is retired, Green has continued teaching.

Rather than taking on a regular curriculum, she has spread her love for watching and tagging butterflies to her friends — children and adults alike.

Green has given talks to youngsters in science classes, to special interest groups and to students at Kansas State University.

Terry Marker, Green’s neighbor and friend, said she’s gotten hooked. Marker wants to start raising and tagging Monarchs after learning so much from her friend.

Marker even tagged and released one of the butterflies raised by Green this summer.

So if you happen to spot a Monarch, chances are some of your neighbors are looking for it.

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