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Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Monarch danger, monarch love

I’ve mentioned my big AH-HAH as I was doing research for the Lanie books and stopped to chat with a gardner near Mount Auburn cemetery, where Jim McCoy was taking me to see favorite Boston birding spots.  Native flowers feed native insects feed native birds.  AH-HAH.  My follow-up reading and thinking led me smack into monarch butterflies.  AH-HAH!  Right in my own back yard I found Monarch Watch at University of Kansas, dedicated to preserving a world that has monarchs in it.  Above (right) you can see a picture of Chip Taylor with a pile of monarchs that were tagged as part of the research process.  You can read more about him here (Monarch Watch is honoring him this month).

So Monarch Watch is in my back yard.  So are monarchs.  Last week, I was admiring my neighbor’s flowers and….eeeee…got to watch some of them dancing around the garden (pictures right and below).  I also heard from a Kansas City reader who wanted to report on Lanie’s story making a difference with kids.  She wrote this: “In the spring, the doll club started some milkweed plants and many of us bought those and planted them in our yards in hope of helping out the monarchs. We’ve had caterpillars all summer on the milkweeds Iplanted. I had a three that looked to be in the 5th instar, so I took those into my daughter’s 4th grade classroom on Monday. Sure enough, after pigging out for a day or two, they began hanging in J’s and now they have three glorious chrysalis in their room!”

She said she learned first-hand about aphids, as she had to power wash her milkweed plants and move a few ladybugs from around the babies.  Pictures here:

Later she added this:  “An update on the monarchs, we had three emerge, the first on Wed morning, then one that afternoon and when I went into the classroom on Thursday morning, the last one was almost ready. Despite ominous rain clouds, we planned for a release at afternoon recess. The rain stopped just a few minutes before recess, thankfully, and the third butterfly was nice and dry, ready for release, too.

There is a small garden tucked where our school (celebrating 100 years of education this year!) building grew at one point and the back door. It has building on three sides, parking lot on the front, so a bit protected. Off we carried the young wingers to this garden. At first the butterflies were shy, and so were the kids, so I lured one onto my finger. Once the kids saw that, there were fingers everywhere trying to coax the critters out. Off they went, circling the area a bit. One settled on a rose for a tasty first meal.”

At the picture link, she says, “Ironically, the girl holding the butterfly box is named Lanie, I didn’t plan that. I don’t have a Lanie doll; if I did we would have involved her in the release. I bet I’ll be getting one with the new store so close! They were certainly beautiful and the kids seemed amazed at their transformation. At home, one the caterpillars that was in a J formed his chrysalis while my family watched.  Amazing!”

Michele said I could share her story with you.  She also mentioned some great resources if you’re in the Kansas City area.  Anita GormanDiscovery Center has Monarch Mania on Sept 18,

She recommended a link from the MO Department of Conservation: “these clips show the migration in Mexico.  (There are other clips of songbird migration, which would also fit Lanie.)”

This one is from Powell Gardens Butterfly Festival:

It’s pretty thrilldom to think about all those girls who went to Lanie events at the American Girl stores and bookstores and maybe got excited about some of the most heroic insects around.  Share those stories!

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