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March 16, 2013

Butterfly program focuses on saving monarchs

MONTREAL — The Montreal Botanical Garden takes flight once again with “Butterflies Go Free,” its annual rite of spring.

This year’s edition, which is held indoors through Sunday, April 28, highlights the majestic monarch butterfly. Montreal Insectarium scientific interpreter Magali Gregoire invites visitors to create their own gardens for the monarchs.

“The monarch is a species that’s very popular in Quebec,” she said. “Many people are fascinated with it because of its extraordinary migration to Mexico.”

The monarch’s migration from Mexico to Canada is a staggering 2,500 miles. While the monarch population is not dwindling as a whole, Gregoire said, the numbers are declining in the Quebec region, which includes the North Country.

HELPING WITH  HABITAT

“The population in eastern North America is declining due to a loss of habitat,” she said.

In order for monarchs to survive in our area, the insects need one plant in particular — milkweed, Gregoire said.

“And as the name suggests, humans consider the milkweed to be a weed. It grows along the highways — a place that gets mowed a lot, so we lose milkweed because of that.”

Gregoire said that this year’s goal is to offer a sensibility to the issue as well as provide an alternative.

“We want to let people know that this is happening, but it’s actually really easy to help the monarch,” she said.

Help comes in the form of planting some milkweed in your own garden.

“You can easily plant milkweed in your own backyard, and even if you don’t have a backyard, you can plant milkweed in pots on your balcony,” she said.

To create a small garden, a few important ingredients are necessary, Gregoire said. 

First, plants rich in nectar — such as pentas or lantana — are needed. 

“These will feed the adult monarchs and other butterflies as well,” she said.

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