The Maryland Department of Natural Resources invites everyone to Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary to celebrate the monarch butterfly’s fall migration with the annual Monarchs and Milkweeds event at Merkle on September 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This free event includes tagging and releasing monarch butterflies, wagon rides, guided hikes, face painting, crafts, a native plant sale and a monarch butterfly costume contest. Food will be available for purchase.
Each fall, millions of monarch butterflies leave their summer breeding grounds in the northeastern United States and Canada and travel up to 3,000 miles south to a single mountain forest in central Mexico to escape the winter cold – a migration that is one of the greatest natural events on Earth.
Merkle is a great place to see these monarchs due to the abundance of milkweed that grows here. Milkweed is the only plant that Monarchs will lay their eggs on, so it plays a vital role in the areas they frequent throughout their journey. This time of year also sees the blooming of late-season nectar sources, upon which adult monarchs depend at all stages of the year.
In February and March, the overwintering monarchs will begin their journey north and east, laying eggs on the milkweed as they go. Eggs that hatch into larvae are the next generation. Young caterpillars feed on milkweed, making them unpleasant to predators.
The annual September event at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary began in 2019. This spring, the Maryland Park Service launched the state Butterfly & Bumblebee Project, an ongoing list of programs and activities aimed at educating the general public about the role of pollinators in sustaining the nation’s diverse ecosystems and food supply. “Parks for pollinators” is also the theme of the 15th edition park quest family activity series now taking place in Maryland State Parks.