Welcome monarchs to the mountains
The Mountain Monarch Festival will return to Gorges State Park in Transylvania County for its second year 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, celebrating the monarch butterfly during its migration season.
Taking place at the park’s visitor center, the event will bring attention to the species’ declining number. It will include educational programs and exhibits, including monarch-themed children’s crafts, live music, food trucks, a live photo board, face painting, local art for sale and a monarch migration passport to lead families through monarch-themed activities. Heyward Douglas, an entomologist who has worked as a park naturalist, visited the monarch’s wintering area in Mexico and served on the Foothills Trail Conservancy’s board of directors since 1989, will be the featured speaker.
Gorges lies along the monarch’s migratory route, and each year in late September the butterflies fly over the park’s visitor center on their way south to high-elevation fir forests in Mexico’s Neovolcanic Mountains, where they stay until spring returns. Monarchs have two sets of deep orange and black wings, and a wingspan of 3-4 inches. Males have two black spots at the center of their hind wings.
The migratory subspecies of the monarch was recently added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “red list” of the most threatened species on earth and is now listed as endangered. People are encouraged to plant locally native milkweed and nectar flowers in their yards and reduce pesticide use to help monarch populations rebound.