Cobb Island celebrates with Monarch Mania
Fifth annual event helps protect at-risk butterfly
Dozens of Cobb Island residents migrated to the fifth annual Monarch Mania Festival on Saturday to tag and ultimately release the at-risk monarch butterflies as they travel south toward the mountain forests in central Mexico.
In recent years, in large part due to the use of herbicides in America and deforestation in Mexico, the monarch butterfly population has dipped to a record low and is now considered a “near threatened” species by the World Wildlife Fund.
Despite a steady rain, many attended the event
with several vendors, educational exhibits and games and crafting stations for kids. Usually held outside, the Cobb Island Volunteer Fire Department housed the fun indoors.
In attendance this year was Consulate Alberto Fierro of the Mexican Embassy, and executive director of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington D.C., who spoke of the importance of the continuing partnership between the Mexican, American and Canadian governments to help preserve the monarch.
“It’s been on the agenda for many years,” Fierro told the Maryland Independent. “Every time that the three leaders of North America get together, they mention the monarch. The monarch is the symbol of the partnership of the three counties, and precisely because of pesticides it has been in danger. The three governments had to take measures to make sure that the monarch survives.”
Conservationist Mike Callahan led the educational event, demonstrating to the audience how to gently tag the butterfly’s wing with an identifying sticker which will later help researchers learn more about the monarch’s migration pattern, a journey of up to 2,800 miles.
“As the monarchs are migrating through the area toward Mexico, they often stay along the landmass and the waterways,” Callahan said. “And they would come across from St. Mary’s [County] and land here in Cobb Island, nectar, and then eventually move on. Some of them are spending the nights here.”
Callahan also explained how the monarch population has been affected by human interference.
“The host plant for the monarch butterfly is milkweed family plants,” he said. “And so the herbicides kill those, and at the sides of the road they often get cut down because people fear the word ‘weed’ and think it’s not good to have, and it’s the only plant monarchs can lay their eggs on to feed.”
“And then loss of habitat in both fields in America, and at one time, the forests of Mexico were disappearing as well,” he added.
Though some criticized Mexico for the deforestation of the monarch habitat, the herbicide usage in American has had a profound impact as well, Callahan said, “Aren’t we just as bad?”
“So I’m glad to hear him [Fierro] mention about the agreements; all three counties have brought the monarch into the discussion when it comes to trade and other things.”
During the event about 40 butterflies were tagged, though, because of the rain, they were not released until the weather cleared on Sunday morning. Now, as the butterflies continue to travel south, anyone who comes across a tagged monarch will find contact information for Monarch Watch to report where it was found, aiding conservationists with their research to protect the treasured butterfly.
Due to the rain during the Monarch Mania Festival on Saturday, the tagged monarchs were released Sunday morning outside of Shymansky’s Restaurant in Cobb Island.
Conservationist Mike Callahan presents Consulate Alberto Fierro of the Mexican Embassy, and executive director of the Mexican Cultural Institute, a monarch butterfly painting and T-shirts at the fifth annual Monarch Mania Festival in Cobb Island on Saturday.
Volunteers captured about 40 monarch butterflies in Cobb Island prior to the festival. The monarchs were then tagged on Saturday and released Sunday morning.
Conservationist Mike Callahan shows Mexican consulate Alberto Fierro the gender of the monarch butterfly by spreading its wings apart.
A volunteer shows the kids one of the tagged monarch butterflies at the Monarch Mania Festival on Saturday at Cobb Island.