“Charismatic Microfauna” is one of the terms we like to use to describe the colorful little species that call The Parklands home. Critters like Rainbow Darters, Salamanders, and Luna Moths all fall under this cleverly-named category, as do one of my personal favorites – the Monarch Butterfly. Monarchs are fascinating in that they can’t survive the harsh winters in northern climates, so they migrate south just like songbirds. However, in recent years, fewer Monarchs have been able to make that necessary trip to warmer weather. According to National Geographic, in 2004, an estimated 550 million Monarch Butterflies completed the winter migration, while in 2013 only 33 million arrived. Much of this is due to the rapid disappearance of Milkweed, the only plant the caterpillars eat and the only plant on which Monarch Butterflies lay their eggs.
Concerned citizens are taking notice and forming projects like the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP), a citizen science program launched to help collect data about monarch populations and their habitat. One of our dedicated Parklands volunteers, Connie Farmer, is working hard to head up a team of “Monarch Rangers” to collect data from milkweed patches at the park for the MLMP. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity and becoming a Monarch Ranger, Connie is offering informational sessions at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 17 and at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 21. Both session will take place at the PNC Achievement Center in Beckley Creek Park. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up and start doing your part to help protect our “Charismatic Microfauna”!