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Butterflies draw hundreds

September 11, 2018

Ahnica Rowan, 6, didn’t hesitate when given the opportunity Sunday to hold a monarch butterfly.

The same couldn’t be said for her younger brother, Beckam. The slightest encounters with the winged insect prompted the 1 ½-year-old to pull back.

“He gets his courage up,” said his mother, Natalie Rowan.

The family was among hundreds who : despite chilly, rainy weather : gathered at Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve for the annual Monarch Festival hosted by conservation nonprofit Little River Wetlands Project.

The free, family-friendly event featured live monarchs on display and hands-on activities. Attendees could also take home milkweed, the only plant on which monarchs lay their eggs.

“This butterfly needs our conservation efforts,” said Betsy Yankowiak of Little River Wetlands.

Butterflies released Sunday were tagged with a sticker as part of a citizen science project with the University of Kansas, Yankowiak said. The Monarch Watch program focuses on the insect’s annual North American migration.

Yankowiak easily rattled off facts about the butterfly, including its typical lifespan.

“Obviously, I’m fascinated by this beautiful insect,” she said.

Others must be, too.

Yankowiak was stunned by the packed event. Without knowing the final count, she said the crowd might be the largest yet, a surprise given the weather.

“I’m so shocked by our turnout,” she said, noting she would have been happy with 500 people for an event that typically gets 1,000 to 1,500.

“We wouldn’t miss this for anything,” a woman entering the festival told Yankowiak.

Pat and John Reidenbach were among the attendees who raise monarch butterflies and participate in the tagging project.

At last count, they had raised about 400 this year, their fourth to do so, Pat Reidenbach said, noting she hoped for 500.

They recently released 60 butterflies on one day : a new high, she said.

“That was amazing,” she said.

asloboda@jg.net

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