Eastern Monarch Butterflies embark on a big journey

CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) —Today, a flock of orange and black beauties could be seen embarking on a journey of a lifetime. Hundreds of Eastern Monarch Butterflies set off to Mexico from our own backyard.

It’s a journey that stretches over two thousand miles. It may be long, but it is crucial to the survival of the Eastern Monarch Butterfly.

David O’Donnell, Owner of Eastern Monarch Butterfly Farm told News 4, “The Monarch Butterfly depends on these plants.”

This species of butterfly has seen a significant decrease in numbers. Over the last decade many factors played a role in their demise but the loss of milkweed has been the biggest problem.

O’Donnell said, “The Monarch Butterfly has been disappearing for the last ten years because the environment is changing, the lack of habitat, too many pesticides, and they can only have one plant and that is milkweed.”

Milkweed, a pesky weed to most, serves as a food source for larval butterflies. This means that without it, new butterflies are a lot less likely to be born. O’Donnell is making strides to get that weed back in people’s gardens.

He said, “We do a lot of presentations and sell milkweed at the Clarence Hollow Farmers Market and we get people to put that in their perennial gardens because everybody wants butterflies but they need to have the right host plant in order to get butterflies.”

After 15 years of doing this, O’Donnell and his wife Alexis say their favorite part of the job is seeing the people looking at the butterflies and enjoying them as much as they do.

Lots of little ones gathered around to enjoy! They told News 4, “I love pretty butterflies!”

“They always kind of like land on people!”

“It was really fun! It felt like a bunch of snowflakes were landing on my hand!”

Educating the children is also up there on their list of favorites.

Alexis O’Donnell, David’s wife and co-founder of the company said, “They’re getting away from the television and getting them back into nature. Those are the people who are going to be growing up and taking care of this planet so the education part is very important to me.”

Although this was the last release of the year the O’Donnell’s said there is always next year to get in on the fun. They release their butterflies every year close to the start of September. Until then he is at the Clarence Hollow Farmers Market every Saturday from 8 AM through 1 PM to spread knowledge about what’s happening to the butterflies.

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