The Phoenix Reporter and Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

Families tag, feed monarchs in interactive butterfly event


By Candice Monhollan, For 21st Century Media

Friday, August 30, 2013

ROYERSFORD – Upper Schuylkill Valley Park is usually home to animals of all kinds in the wildlife center, but on Saturday, it was host specifically to beautiful monarchs as part of the fourth annual Butterfly Release Celebration.
Plenty of families were in attendance to take part in the education on monarchs, including seeing the various stages of life for monarchs, feeding them and even helping to tag them.
Animal Care Education Specialist Chris Ottaviano, of the Montgomery County Division of Parks, helped to run the tagging station.
“Monarch Watch monitors their migration,” she said. “They go all the way down to Mexico. Their tagging is their identification and along the way, people find the butterflies and they can contact Monarch Watch to document their journey and how they’ve gone.”
Anyone who wanted was able to help the tagging process, which involved applying a small, round sticker with a number on a monarch’s wing.
Ottaviano also kept track of the sex of each butterfly as well.
“I’m sexing it by checking its wings,” Ottaviano said. “The males have two dots on either side and the females don’t.”
Being able to help with the process attracted many of the children in attendance, followed closely by the chance to feed them.
Set inside a mesh tent, the feeding area held roughly a dozen monarchs. Visitors were able to climb inside and hold a cotton swab dipped in fruit punch Gatorade, which is similar to nectar, and watch the butterflies drink right in their hands.
Once every monarch was tagged, a releasing ceremony happened around 1 p.m.
The butterflies were set free in front of a large gathering to start their long migration south of the border.
Ottaviano was all smiles throughout the event and happy to teach others about them.
“My love of butterflies – I thought I’d share it with everyone,” she said. “They are such an amazing creature.”