By David Jakim
While the Port Washington Monarch Butterfly Alliance (PWMBA) came out of its chrysalis on Earth Day, April 2017, the alliance continues to offer free educational and community-based environmental workshops year-round. The workshops include resources for establishing private and public Monarch gardens, planting events across the Town of North Hempstead throughout the 2018 growing season, garden-based learning programs at local schools and youth centers, integrated nature walks every Sunday from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in different places around the Town of North Hempstead and a thriving community of individuals interested in helping monarch butterflies and the environment.
Currently, monarchs are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution, over-exploitation of resources and overpopulation, so the alliance’s main goals are to turn Port Washington into a sanctuary for monarch butterflies and other wildlife, to promote biological diversity and to make experiences in nature more accessible to the community.
What can be done? Everyone can start conserving and protecting monarch populations right in their own backyards by planting or placing milkweed and nectar plants in the ground or in a pot. Monarch habitats are sites containing a variety of nectar-producing plants, especially milkweed, a family of plants that is the sole host for Monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars. Like oases, these habitats serve as connections or steppingstones linking populations of monarch butterflies and a diversity of wildlife over the course of their migratory cycles and ranges.
Another way to help is by attending PWMBA workshops. The workshops turn the practice of raising monarch butterflies into a learning experience for adults and children. Participants will receive free local plants, caterpillars, equipment, storybooks and the training needed to raise and release monarch butterflies and create butterfly gardens in their homes, schools and gardens. Participants will also be introduced to the surprising plants and animals associated with monarchs as the monarchs go through their brief reproductive life cycle in Port Washington, along their migratory route from Mexico and back each year. By releasing monarch butterflies into the world to join their migration and by planting seeds, participants will be supporting the growth and health of this imperiled species, pollinators and local biodiversity.
One member of the PWMBA, Tanya Clusener, inspired by a PWMBA butterfly workshop, raised and released 350 monarch butterflies this last year alone, and she gave more than 100 children the breathtaking and beautiful opportunity of releasing the newly hatched butterflies into the wild to join the migration.
In the last year, PWMBA has expanded with a grassroots team of activists leading diverse community programs and community initiatives and with the creation of new monarch butterfly habitats around the Town of North Hempstead, including Manhasset Valley Pond Park, Clark Botanic Garden, the PW Water Control District, multiple spots at Sands Point Preserve and in private gardens around the peninsula.
For more information about ways to get involved, visit www.PWMonarchAlliance.org or contact PWMBA Director David Jakim at David.Jakim@gmail.com.