Catawba Island Garden Club member Sharon Sanger has deservedly earned the nickname “Mama Monarch” from her fellow club members. Sharon, a lifelong resident of the community, recently became interested in the growing movement to bring back the disappearing butterflies from our area.
Three years ago, she began learning to raise Monarch butterflies from her mentor, Carmen Kurtz of Port Clinton. Carmen has been raising and tagging butterflies for over six years. Between the two of them they released over 1,350 healthy butterflies into the community just this year alone.
Carmen was part of a team of people who were instrumental in having Port Clinton designated as a Monarch City USA.
The two Madame Butterflies recently made a presentation on their project to 40 garden club members and their guests. One butterfly actually emerged from its chrysalis during the presentation. Sharon passed around a butterfly egg, a small caterpillar in its beginning stage, a chrysalis in its beginning stage and an advanced stage chrysalis with the soon to emerge butterfly visible through its now thin membrane.
They explained that it takes an egg four days to hatch and 30 days to turn into a butterfly. They grow 3,000 times their original size during this time.
Butterflies live two to six weeks and will go through four or five generations in a season. The last generation migrates to Mexico for the winter. That generation lives about nine months. In the spring they migrate to Texas and lay their eggs for the first generation to head back here.
About 80% to 90% of the butterflies raised in captivity survive. Only 5% to 10% that were born in the wild survive. The Monarch’s only food source is the milkweed plant. Milkweed has declined rapidly over the last several years, making it more difficult for butterflies to find food. Luckily, Sharon sells her milkweed plants at the Annual Garden Club Plant Sale held the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend each year at John Braun Park. They are very easy to grow and look vibrant and colorful in the garden.
Sharon has established two official Monarch Waystations. One is in her back yard and another at West Harbor Landing Park on N.E. Catawba Road, just north of E. Harbor Road.
Sharon, Carmen, and others like them are slowly bringing back the Monarch population.