Ethan and Andrew Coplin visit the Monarch butterflies in the Butterfly House during the Van Wert County Master Gardener Butterfly Release Party. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Ethan and Andrew Coplin visit the Monarch butterflies in the Butterfly House during the Van Wert County Master Gardener Butterfly Release Party. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
VAN WERT – Seventy Painted Lady butterflies were released into the Children’s Garden at Smiley Park Friday morning as part of the Van Wert County Master Gardener Butterfly Release Party.

The butterflies made a trip from California to be at the party where 75 kids registered to learn about butterflies, the Children’s Garden, and why it’s important to take care of the garden.

Master Gardener Ruth Ann Covey presented a program on the life-cycle of butterflies to teach the children the process in which a butterfly becomes.

This is the fourth year that the Master Gardeners have had a Butterfly Release Party. The aim is to allow children to see the butterflies up close and to learn more about them.

“We decided that we couldn’t catch them in the garden fast enough,” said Covey. “We ordered some Monarchs and put them all in the Butterfly House the first year.”

The first year, 300 Monarchs were released which turned out to be too many for the Butterfly House. Now, the Master Gardeners release the butterflies into the open at the garden, where they can fly free and enjoy the many flowers.

This year, in addition to the Painted Ladies, two Monarch butterflies were released into the Butterfly House, as well as a chrysalis and some caterpillars.

Monarch butterflies are on the Endangered Species list, and every year it appears there are less and less in the area to be spotted. Covey noted that this is because the Monarch habitat is being destroyed.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that people like to have clean ditch banks and clean rows by their farms,” observed Covey. “This takes away the swamp milkweed, which is what the Monarchs lay their eggs on, and the caterpillars eat. A lot of the spraying we do in our yards has also diminished the Monarchs.”

Monarchs migrate and each winter they travel to Mexico. Covey said that due to deforestation in Mexico, Monarchs have lost their winter homes.

Program coordinator Rachel Hoverman explained that the Monarchs’ life cycle is around 2 months. Each migration period the Monarchs will travel from Mexico up into the United States where they breed and lay eggs. The eggs hatch and the new butterflies travel further up. The process continues until the Monarchs reach Canada. Then, when it is time to migrate back to Mexico for the winter, the Monarchs mimic the same process on their way back down. The last generation, which is born around Texas, lives longer – about 6-8 months in order to live through winter.

The Master Gardeners encourage children to plant flowers, especially milkweeds, at home so that the butterflies have food. During the release party they handed out free seeds to children.

The children were also able to do crafts and inspect the Children’s Garden for the butterflies that they released.