Help preserve the Monarch Butterfly Preserve in Mexico

Ellen Sharp talks to Monarch in Eastern Iowa members, October 2016.
Below is a letter from our friend, Dr. Ellen Sharp, who visited Iowa and talked to Monarchs in Eastern Iowa on October 21, 2016. She is Project Director of Butterflies and Their People, a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve the butterfly sanctuary in Mexico by creating jobs for local people in forest and monarch butterfly conservation. 

llen has a BA from Brown University and a PhD in anthropology from UCLA. She turned her attention to the plight of monarch butterflies after first visiting the butterfly roost at Cerro Pelón in 2011, when she met Joel Moreno Rojas. She now lives full time in his hometown of Macheros, Mexico, at the entry of Cerro Pelón Monarch Butterfly Preserve, where they run JM Butterfly B&B together.

Ellen is asking for our help in getting the word out to help save the trees that monarchs need to overwinter in Mexico.  Please give if you are able!


March 29, 2018

Dear Monarch Watchers,

The monarchs have left the Cerro Pelon Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, taking what work there was in butterfly tourism along with them. One day after they left, the sound of chain saws was already echoing out of the forest and around the valley. Our neighbors are already resorting to illegal logging to feed their families.

Thanks to the support of the Monarch Butterfly Fund, three local people now have alternative employment as full-time forest arborists on Cerro Pelon. Some of our recent guests have started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $6,000 to hire, train and equip an additional arborist so that we can increase the presence of paid personnel in the forest and pull one more family out of poverty.

I’m writing you to ask for your help to get the word out about this campaign—consider contributing and sharing www.gofundme.com/ butterflies-and-their-people with your networks.

Illegal loggers only get around $15-20 USD per tree; it doesn’t take much to pay poachers to protect the forest instead of pilfering it.

You can read more about the project here: https:// butterfliesandtheirpeople.org/

Thank you for your consideration and all of your efforts on behalf of our monarchs!

Ellen Sharp & Joel Moreno Rojas
Macheros, Mexico


MEI and MPP meeting

Monarchs in Eastern Iowa members and Muscatine Pollinator Project members met in a "Meet 'n Greet" session on Sunday, March 4th at the East Side Recycling Center in Iowa City.  The purpose of the meeting was to become more familiar with each other's groups and share information.  It was a very informative meeting!

Muscatine Pollinator Project (MPP) is quite an active group.  Among the things they are involved with are teaming with Muscatine Community College greenhouse to grow pollinator plants, working with schools, planting pollinator gardens and developing a 16-acre pollinator prairie in Muscatine, One of their members is a bee man and the group has partnered with a local brewery to produce "Pollinator Ale" out of the honey, from which they receive a portion of the proceeds.  You can read more about the MPP at this Google search link.

Besides MEI members, we also had representatives from The Nature Conservancy-Muscatine Co., a Johnson County Master Gardener associated with Iowa City Monarchs, Naturalists from Muscatine County and Iowa County, and the Environmental Services Manager from Bridgestone Bandag (which has a pollinator garden at their Learning Center).

A good group!

Below are some photos from the meeting, taken by Monarch in Eastern Iowa's volunteer photographer, Larry Long.

Organizers Barb and Patty from MEI, and Dave Cooney from MPP.

We had a good turnout!

Kelly Guilbeau (right), from Milkweed Matters tells about
distributing milkweed seedballs during the RAGBRAI ride.
If you wish to ride with Milkweed Matters this year, click the link!

John Koch, Muscatine Water Resources Manger,
displays signs they had made. 

Mom and son attended because this young boy is
very interested in butterflies.  He is holding a collection
passed down to him from his grandfather.

At the end of the meeting two women who had gone
to Mancheros, Mexico to the J&M Butterfly B&B
presented photos of their adventure to see the
overwintering monarch butterflies clustered in the trees.


Happy 2018

Courtesy of Alice Linhart (MEI member)
As we start this new year, make some plans to help our monarch butterflies.  Plan your pollinator gardens, order seeds and figure out the best time to plant them in pots, or to plant outside, pore over seed catalogs and order plants, update your monarch-rearing containers.  Lots to do!

One thing you might consider is adding YOUR yard to the Monarch Watch Waystation program.  Read about it at

Or, you might consider approaching your town council and mayor about taking the Mayor's Monarch Pledge.

Think about ways you can help expand knowledge about the plight of the Monarch Butterfly.  Could you give a presentation at your child's school, or a kids' club (girl scouts, boy scouts), or how about an adult club you may belong to or know of ... or for a neighborhood group (get them excited) or at your local library, or church group?

And ...it's not too late to do some Winter Sowing in containers.  Your milkweed will start growing when conditions are right, and you can then transplant them.

Or just take some time to explore monarch butterfly web sites on the internet ... learn learn learn!


Another year down

Thanks to Carla Knutson for this photo of the monarch
butterfly Christmas Tree she and her daughter created
for a festival of trees event.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Monarchs in Eastern Iowa facebook group members have done another WONDERFUL job of raising monarchs from eggs and caterpillars this year.  Although all the numbers may not be in yet, in 2017 they have so far raised and released over 6,100 monarch butterflies to fly south to Mexico to overwinter.  This compares to 6,280 in 2016, 3,075 in 2015 and 972 in 2014, the year we started our group.  So, in all, we've raised nearly 16,500 monarch butterflies!

This doesn't count all the eggs and caterpillars that members have given out to neighbors, organizations and friends to raise.  I think we are doing a fantastic job in our little corner of Iowa!

It is time to think about winter sowing milkweed seeds.  For more information read an old post about winter sowing 

Also find out about an upcoming fundraising event, Butterflies, Bees & Brews, Sunday, December 10th,1 to 4 p.m. at Contrary Brewing in Muscatine, put on by our friends, the Muscatine Pollinators group.  Muscatine native James Patchett will be a guest speaker to discuss sustainable rooftop gardens. An admission ticket includes one free drink stub.
Read the article   
Event Page:  Butterflies, bees and brews

The Spring 2018 application is now open for habitat restoration projects located in the Monarch Milkweed Corridor.  This application is for large-scale (two acres or more) native habitat restoration only.  Read about this program

Monarch Watch still has funding for free milkweeds for schools and educational non-profits. This grant is separate from the above restoration grant and allows one free flat per qualified applicant, to be planted in a public garden:  Read about this program


Save milkweed seed

Photo credit to MEI member Dave Johnson
Monarch Watch is seeking volunteers to collect wild native milkweed seeds for the Bring Back the Monarchs campaign. Thanks to the donations of over 90 seed sources from across the United States, Monarch Watch was able to distribute more than 50,000 native milkweeds this past spring. But they could have distributed more! 

For information on what seeds are needed and how to collect them, go to the following link:

Also, here is a video that explains how to collect milkweed seeds from pods.

And if you want to plant milkweed seeds in the ground this fall, you can read about it here.


Monarch Butterflies are roosting!

Monarchs roosting SW Cedar Rapids.
It has been reported by a Monarchs in Eastern Iowa group member that she observed a monarch butterfly roost at her home on the SW side of Cedar Rapids, near Fairfax!  The migration is here and will peak in mid-September for this region.  Keep your eyes open for clusters of monarch butterflies in the trees near dusk and report them to Journey North at this page - http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/monarch_roosts_fall2017.html


Sending Monarchs south with tags

Photo by Dave Johnson
We are heavy into monarch butterfly raising and several of our group have raised over 100!  Soon it will be time to start tagging the last generation of monarchs that will make their way to their over-wintering grounds in Mexico.  If you haven't ordered tags to tag your monarchs, please do ASAP!  

How to order tags:  http://help.monarchwatch.org/kb/article/49-monarch-tagging-process#howtoorder

If you haven't tagged monarchs before, read up on it at Monarch Watch website.

The peak time for Monarchs migrating through our area (Cedar Rapids/Iowa City is latitude 41) is September 8th - 20th.

From Dave Johnson, MEI member:   How to handle a butterfly. Make sure when you pick one up you put your fingers such that all 4 wings are being held, and that you hold from the front of the wing. That will allow your other hand to put the tag on and press to attach.

Photo by Dave Johnson