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Monarch madness

Festival Saturday at Jerusalem park

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Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012 9:00 am | Updated: 10:03 am, Thu Sep 27, 2012.

Whether the colorful honorees show up Saturday for the 2012 Monarch Migration & Butterfly Festival is largely a matter of chance.

Weather patterns do have an impact on the butterflies’ annual migration from Canada to Mexico.

Face it, when you weigh at most a fraction of an ounce, you’re pretty much at the mercy of prevailing winds no matter how hard you flap your wings.

But festival organizer Annie Hart said the celebration will go on no matter the curves the weather throws us.

“There’s no guarantee the Monarchs will come here,” Hart said. “Central Oklahoma is a good bet. But we still celebrate. We may miss the peak migration by a week, but we try to have a hospitable situation for them.”

This year’s festival is again hosted by the Jerusalem Community Heritage Center & Park, which is located near Washington on State Highway 74B and Fernwood. It will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hart says the whole point of the festival is environmental education about the migrating Monarch butterflies as they pass through Oklahoma.

Then again, the point might also be fun activities for all ages.

In addition to hot dogs and face painting, there will be a vendor specializing in butterfly plants, Hart said.

“People come for the love of the butterflies. We try to make it a community event everyone can benefit from.”

Hart is anticipating attendance between 500 and 600.

“Everybody likes it,” she said of the festival, “because it’s not expensive. You can come with five kits and still walk away with change in your pocket.”

There’s even an element of science to the day’s activities.

“We’ll have a lady who tags butterflies,” Hart said.

In addition to the small tag affixed to the underside of a back wing, the citizen science project includes a written log of where the tagging occurred, as well as the sex of the tagged butterfly and where it was released.

The day will feature a human parade of wannabe butterflies, caterpillars or even flowers.

And of course the giant 30-foot caterpillar that’s become a major attraction at the park will be there in all its striped glory.

The day will also focus attention on butterfly gardens and even releases of newly-emerged Monarchs.

Hart, whose own fascination with Monarchs led her to organize the first festival in 2008, said the butterflies’ story is one that captures the imagination.

Take for example, the Monarch’s lifespan.

When the spring migration fills the skies with colorful butterfly clouds drifting north to Canada, it’s a journey of generations.

The butterfly’s life span is a few weeks and it takes the Monarchs three or four generations to reach their destination.

Once there for the summer, successive generations take flight, procreate and die - all in a matter of weeks.

But the life cycle changes with the time to migrate south in the fall.

“That last generation does not fully mature,” Hart said. “It’s job is to migrate back to Mexico. That generation lives for six to nine months.”

It’s called diapause and what that means is the Monarchs don’t mature sexually.

“It’s a matter of conserving energy and eating a lot,” Hart explained, adding that the northbound Monarchs are “kind of chubby.”

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