On a mission to save monarchs

Organizers of effort to raise awareness about plight of butterflies will kick off campaign by selling pollinator plants at Migratory Bird Day celebration

DOING THEIR PART to ensure the survival of the monarch butterfly, (from left) Sandy Sandlin, Jill Kunsmann, Barbie Hughes and Shelly Culea held a few of the pollinator plants they will be selling at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve Sunday as part of the World Migratory Bird Day celebration. The women, who all raise monarchs, will also provide information on how to raise the butterflies during the event that runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Shelly Culea is proud to be called the monarch queen.

“I consider the monarch to be the Hollywood star of pollinators,” Culea said. “Everyone is in love with monarchs. It’s the most recognizable pollinator — the humble bees and ants just don’t have the star appeal.”

Culea, who helped develop the City of Port Washington monarch garden outside City Hall, said she was never into bugs but when she heard of the plight of the monarch she was moved to action.

The butterfly’s population has decreased 14.7% just in the last year, she said, and plummeted 90% since 1995.

She raised her first monarchs in 2011, developed several milkweed gardens at her Mequon home and has inspired numerous others to do the same.

And on Sunday, Culea and several of those she has taught to raise monarchs will be selling pollinator plants and spreading the word about the butterflies at the World Migratory Bird Day celebration at the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 20.

The event will feature bird hikes, presentations on everything from nature photography to raptors and, of course, monarch butterflies. Crafts, such as building bird nesting balls and creating beeswax candles, and children’s activities will also be part of the program.

“It’s these kinds of public events that get people talking about the monarch and get people to change the way they think about gardening,” Culea said.

People should consider cultivating pollinator plants like milkweed, the only food that monarch butterflies eat, Culea said.

“We’ve been taught that it’s a noxious weed, but it’s not,” she said. “It’s delicious. It’s beautiful, and the fragrance is divine. It’s less invasive than mint or chives. And milkweed is host to over 140 beneficial bugs and pollinators.”

Culea’s call for people to consider the butterfly when gardening has brought her numerous converts.

Jill Kunsmann and Barbie Hughes, both of the Town of Belgium, said Culea got them started raising the butterflies, and now they’re getting their families involved.

“My granddaughter was just amazed by it,” Hughes said.

“It’s so cool,” said Kunsmann, whose 10-year-old grandson helped her last year. “It’s the perfect hobby for schoolchildren.

“They learn responsibility. They learn a love for nature. They learn about the ecosystem. Children, if we can plant that kind of information in them now, will grow up to be ecologically responsible citizens.”

Raising monarchs is easy, Culea said, and it’s something she will discuss Sunday. The butterflies lay 100 eggs each season, and while in the wild only a few will survive to become monarchs, those raised by people have an almost 100% survival rate.  

Even if they can’t persuade everyone to raise the butterflies, she hopes to convince them to plant even just one milkweed plant or to plant other pollinator plants, since they will support the birds and serve as host plants for caterpillars in a never-ending cycle of life.

“It’s educational, but it’s just a lot of fun, too,” Kunsmann said.

Sunday’s celebration is just the first event of the summer for the women. They will host a monarch workshop at the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve during the Treasures of Oz from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 16, teaching people how to raise the butterflies and selling kits. 

They will continue their lessons on raising monarchs from 1 to 3 p.m. June 30 at Port City Hall, and from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 25, they will hold a tag-and release celebration at Forest Beach.



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login