Last week, Marie Longo, Bergen Audubon education director, released some of the last tagged Monarch butterflies of the season. One of the many she liberated that day was from a single last caterpillar I found still feeding on a tiny, sad partial leaf of Milkweed. Small and all alone, I brought it home to raise, not very optimistic that it would even survive.
It struggled for a few days, very slow and a bit lethargic but gradually it began to eat. It continued to struggle as it tried to move on to its next stage of life, hanging from the roof of the enclosure for more than a day . But to my amazement it finally accomplished what nature intended and formed that most beautiful of all natures structures, the Monarch butterfly chrysalis.
Since I rarely spend much time at home these days I thought I would turn my worried little chrysalis over to Marie so she could keep a close eye on it and if we were real lucky release the butterfly when it emerged. Checking almost every day on its condition, Marie was happy to report my lone little Monarch had emerged, been tagged and was on its way to Mexico.
I have to admit I felt wonderful that this tiny creature was on its way to becoming part of one of the most amazing migrations in the world. Was this single butterfly going to save the Monarch or even make a slight difference in the overall population of this fast disappearing species? No, it would not. My heart wanted very much to believe that this butterfly would survive and make it to its wintering grounds in Mexico, but statistics say otherwise.
No , I knew in the big scheme of things it would not make a bit of difference that I ever took the caterpillar home or whether it survived at all , but nevertheless, this one butterfly was very important, at least to me because it represented some much needed hope .
As I imagined our little butterfly embarking on the most arduous of journeys I knew that there was important work being done by many good people and groups all over the country to help restore and protect the Monarch. Milkweed, and native wildflowers were being restored to places we never thought they could or would be.
Children, conservation groups, scouts and churches worked hard all summer to give the Monarch a fighting chance. People in cities, suburbs and rural areas cared enough to help the Monarch. Despite their socioeconomic status, job title or position many people cared enough to plant a butterfly garden. It did not matter if they lived in a blue state or red state. They planted milkweed wherever they could.
Every race, color and religion of American citizens watched for the Monarch and the only question they asked was how they could help and what else they could do. From preschools to colleges, high schools to grade schools, public to private, religious or otherwise, teachers and students joined together to help a single Butterfly species. It was an incredible coming together of so many citizens from all over the country and all walks of life asking nothing more than asking for a way to do the right thing .
I still have faith that the Monarch Butterfly I found all by itself will make it, despite the odds and statistics, never mind the scientific data or what they say on the websites. I think it will finish its long journey. If you happen to see a lone Monarch butterfly with tag # WBL-231 in your garden or in your travels afield,wish it a swift and safe journey for me. There is hope in every single butterfly.