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TAKING WING
Soar over to KWEC’s Butterfly festival
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Tagging monarch butterflies is always a big part of the Butterfly Festival and monarch numbers are good locally. Here a tagging leader helps a participant apply a tag the size of a pencil eraser.
It’s shaping up to be a good year locally for monarch butterflies.
Pam Martin, KDWPT education specialist

The Remarkable Butterfly

• Butterflies taste with their feet, drink with their tongues and smell with their antenna.

• Although butterflies can fly without their wing scales, they don’t fly as well. Engineers determined scales provide extra lift, boosting monarch flight climbing efficiency by 16 to 82 percent. They also help butterflies escape spider webs, attract a mate, provide camouflage and warning coloration.

• Brown and yellow wing scale colors are obtained from pigments. Blues, greens and purples are due to scale structure that reflect and refract, or bend, light.

• The monarch butterfly is the most famous migratory butterfly but many others also migrate, including the cloudless sulphur, red admiral, painted and American lady butterflies. 

• The painted lady butterfly wins the prize for the longest distance migration, flying 7500 miles round trip from North Africa to Europe, crossing the Sahara. Although most accomplish this feat over several generations, there appear to be individuals who make a round trip, crossing the Sahara twice.


 All things “butterfly” will be the focus of the Kansas Wetlands Education Center’s Butterfly Festival from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 15. From puppet shows to tagging monarch butterflies, kids and adults will find plenty to do during this free event. 

New this year, Bubba and Trixie, a puppet magic show, by the StoneLion Puppet Theatre, tells the story of a scaredy-cat caterpillar too afraid to leave its leaf until it meets a fearless lady bug. Through their adventures, including the caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly, they form true friendship and face their fears.

“We’re excited to have StoneLion Puppet Theatre present,” said Curtis Wolf, KWEC site manager. “And we’re hoping for a lot of monarchs for everyone to catch and tag.”

With a performing troupe of 11 puppeteers, StoneLion Puppets presents throughout Kansas. Using traditional and unique props, they perform shows with environmental, literary and holiday-related themes. StoneLion Puppets will present three 30-minute shows at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., with a puppet craft in-between shows and walking puppets.

 Nets and tags will be available for those who want to capture and tag monarch butterflies. Participants will receive information about the tagging process before heading out with a tagging leader to search for Monarch butterflies. During the last three years, 16 tagged monarchs released at KWEC have been recovered from winter roosts in Mexico. 

“It’s shaping up to be a good year locally for monarch butterflies,” said Pam Martin, KDWPT education specialist. “We’ve been finding lots of caterpillars and adults in the KWEC pollinator garden.

Weather permitting, an exhibit bee hive will be on display in the insect zoo in addition to fluorescing scorpions, giant walking stick insects, butterflies, caterpillars and chrysalises. Plan to spend the morning, as door prizes will be presented around noon, along with free milkweed plants (one per family). 

Information on butterfly-friendly plants and composting will be available from the Barton County Master Gardeners group, along with examples of butterfly-friendly plants in the KWEC pollinator garden.

Kids can play in the mud and make a seed bomb of soil mixture and native flower seeds, to take home to plant. Find your inner insect by taking your photo at monarch butterfly and caterpillar photo boards and dress-up area. Create caterpillar and butterfly crafts in the class room, then refuel with light refreshments and drinks. Temporary tattoos and other activities round out the morning’s events. 

For more information contact KWEC at 1-877-243-9268 or visit: wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu.