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Monarch butterfly kind of day at Mahanoy Area

Students tag, release creatures for migration south

Printed in The Republican Herald, Sept. 24, 2019
by John E. Usalis STAFF WRITER

MAHANOY CITY - The royal monarch butterfly was the center of attention Monday as students at Mahanoy Area Elementary School tagged and released them into the wild.

The Schuylkill ACHIEVE afterschool program hosted Rick "That Butterfly Guy" Mikula, of Hazleton, at the school, who provided an entertaining presentation with much information about one of the most popular species of butterflies.
The program had the 45 students enthusiastic about learning about the Monarch butterfly in particular and other butterflies in general.

For the students, it was not just about learning about the butterflies and tagging them for their migration. Their efforts also made them participants as citizen scientists in the University of Kansas migration study to track the monarchs to their winter home in Mexico and their eventual return to the United States.

According to the university's Kansas Biological Survey website, Monarch Watch focuses on the annual North American migration of the monarch butterfly, an indicator species for the need for pollinator habitat conservation.

The program engages citizen scientists of all ages in largescale research projects involving the tagging and tracking of migrating monarchs. These projects produce significant data on the migration and the conservation issues related to it.

"The students have engaged in a wonderful STEM lesson, as well as service learning for the environment in the butterfly project with nationally- known Rick Mikula ," said Schuylkill ACHIEVE program coordinator Michele Daynorowicz. "The students will never look at a butterfly the same again. It inspired them to want to learn more and that research will continue in the afterschool program."

Mikula has been breeding and sharing his love for butterflies for 40 years. He is the president of Butterfly Rescue International, serves as consultant to the Association for Butterflies and The International Butterfly Breeders Association, of which he is co- founder and past president, among other organizations. He is the author of eight books, including "The Family Butterfly Book," "The Butterfly Fandex" and "Garden Butterflies of North America."

Mikula provided stories about cultural beliefs about butterflies from around the world that date back to 8,000 B. C. He noted a species found at Fort Indiantown Gap called the Regal Fritillary Butterfly that may have an important designation in the near future.

The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs website explains the Regal Fritillary is a large orange and black butterfly that was once found commonly throughout the Northeast. It looks like a "monarch Butterfly dipped in chocolate." Grassland destruction and alteration over the past 30 years has reduced its range and abundance. This is the largest population of this species remaining east of Indiana, a second population occurs at Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia. It is also the largest documented population on a single landholding in North America.

Mikula explained there is an effort in the state General Assembly to name the Regal as the state butterfly. The legislation in the House of Representatives is H. B .1844.

After explaining more about butterflies, he began the process of tagging 20 monarchs with the help of students. Keeping the records of the number each butterfly was tagged with and whether it was a male or female was the job of student Ra'Shya Lovett. Mikula held the butterfly to be tagged and placed it in a mesh container.

When all butterflies were tagged, Mikula, the students and teachers went outside to release them, setting them free for their journey to Mexico, where they will hibernate during the winter until it is time to return to the United States in March. The tagging will allow the students to follow the progress of the butterflies on a computer, making Monday's program one that is interactive for the students.

The following websites were recommended to the students to learn more about butterflies: www.butterflyrick.com, www.butterflywebsite.com, www.butterflyrescue.com, and www.monarchmigration.com. Mikula can be reached at butterflyrick@hotmail.com.

Mikula is scheduled to visit the ACHIEVE classes at the following schools for monarch butterfly releases: Minersville Area, today; Pottsville Area, Wednesday; Williams Valley, Thursday; and Pine Grove Area, Oct. 2.

As he finished the presentation on Monday, Mikula praised the ACHIEVE program, "I'll tell you that working with Schuylkill ACHIEVE is like dying and going to heaven," he said. "They are so great."

The Schuylkill ACHIEVE program, sponsored by Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29, Mar Lin, has been giving students in multiple school districts the opportunity to participate in spending time after the normal school day to enjoy recreation, homework help, reading and writing help, character education, STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activities and more.

For more information, contact IU 29 Maple Avenue Campus at 570- 544- 9131 Ext. 1229 or email schuylkillachieve@iu29.org.

Rick Mikula Butterfly Expert
DABID MCKEOWN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Rick Mikula, also known as "The Butterfly Guy," releases tagged monarch butterflies Monday at Mahanoy Area Elementary School.

Rick Mikula Butterfly Expert

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