DURHAM — Visitors at a recent farmers market found produce, live music, lemonade and even a few monarch butterflies courtesy of Natureworks of Northford.
Suzanne Hauselt and Diane St. John, two Natureworks employees, had set up a table where visitors could see the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. In different trays, they had eggs, caterpillars and adult butterflies for people to take a look at.
“We don’t have any chrysalises because they’re a bit harder to transport,” said Hauselt.
The small exhibit was a part of Natureworks efforts to educate people on the importance of butterflies in their gardens and in the ecosystem. Butterflies act as a food source for other animals and as a pollinator.
“We like to show the life cycle of it because people really care about this butterfly,” said St. John. “If they plant for this butterfly, in turn they help a million other pollinators in their yard too so that’s why we like to teach about it.”
The monarch butterfly is nearing closer and closer to extinction with numbers dropping by as much as 90% in some parts of the U.S.
“Everything harms them. If I touch the leaves with sunscreen on my fingers and the caterpillar eats the leaf, the caterpillar dies. Every kind of product kills them,” said St. John.
NatureWorks is a “retail store and landscaping company” that teaches people how to create and care for their gardens without using harmful pesticides.
“We try to get people to rethink their property. If you’re planting native plants, they’re not susceptible to diseases and pests and you won’t need to spray,” said Hauselt. “Can you tolerate maybe some fungus growing on your plants? Can you focus on creating a whole healthy ecosystem and not ‘Oh what’s this brown spot on the leaf?’.”
Native plants that attract the monarch are milkweed and asclepias, but St. John said that butterflies will generally be attracted to any nectar flowers that are planted in your yard. If nothing is done to help the species recover, scientists predict that the butterfly could go extinct in the next 20 years.
“We do a lot of education because this is a butterfly that people really do care about,” said St. John.