David Suzuki Foundation names three new Manitoulin ‘Butterflyway Rangers’

Manitoulin’s Butterflyway Rangers are hoping Islanders will help do their part to promote pollinator-friendly habitats this year.

MANITOULIN – Three more Islanders have received the special ‘Butterflyway Ranger’ status from the David Suzuki Foundation. Earlier this month, Melissa Volpini of Little Current and Sue Meert and Mary-Anne McGraw of Assiginack were all named rangers.

“Butterflies have always been my thing,” Ms. Volpini told The Expositor. So, when she saw the posting from the David Suzuki Foundation seeking rangers, she immediately signed up.

“I get to try and inspire others to help preserve butterfly sanctuaries with the goal of creating 10 or more butterflyways in a community,” she explained. “Or that’s my hope.”

Those who already have butterflyways on their property, such as a garden filled with wildflowers or milkweed, or perhaps a large swath of uncut grass, can contact any of the rangers to let them know and have their properties added to the butterflyway list.

Ms. Meert is acting as a ranger on behalf of Manitoulin Streams. “It kind of goes hand in hand with what we do.”

Ms. Meert said Manitoulin Streams will be giving the option of offering pollinator-friendly plants to those property owners for whom they are doing restoration work.

Ms. Volpini said she hopes to approach the Northeast Town, her designated area, to see if they might stop mowing grass in certain areas such as culverts, which is often where milkweed grows.

Ms. Volpini said she’s got lots of ideas, like a plant exchange, and is hoping to get a planning committee together to do things like fundraising and start seedlings. Ms. Meert is also seeking donation of seeds, plants or money to purchase those items.

“I think that monarchs are amazing creatures,” Ms. Volpini added. “How does a creature that comes from tiny eggs know how to transform, can fly thousands of kilometres to Mexico? The fact they’re becoming more endangered the more reason to undertake this project.”

Ms. McGraw has been collecting eggs and releasing monarchs with her children for 15 years. “I became passionate about butterflies when a class with which I participated in a student placement raised painted lady butterflies,” she explained.

Ms. Volpini, who released 64 monarchs this year, urges Islanders to keep their dandelions around and don’t cut anything from last year’s garden until temperatures are consistently above 10°C as there are many hibernating critters in the dead foliage. Ms. McGraw also suggested that, when cutting back tubular plants, leave a variety of shorter lengths for bees. 

“People can come on board by just planting a few plants or by doing larger scale gardens,” Ms. McGraw added. “If you have limited space, patio planter boxes are a perfect start.”

While they can be challenging to grow from seed, all the butterflyway rangers encourage the planting of milkweed, as well as native pollinator-friendly plants.

For public areas deemed butterflyways, the David Suzuki Foundation will supply signs for the local rangers to post to acknowledge them as such.

“Let’s get out there and so some good for nature!” Ms. Meert enthused. “Let’s see what we can do for Manitoulin. If we all work together, it’s a win-win.”

To share your butterflyway project and photos, reach Ms. Volpini (Northeast Town) by email at butterfliesandbeesmanitoulin@gmail.com, Ms. Meert (Island-wide) at suemeert@hotmail.com and Ms. McGraw (Assiginack) by sending her a message through her Facebook page (search ‘Mary-Anne McGraw’).