Island-wide monarch butterfly count this Saturday

WIIKWEMKOONG—Citizen science is quite the rage these days, with ordinary folks putting their shoulders to the wheel to help with the heavy lifting of data collection—and discovering it’s a lot of fun.

Wiikwemkoong’s Species at Risk (SAR) folks dropped by The Expositor last week to announce plans for an Island-wide monarch butterfly count on Saturday, July 27.

“We were looking at doing a monarch butterfly count in Wiikwemkoong and then we thought it would be fun to get people from across the Island to take part,” said SAR program coordinator Theodore Flamand. “So now it is planned for Island-wide.”

Now before you go running for your butterfly net it’s important to know that this is a hands-off operation.

“This is not collecting, no touching, just looking,” said Island biologist Judith Jones. “You see, we have been told that if you collect them and raise them indoors, the monarchs lose their navigation ability for migration.”

Monarchs are famous for their continent-spanning migration paths, famously wintering down in Mexico before embarking upon the winds for the return to Northern Ontario each summer.

“They really don’t know how that migration sense works yet,” said Ms. Jones, “but they do tell us that raising them indoors messes that up—we don’t know why.”

The monarch count will include orientation sessions taking place at 10 am on July 27 at locations across Manitoulin, including the Wiikwemkoong Marina parking lot, the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah playground, the Providence Bay Discovery Centre and the Misery Bay Provincial Park visitor centre. 

You can also simply download the information and tally sheet from the Wikwemikong Species at Risk or Manitoulin Phragmites Project Facebook pages, but going to the sessions would be a lot more fun.

The sessions will be very hands-on, even if touching butterflies is out, as participants will learn to identify milkweed plants, monarch caterpillars and chrysalis. “It is great for the kids and something the whole family can take part in,” said Ms. Jones. “When you have your count you can submit your results by email.” 

Once you have the orientation, you can go to a location of your choice to search for and count monarchs anytime on Saturday, July 27. Once you have your numbers, submit the data online by email or to the link given on the tally sheet. Then sit back and watch for the results to be shared in The Manitoulin Expositor or on the aforementioned Facebook pages.

“We are hoping to make this an annual event,” said Mr. Flamand.

The Manitoulin Monarch Butterfly Count is sponsored by the Wiikwemkoong Department of Lands and Natural Resources Species at Risk Program. For more information, contact

manitoulinmonarchs@yahoo.com.