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Orillia girl, 8, seeks help to save monarch butterflies

'Anyone can help save the monarchs,' says Morgan Mansfield

Morgan Mansfield loves monarch butterflies.

Last year, the eight-year-old Orillia girl raised and released 100 monarchs that were rescued from mowed-down milkweed in her neighbourhood ditches.

It prompted her to start Morgan’s Monarchs in an effort to communicate the importance of preserving local monarch habitat, especially milkweed.

This year, she and her mom, Gavy Swan-Mansfield, have started the Orillia Butterflyway. As Butterflyway Rangers with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflyway Project, they’ve set out to inspire people in the Orillia area to plant pollinator gardens throughout the city. 

The monarch butterfly was recently added to the international endangered list by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Scientists estimate the monarch population has declined by anywhere from 22 per cent to 72 per cent in just the last 10 years, says Swan-Mansfield.

"Either way, that’s a devastating decline," she said.

This news has left many people wondering what they can do to help the iconic insect. 

“Planting habitat is the most important thing we can do to help monarchs,” says Mansfield. “Monarchs need milkweed for their caterpillars: it’s the only thing they eat. And they need other native plants for nectar for the butterflies.”

The Butterflyway Project seeks to create a network of pollinator gardens across Canada, providing habitat for butterflies and other pollinators. 

Volunteer Butterflyway Rangers work within their communities to grow pollinator gardens.

For the Orillia Butterflyway, the daughter-mother duo is looking for residents who want to help.

“We need people who want to plant pollinator gardens on their property. Even container gardens on balconies work: every little bit counts,” explains Gavy Swan-Mansfield.

“We grew lots of native plants from seeds, especially milkweed and Zehrs in Orillia donated a lot of plants. So now we are ready to make the gardens!” Mansfield explained.

To get involved, Orillia residents can email morgansmonarchs@gmail.com.

Residents can dig their own garden beds or fill their own containers, and the Orillia Butterflyway will provide native plants. The project aims to create 12 new pollinator gardens so Orillia can be designated an official Butterflyway.

“This is a concrete action that people can take to boost local biodiversity," says Swan-Mansfield.

“Anyone can help save the monarchs,” says Morgan.