Butterflies, beautiful and important pollinators, are thriving in the Gardens thanks to Park Supervisor Tora Rocha and the schoolchildren and garden regulars she has enlisted to help incubate and release some 20 Monarch butterflies.
Each Monarch lays about 1,000 eggs with only one or two making it to adulthood. Fungus, wasps and flies are a Monarch egg’s nemesis. The lifespan of a Monarch is about four months, and it takes four generations of Monarchs to make the return journey to the start point of their migration. Our local Monarchs migrate to the central deserts (Mojave or Arizona) in February, then to British Columbia in late spring, returning to the Bay Area in the fall.
Monarchs thrive on Mexican Butterfly Weed or Scarlet Milkweed. These plants act as hosts for the egg, caterpillar and chrysalis stages. With this in mind, Oakland Public Works and garden volunteers are restoring the Gardens’ three pollinator gardens located adjacent to the Community Edible Garden. In addition to providing native butterfly habitat, a native bee and hummingbird garden have been newly planted.
The Monarchs seem to truly appreciate Tora’s efforts of collecting and protecting eggs, incubating and feeding the caterpillars and releasing them in the Gardens. More than one has landed on her shoulder after being released, offering a quick thanks and hello.
“Butterflies are a wonderful way to teach inner city kids the beauty and importance of nature,” says Rocha. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a native butterfly house in the Gardens at Lake Merritt, she whispered.