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Monarchs and Milkweed Festival Returns to Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary

Migrating Pollinators Take Center Stage September 24

Photo of group of people in costume at monarch festival

Maryland Department of Natural Resources photo

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources invites everyone to Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary to celebrate the fall migration of the monarch butterfly with the annual Monarchs and Milkweeds at Merkle event on Sept. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Activities in this free event include tagging and releasing monarchs, hayrides, guided hikes, face painting, crafts, a native plant sale, and a monarch butterfly costume contest. Food will be available for purchase.

Each fall, millions of monarch butterflies leave their summer breeding grounds in the northeastern U.S. and Canada, and travel up to 3,000 miles south to a single mountain forest in central Mexico to escape the cold of winter—a migration that’s one of the greatest natural events on Earth.

Merkle is a great place to see these monarchs due to the abundance of milkweed that grows here. Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs will lay their eggs, so it plays a vital role in areas they frequent along their journey. This time of year also sees the blooming of late-season nectar sources, which adult monarchs depend on during all stages of the year.

In February and March, the overwintering monarchs will begin their journey north and east, laying eggs on milkweed as they go. The eggs that hatch into larvae are the next generation. The young caterpillars feed on milkweed, which causes them to become distasteful to predators.

The annual September event at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary began in 2019. This spring, the Maryland Park Service launched the statewide Project Butterfly & Bumblebee, an ongoing slate of programs and activities to educate the general public about the role pollinators play in maintaining diverse ecosystems and the nation’s food supply. “Parks for Pollinators” is also the theme of the 15th annual Park Quest family activity series happening now throughout Maryland State Parks.