As many of you know, pollinators are disappearing at an alarming rate for a variety of reasons: loss of habitat, climate change, and use of pesticides to name a few. Pollinators are an essential part of our ecosystem, and the simple truth is we can’t live without them. One reason among many … our food supply is dependent on them. When bees and butterflies visit plants and spread pollen, larger more flavorful fruits are grown and higher yields happen in crops. Pollination also produces cleaner air, purer water, and helps to prevent soil erosion. We need pollinators.
Two decades ago Dave O’Donnell founded the Eastern Monarch Butterfly Farm and devotes countless hours to saving the butterfly population. When Monarchs return in May, he rescues about 1,500 of them, and helps injured butterflies get back to their work … pollination. Affectionately known as the “Butterfly Man”, Dave devotes weekends in the spring, summer and fall at events all over WNY, raising awareness about our need for pollinators and teaching adults and children how to make their own backyards butterfly friendly.
Clarence is Dave’s home and he spends many Saturdays at the Clarence Hollow Farmers Market spreading the news about pollinators, distributing milkweed seeds necessary for Monarchs to lay their eggs, and enthusiastically informing visitors about the life of the Monarch. But Saturday, August 28, was a red letter day. At 11 am Dave released hundreds of butterflies to the oohs and aahs of a small crowd of onlookers. The excitement grew as the butterflies landed on the hands, arms and heads of children. The wonder of it all lit up their eyes and smiles.
Dave invited FINWR (Friends of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge) to be present at the release. Dave is also on the board at FINWR and when the opportunity arises, invites our FINWR volunteers to promote the refuge at various events. So Deb Holt and I showed up with store items such as caps, pins and stickers to sell. Our FINWR store profits support all kinds of refuge work including a $25,000 trailer used for educational purposes. Birders, photographers, hunters and fishermen along with curious nature lovers stopped to talk. We handed out brochures, FINWR membership forms, and did our best to spread enthusiasm for the refuge and the preservation and protection of lands and habitats so important for our ecosystem.
The Butterfly Release is the perfect event to promote pollinators, surrounded by the fresh produce they make possible, but it’s also a wonderful time to talk about INWR and all refuges where wildlife habitats are protected and preserved for future generations.