Bill introduced to name monarch butterfly state insect

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 25, 2016

 Campers refurbish a neglected garden at Roosevelt Elementary to make it butterfly-friendly in July 2015.

Campers refurbish a neglected garden at Roosevelt Elementary to make it butterfly-friendly in July 2015.

Photo provided by Karen Meabrod

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KEEGO HARBOR — Since 2012, Keego Harbor resident Karen Meabrod has been urging legislators to adopt the monarch butterfly as the state insect.

And after nearly four years of Mearbrod advocating for the butterfly, a Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Jim Marleau, R-Lake Orion, Feb. 23.

Meabrod, who is the director of the West Bloomfield Community Education Roosevelt Summer Camp, has raised monarch butterflies with her husband for years and takes monarch eggs to the camp so campers can observe the transformation process.

But last year, she noticed there was a garden area at Roosevelt Elementary that had been neglected. That’s when Meabrod had the idea to refurbish the garden with the help of campers, making it butterfly-friendly. Donations rolled in from parents and community members to purchase flowers, and the project began. 

Alex Kelty, owner of Creative Brick in Keego Harbor, laid a brick path that was designed with a living space in the center, where campers placed manchala stones, Meabrod said. Campers ages 4-12 removed weeds and unwanted plants before putting in new plants and mulch. The new plants included different varieties of milkweed and other plants that monarch butterflies revisit after they transform, she said.

After six weeks, caterpillars were found all over the planted milkweed. 

“We formed a monarch butterfly club, and we would meet at the circle at the manchala stones. I picked up a bunch of little jars at the dollar store for them to raise their monarchs in,” Meabrod said. 

Thirty-two monarch butterflies were raised and released in the garden.

“I’ve worked at the camp for so many years ... but I’ve never seen the whole camp come as a whole together and work on something so passionately. … After we saw our first monarch lay eggs on the milkweed, it overtook them as far as the passion for what they created,” Meabrod said. 

Shortly after camp ended, Meabrod applied for the garden to become a Monarch Waystation through Monarch Watch, a nonprofit education, conservation and research program through the University of Kansas that is dedicated to the monarch butterfly. Monarch Waystations are places where resources are provided for monarchs to produce more monarchs and sustain their migration. Meabrod also registered the garden as a national wildlife habitat with the National Wildlife Federation. Signs from both Monarch Watch and the National Wildlife Federation, which Meabrod received after camp ended, will be placed in the garden, she said.

Meabrod first reached out to legislators to adopt the monarch butterfly as the state insect in 2012, but her efforts were halted after she realized she was writing to the wrong representatives. After seeing the passion of the campers, she said she decided to reach out to legislators again. 

Michigan is one of three states that does not have an official state insect, and because the monarch is widely recognized throughout Michigan and migrates through the Great Lakes, she felt it was a great candidate for the state insect.

“It’s a great symbol for Michigan. With hard work and determination, Michigan can emerge beautifully,” she said, adding that if the butterfly is adopted, then her next step would be to request funding from the federal government to plant milkweed in different areas, including along highways.

Meabrod reached out to Marleau, who agreed to sponsor Senate Bill 0812.

“Historically, Michigan has been a haven for monarch butterflies, but their numbers have been declining. There have been habitat restoration efforts across the state, and making the monarch the official state insect will go a long way to raise awareness so that Michigan does not lose a beautiful creature that many residents may take for granted,” Marleau said in an emailed statement. 

The Keego Harbor City Council also joined in the efforts by adopting a resolution at the Feb. 18 City Council meeting that supports designating the monarch butterfly as the state insect. Campers filled City Hall in support of the resolution, which passed unanimously.  

Councilman Tom Berman thanked the students for their hard work. 

The Senate bill has been referred to the Committee on Government Operations. 

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