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'Monarch Momma' visits Wabash

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SPEAKER: Cheryl Bell talks about raising monarch butterflies during a program at the Wabash Woman’s Clubhouse.
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RELEASE: Kae Gifford releases a monarch butterfly into the wild during a presentation at the Woman’s Clubhouse on Monday.

by ANDREW CHRISTMAN - achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

Breeding butterflies is a hobby for Cheryl Bell.

Bell has been raising monarch butterflies at her home in Marion for years. She’s an Indiana Master Naturalist and president of Marion’s Garden Club, which helped secure a 6.4 acre section of Matter Park to convert into a butterfly garden and monarch waystation in 2015. On Tuesday, Bell visited the Woman’s Clubhouse in Wabash to talk about her hobby.

“My husband actually designed the butterfly garden,” she said. “We need native plants for the survival of our native wildlife and pollinators. About 30 percent of the food we eat has to be pollinated, and we’re losing a lot of our pollinators because we’re losing a lot of the plants they have to have to survive.”

The butterfly garden also benefits Marion’s bee population. And it’s drawn crowds to Matter Park and has even inspired other communities, like Richmond and Kokomo, to consider building their own native plant and butterfly gardens as well.

Monarchs raised by the Marion Garden Club are tagged prior to migrating from the area. The data is then sent to the University of Kansas. Bell said in 2017, her group, nicknamed the “Monarch Mommas,” raised and released more than 2,500 monarch butterflies, 876 of which were tagged before their migration to Mexico. Bell told the group six of the Marion monarchs were identified in Mexico after their migration.

Attendees were provided with educational materials on raising monarch butterflies and encouraged to grow milkweed, which is the only plant the species will breed and feed on.

“It’s all about education and encouraging people to grow native plants and put native plants in their gardens,” Bell said. “It benefits everybody.”