Corp Comm Connects

Richmond Hill proclaims Aug. 22 as Flight of the Monarch Day

$10,000 set aside to purchase milkweed plants for residents
June 23, 2020
Sheila Wang

It’s that time of the year for monarch butterfly sightings in your own neighbourhood in Richmond Hill.

Just before the showy orange-and-black butterflies embark on their epic journey south, Richmond Hill has declared Aug. 22 as Flight of the Monarch Day.

Council unanimously passed the motion put forward by Coun. David West at the June 10 electronic meeting, with an amendment to set aside $10,000 to purchase monarch-friendly plants.

Regional Coun. Carmine Perrelli, who made the amendment, said the plants will be provided to 200 residents to help expand monarch habitats.

West said the proclamation was mainly intended to raise awareness of the unique species that only lays eggs and feeds on milkweed plants, in order to build on the city’s previous efforts in protecting the habitats of monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

The date of Aug. 22 was selected because it marks the day when monarch butterflies start to migrate from Canada to Mexico.

The Flight of the Monarch Day initiative was created as part of Monarch Nation, a nationwide program organized by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to celebrate the iconic monarch butterflies that travel some 3,000 kilometres to central Mexico for the winter every year.

Sometimes it takes four generations of these butterflies to come full circle and make it back to Mexico.

A total of 10 municipalities across the GTA have proclaimed the Flight of the Monarch Day, including Vaughan and Markham, according to Rachel Stewart, manager of the Monarch Nation program at the TRCA.

"Richmond Hill has a great history of working with residents to create natural native plant areas within their backyards, and it's really great that they're supporting this program now," Stewart said.

West said staff will work on virtual programs in partnership with the TRCA, such as gardening webinars and asking residents to submit photos of monarch butterflies on Aug. 22, to celebrate one of North America’s most cherished insects.

“They’re really a species that is closest to a miracle,” said West, who raised monarch butterflies at a young age.

However, monarch butterflies are also very fragile, with a five to ten per cent survival rate, several studies suggest.

"Monarchs are at risk. Last summer we saw lots of butterflies flying around on very early days, but there doesn't seem to be as many butterflies coming back to Canada this year," said Stewart.

She said the scientists who have been monitoring the numbers of monarch butterflies counted fewer monarchs in the overwintering habitat in Mexico last year.

Lack of habitat has been the biggest threat, Steward noted.

Richmond Hill has made great efforts to help protect the unique creatures by changing its way of maintaining natural areas and habitat restoration. It has planted 2,000 milkweed plants and many native species since the signing of the Mayor's Monarch Pledge in 2016 and Bee City Canada in 2018, according to West.

“More is definitely good but it’s duplicating what we’ve already been doing,” the councillor commented on Perrelli’s amendment to allocate funding for buying milkweeds.

The city has been giving away milkweed flowers and native wildflower seed packages at past city-held events.

Perrelli said he made the amendment after consulting with the TRCA when he learned of the importance of pollinators and the concept of biodiversity.

“It turns out if we don’t have any pollinators here, we wouldn’t have any fruits, grains or coffee, and potentially even meat,” said the regional councillor, who also committed to being the first one to receive the plant.