Monarch-by-Karl-SchillThe Monarch Fest today at the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids celebrates the colorful insect.

Lindsey Flannery, the center’s business development coordinator, says the orange-and-black butterfly is small, but vital in helping all sorts of plants to grow — from flowers to food.

“The mayor is going to make a pledge for the city of Cedar Rapids and its efforts to protect the monarch butterfly, but also all pollinators that are important,” Flannery says. “This will help people realize there are things we can all do to help protect pollinators and it does depend on all of us.”

The event will feature guest speakers from the Monarch Research Project and Monarchs of Eastern Iowa. There will also be tours of a butterfly hoop house and workshops about monarch rearing and how to create pollinator gardens. “About a third of all food we eat depends on pollination to grow,” Flannery says. “The numbers of pollinators have been dropping off sharply. The reasons for that include habitat loss, pesticide on crops, monoculture, but the point is, there are efforts we can all make to help reverse this trend.”

One thing Iowans can do is plant more milkweed as it’s the only plant on which monarchs will lay their eggs. “We have the Great Milkweed Giveaway happening at the event,” Flannery says. “Anybody can sign up to take home free milkweed plugs for their yard based on how much space they want to plant.” The events run 1 to 4 p.m. today.

Photo by Karl Schill