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Often known as the “king” of butterflies, monarch butterflies are one of the most recognizable butterfly species in North America. With distinct orange, black and white wings, these unique creatures travel through the Swannanoa Valley more than 3,000 miles each fall to their wintering grounds in Mexico.

Unfortunately, due to eradication of habitat including the butterflies’ vital milkweed food source, nearly one billion monarch butterflies have vanished since 1990, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As part of a national effort to stave the decline of monarch butterflies, The North Carolina Arboretum, in partnership with Monarch Rescue, a non-profit organization focused on increasing monarch butterfly awareness throughout Western North Carolina, will host its first-ever Monarch Butterfly Day Sept. 19.

The Arboretum’s free Monarch Butterfly Day offers fun, educational opportunities for adults and youth to learn more about the monarchs’ declining population and ways to conserve their habitats. Activities will include a monarch tag and release celebration, make-and-take milkweed seed bombs, face painting, crafts, educational presentations and a common milkweed plant sale. Proceeds from the event will benefit Project EXPLORE, the Arboretum’s youth education initiative engaging teachers and students in hands-on citizen science at their schoolyards.

“At the Arboretum, we are always looking for ways to educate youth and adults about our natural world through family-friendly, interactive activities and programs,” said Jonathan Marchal, youth education manager at The North Carolina Arboretum. “We hope that Monarch Butterfly Day inspires attendees to contribute to this nation-wide issue and help replenish the monarchs’ critical milkweed habitat.”

Beginning in September, the migration of monarchs flutters through Western North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountains, including the Arboretum. Recently, a monarch waystation was established near the Arboretum’s production greenhouse, with milkweed plantings to offer more host plants for monarchs and also act as nectar source for other pollinators, such as honeybees.

Monarch Rescue and the Arboretum also work with local schools and Boy Scout groups to create monarch butterfly gardens across Buncombe County. These gardens will be registered as official “Monarch Waystations” with the non-profit Monarch Watch, and will also become a part of the Rosalyn Carter Butterfly Trail, an initiative set forth by the former first lady, to create a string of butterfly gardens from Plains, Georgia to Washington, D.C.

“The monarch butterfly population is dangerously low, and scientists fear we could lose the species altogether,” said Nina Veteto, executive director of Monarch Rescue, a local organization. “Monarch Butterfly Day at the Arboretum will provide opportunities for family-friendly fun, and will also give attendees information about how they can help support the monarchs. By hosting events like this, we are one step closer to rebuilding the monarch population.”

For more on Monarch Butter Day events, activity locations and program times, visit ncarboretum.

Save the Monarch

What: Monarch Butterfly Day

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 19

Where: N.C. Arboretum, Asheville

Cost: $12 to park

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