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BELLA VISTA -- Visitors are expected in the area in late August or early September. There may be hundreds of them and they will be hungry.

But they won't eat just anything. These visitors have very specific tastes and a group of Bella Vistans are getting ready for them.

Discover Bella Vista, the city's Advertising and Promotion Commission, Benton Country Master Naturalists and Cooper Elementary School organized Butterflies Impossible, a welcoming committee for the Monarch butterflies stopping in the area during their fall migration.

"Bella Vista has a wonderful natural world and the people who live in Bella Vista care about the natural environment," Susan Kelly of Discover Bella Vista said. She teamed with Tamara Schonauer, who teaches math and science at Cooper.

Although the school was closed due to the covid 19 virus, Schonauer recruited about 20 Cooper families to participate in the project.

Monarch butterflies need milkweed. It's the only plant female monarchs will lay eggs on and when the eggs mature, it's the only plant caterpillars that become butterflies will eat. As cities and towns spread out, there's less milkweed growing naturally, so the Cooper volunteers will be growing it.

With the help of the Master Naturalists, a volunteer group studying and protecting the environment, the butterfly volunteers received milkweed seedlings and instructions on how to plant and grow them. They also received packets of seeds that will grow into butterfly attracting wildflowers.

While the volunteers care for their own butterfly gardens, they'll be able to write about the experience and post photos on a website dedicated to the project.

There are some Monarchs in the area now, Kelly said, but in the fall, thousands will pass through on their way to their winter home in Mexico. The annual migration actually takes several generations to achieve. The butterflies arriving in August will lay eggs on the milkweed plants.

The eggs are very small and laid one at a time, according to information supplied by the Master Naturalist. The eggs hatch within a few days and a caterpillar emerges. The caterpillar will only eat milkweed and after about two weeks, it finds a spot to attach to the plant and it becomes chrysalis. About 10 days after that, the Monarch butterfly emerges.

Bella Vista is a Monarch city, Kelly said, so making it even more welcoming to the annual visitors just makes sense.

NW News on 06/03/2020

Print Headline: Cooper kids help Monarchs

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