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TMSG: Oklahoma woman's effort to save monarch butterflies

Posted at 11:26 PM, Aug 20, 2020

TULSA, Okla. — “Oh, oh, oh, that’s a Brazilian Skipper,” Sandra Schwinn said.

Butterflies have been a huge part of Schwinn’s life for almost 40 years. This former teacher used caterpillars in her classroom.

“I had no idea what the caterpillar was going to become,” she said.

Since then, she’s become a bit of an expert.

“I branched out with the other butterflies, too,” Schwinn said. “About 40 species of butterflies and moths.”

Schwinn says the first thing she did when she retired was build a butterfly oasis in her backyard.

“I actually built that garden stone by stone.”

Schwinn now uses her Facebook group called “Oklahoma Friends of Monarchs” to help spread the word about their importance to the environment, their beauty and Oklahoma’s role in their migration. Monarchs are pollinators.

“If Monarchs were gone, then there would be a whole lot of other things gone, too. Then we would be in big trouble,” she said.

Schwinn calls Northeast Oklahoma a “Route 66” for butterfly migration. The Monarchs migrate between Mexico and Canada. Very soon, we’ll start seeing them.

“Monarchs start coming back to Oklahoma and North Texas in late August.”

Now is the time to prepare. Schwinn says to attract and help butterflies multiply, you need two types of plants in your yard. First you need host plants like milkweed.

“The Monarch female has about 400 eggs and she needs to find milkweed,” Schwinn said. “And if she can't find milkweed and get rid of those eggs, then the new generation can't start.”

The second type of plant is nectar plants. They provide nutrition for the butterflies to continue their migration.

“It's a very long journey," Schwinn said. "Some of them will travel over 2,000 miles just to get to Mexico.”

While some butterflies will live only a month, others are tasked with keeping the species alive.

“But monarchs that migrate can live up to nine months in the winter," Schwinn said. "That's a special super generation.”

Schwinn says the number of monarchs is declining and she’s worried. But she’s finding hope as more and more people find her Facebook group to keep these beautiful creatures fluttering in the Oklahoma skies.

“We have a saying,” she said. “If you plant it, they will come.”

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