Delco mom raises hundreds of monarch butterflies on the brink of extinction

RIDLEY PARK, Pa. -- Of the many backyard visitors to our area, perhaps none are more majestic than the Monarch Butterfly.

Lisa Robinson from Delaware County has made it her mission to save them from extinction for the last decade.

"In school, when we were little, it wasn't unusual for us to see a monarch in our playground or in our gardens," she said. "Unfortunately, the monarch is on a serious decline."

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Monarch population has decreased by 80 percent in the past 20 years.

"It's been a bad year," said Robinson, who still cared for 262 caterpillars this season. She compares that to 504 from the year 2018.

Robinson is considered a citizen scientist with Monarch Watch, a non-profit that monitors the butterfly population through non-harmful tagging.

Robinson starts by planting milkweed in her garden, a plant that monarchs exclusively use to lay eggs. Then, she salvages every egg in sight and shelters any straggling caterpillars. These not-so-creepy crawlers will form a chrysalis and later emerge as monarch butterflies all while in Robinson's care.

"It really is something out of outer space to watch," she said.

Robinson releases each butterfly and carefully tags her last hundred with a unique sticker. After these critters migrate to Mexico, locals report their sightings in an online database. Robinson's butterflies will live the remainder of their lives below the U.S. border and their offspring will make the trip north in the spring.
But these creatures flutter through a world that makes less room for them each year.

"My biggest mission is to teach people about widening their habitat," said Robinson. "All of our pollinators have been impacted by global warming, by habitat loss, by pesticide use."

So, as long as citizen scientists like Lisa Robinson make a home for monarchs, they will continue beautifying our communities for many years to come.

She typically makes trips around her school district every September to educate students about the monarch's life cycle. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she will have to resort to virtual demonstrations. A full-time cashier at Home Depot, Robinson also used to bring in her butterflies to share the love with customers.

To learn more about Monarch Watch or to become a citizen scientist, visit their website.

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