Butterfly Heroes’ Highlights and Successes

The National Wildlife Federation’s Butterfly Heroes program sought to bring awareness to the declining population of monarchs and other pollinators and connect gardeners, kids, and families alike to protect these important species. Participants who pledged (by uploading a photo of the ASL symbol for butterfly) received garden starter kits — with region-specific native milkweed (a vital plant for monarchs), nectar plants, and instructions to create their own monarch gardens — and a chance to win a free family trip to Disney.

More than 42,000 Butterfly Heroes answered the call, and additional outreach in the 150 towns, cities and counties that participate in Community Wildlife Habitats resulted in 30 public events held to support monarch butterfly conservation. Activities included tabling at town festivals, Earth Day booths, photo sessions for pledging children and more. More than 10,000 others were engaged in monarch and wildlife education efforts and received Butterfly Heroes conservation information across events that took place in Community Wildlife Habitats nationwide during the spring of 2015.

Butterfly Heroes throughout the country have shared their inspirational stories and amazing results. Here are a few photos and stories that highlight how Butterfly Heroes have provided habitat for these amazing creatures throughout their life cycle and journey.


Inspirational Stories

Logan in his garden
Photo by Jenny Diehl
Logan, a 7-year-old boy with autism, is an avid wildlife supporter with a passion for helping wildlife. He took the Butterfly Hero pledge and helped convert his family’s vegetable garden into a butterfly garden, where they not only planted the milkweed seeds that came in the Butterfly Heroes starter kit, but included other flowering nectar plants, a butterfly house and a water feature as well. His family is thankful for his passion and love of nature.

Photo by Samantha P.
The sweepstakes-winning family is a military family from Fort Hood, Texas that doesn’t get to spend a lot of family time together. Creating their butterfly garden from the Butterfly Heroes starter kit allowed them to spend some time outside learning and connecting with nature and one another. The family was very grateful to win the Butterfly Heroes sweepstakes trip to Disney World, where they got to spend an amazing family vacation together, and then planned a backyard camping “trip” for the Great American Campout.


Milkweed Planting and Preparation

Classroom visit PS 179 Brooklyn. Photo by Teri Brennan
Public elementary school children throughout New York City have been inspired by Butterfly Heroes. Students at PS179 are seen above planting the seeds from their kits, and they have continued collecting and cleaning seeds of pollinator-friendly plants for planting and study in their classrooms.

Photo by Shawn Graham
Milkweed sometimes requires stratification or a period of cold weather before it will grow. Students at the Canceler Aquatic Society in Nebraska (seen above) prepared their milkweed plants and provided an artificial stratification period before transferring them to the outside garden. If you did not provide an artificial stratification period and your milkweed did not come up this year, don’t give up hope! The moist conditions during the upcoming winter and spring will help stimulate germination and your milkweed will most likely come up next season.

Student Garden, Philadelphia
Photo by Bob Nichols
Elbert Wells, NRCS Project Leader of the Delaware Estuary Program, and students from the Hartranft Elementary School in Philadelphia, PA, used their seed kits to discuss soil quality in a garden the students built themselves. These type of events were held nationwide to encourage others to become Butterfly Heroes and share how everyone can play a role in helping monarchs and other pollinators.


The Monarch Life Cycle

Photo by Michelle Leicht
Michelle, a Butterfly Hero in Seabring, Florida, captured the incredible metamorphosis of a monarch caterpillar to a butterfly in her garden. The photos show the caterpillar (larva stage), the chrysalis (pupa stage), and the chrysalis during black prior to the butterfly emerging, and the butterfly (adult stage).

Photo by Julia Knox
Julia, a Butterfly Hero in Los Angeles, California, researched local butterflies and planted supplementary host and nectar plants along with the seeds she received in her Butterfly Hero kit. She sent in photos showing two monarch chrysalises and, two days later, an emerging monarch.


The Monarchs’ Amazing Journey

Photos by Tiffany Cabibbo
Photo by Geneveive Steffen
In Longwood, Florida, a boy released a monarch in his front yard garden, while nine other monarchs dry their wings on the pool cage screen. Once monarchs emerge from their chrysalises, it takes 3 to 4 hours for their wings dry and harden. Once their wings dry, they are ready to take flight and start their amazing journey.

Each year, about five generations will be born to continue migrating north from Mexico through North America. It is only the last generation, born in late summer, that will live eight months and migrate back to Mexico to start the cycle over again.

The monarch at right, in Miami Springs, Florida, may be preparing for a long journey to Mexico. Monarchs cannot tolerate the cold northern winters, so they migrate south to their overwintering site in Mexico. Some generations of monarchs travel up to 3,000 miles to reach their winter home. Eastern populations of monarchs roost in oyamel fir forests in the same 11 to 12 mountain areas in the States of Mexico and Michoacan from October to late March. The forests provide the ideal temperature and humidity for the monarchs to roost over the winter.


Nectar for Butterflies

Photo by Thanna Vickerman

A toddler in Los Angeles, California watches as a new monarch feeds on nectar in the family butterfly garden. In addition to providing monarchs with the host milkweed plants, it is important to provide them with a variety of nectar flowers to provide energy through their breeding season and migrations.

Photo by Amy Shea
Butterflies other than monarchs are also attracted to milkweed for its nectar. In Kissimmee, Florida a little girl kisses a Gulf Fritillary Butterfly as it feeds on nectar.


Thank you to our Sponsors!

Butterfly Heroes was made possible by generous support from the Walt Disney World Conservation Fund and Botanical Interests seed company.

Due to tremendous requests for larger collections of seed, Botanical Interests worked with the National Wildlife Federation to provide regional milkweed and nectar-providing seed mixes that are available for purchase through the NWF Garden for Wildlife Gift Guide.

Each collection (suited to a specific geographic region) provides enough seed for a 100 square feet butterfly and pollinator garden.

Botonical Interest Seed Collections