MONTVILLE, NJ – The Morris County Park Commission held their second annual Butterfly Bonanza Saturday, June 13 at the Pyramid Mountain National Historic Area to raise awareness about butterflies and other pollinators.

The four-hour event, which hosted over 500 attendees last year, featured a bug safari, butterfly lifecycle stations, a pollinator parade and live music and raised money for future educational programs run by the Morris Country Park Commission.

The bonanza is the Park Commission’s largest annual event and provides an opportunity for families to learn more about pollinators.

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“Insects are underappreciated, we need to see them in a new light,” said the Superintendent of Environmental Education for the Morris County Park Commission, Jenny Gaus-Myers. “Butterflies are a good gateway.”

The new Butterfly Bonanza event replaced the annual Monarch Fest, which was held every fall as the Park Commission’s main educational program.

The Monarch Fest focused specifically on the Monarch Butterfly, a species whose populations are down and may eventually end up on the endangered species list.

“We realized the monarch is the flashy butterfly species,” said Douglas Vorolieff on the Morris County Park Commission. “There are so many more butterflies to talk about. We decided to go more general and give recognition to other pollinators.”

The new program, which broadened the learning spectrum for children and families in attendance, allowed kids to experience the metamorphosis lifecycle of a butterfly firsthand.

The event was designed so that children could move through the lifecycle of a butterfly at stations such as the “Sit and Hatch” first phase, or the “Creep and Crawl” phase, which detailed the stage of a butterfly’s life when the caterpillar has hatched.

The six interactive stations had activities allowing the kids to mimic a butterfly, and ended with a wheel of fortune that gave them the chance to discover what butterfly they were and the defense mechanisms they could use to survive.

“The great thing is the kids can move through the life cycle stations. They can learn through mind and body,” said Vorolieff.

Morris County Park Commission staff added to the fun by dressing up in butterfly wings and antennae, and helping children create butterfly headbands of their own to wear as they traveled through the lifecycle stations.

In addition to the metamorphosis experience, the Butterfly Bonanza also featured a native plant sale, live music, and a bug safari.

Local organizations also were set up at the event to teach the children and families further environmental education lessons.

The Morris County Mosquito Control were featured at the event, as mosquitos are pollinators, and handed out information about mosquitos and mosquito control.

The Mosquito Control provides free services to residents, including water treatment and spraying for mosquitos in buggy areas.

“We advise people to keep water moving, and to empty containers and dump standing water,” said Betty Hakuesa of the Mosquito Control. “An overturned bottle cap that fills with water can produce thousands of mosquitos.”

Dove Environmental Education were also present at the event and had preserved displays of different pollinators as well as a drawing for free books and pollinator posters.

Dove Environmental Education, run by Diana and Mike Dove, provide free environmental education teaching at events and schools and are fully sponsored by NJ Clean Communities.

“We’re always very hands on in our teaching,” said Diana Dove. “We have a strong conservation message.”

The event culminated in a Pollinator Parade, which featured costumed naturalists dressed up as hummingbirds, moths, bats, bees, and more. Kids were encouraged to bring their own costumes as well and receive free native plant seed to take home.

The Morris County Park Commission sponsors education events for children and families year round. For information on their event schedule, visit http://www.morrisparks.net/.