Monarchs on the menu?

Amazing Butterflies at Boonshoft

By Lisa Bennett

Photo: Children can catch a ride on a Monarch at Boonshoft Museum of Discovery through Aug. 20

There is a tremendous resource available to many of us, and it’s in our own backyards. The Boonshoft Museum in Dayton is hosting an exhibit they hope will help children and adults learn a bit more about what’s actually going on in those backyards.

Hidden within its neatly manicured appearance are a host of treasures, from natural medicines to food sources to homes for untold life forms ranging from insects to mammals. Those pesky dandelions that invade your nice green lawn, for example, contain more vitamin A than carrots, and the roots made into a tea are a natural diuretic. If you’ve been sunburnt mowing the lawn, the plantain plant—another one of those annoying weeds you try to keep under control—will soothe it just as well as aloe. Plantain is also delicious and a superior source of niacin and riboflavin. Of course, weeds aren’t the only edible food sources in your yard.

The earthworms buried deep in the dirt help fertilize those amazing weeds and aerate the soil—and are a good source of protein, as are the locusts that feed on your garden. In fact, in Guatemala, fried locusts are a popular treat sold in open-air markets and eaten like potato chips. Even the grubs that you try so hard to kill are a rich source of protein. And when cooked properly, grubs actually taste kind of like peanuts. In fact, a large majority of insects in the back yard are edible, including ants, maggots, mealy worms, crickets, beetles—even some spiders and scorpions (check first before eating them!). It’s not just the insects and weeds that are edible… mammals such as squirrels, rats, and raccoons and depending on where you live, bear, deer, and moose are also edible, if you have the stomach for hunting. Of course, rattlesnake, iguana, lizards, alligators, and garden snakes are edible, too, if you live in the South.

However, there is one life form you might want to pass by when grocery shopping in your yard. Danaus plexippus, or the Monarch Butterfly, is a breathtakingly beautiful member of the Nymphalidae family or milkweed butterfly family. They are named that way because the females lay their eggs on the milkweed plant. Once they hatch, the caterpillars will feed on milkweed. Adult butterflies also love milkweed, in addition to other flowers including asters, cone flowers, blazing stars, goldenrod, and thistles. Although Monarch butterflies are well known for their striking beauty, perhaps they are best known for the incredible migration they make each year between Southern Canada and Mexico. As many as five generations of butterflies make the 6,000-mile annual migration that occurs between late summer and early fall then again in early spring. The butterflies don’t actually make the entire trip. Instead, their eggs and their offspring are the ones who make the return trip, which is why multiple generations can be found in each migration. Sadly, these incredible creatures are in danger of becoming quasi-extinct. Pesticides, urban development and ground-level pollution are among a few factors endangering the lives of Monarch Butterflies.

The “Amazing Butterflies” exhibit at Boonshoft is an interactive, traveling exhibit that follows the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly through its entire life cycle.

The exhibit includes life-sized displays, giant leaves for kids to climb on, small butterfly monorail for kids to ride, giant rope spider web, and maze chock-full of educational tid-bits for all ages. There’s even a caterpillar crawl where kids can pretend to be the predator or the prey. “We do a lot with pollinators and bats, so it’s a really good fit for some of the other exhibits,” says Kristy Creel, director of marking and public relations.

Running with the Butterfly Exhibit is a 40-minute documentary called “Flight of Butterflies.” The documentary portrays the work of biologist Dr. Fred Urquhart, the pioneer who discovered the migration patterns of the butterflies across the North American continent from Canada to Mexico.

“This has been very well received,” Creel says. “It gives families a chance to learn about butterflies, then explore more on their own.”

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is located at 2600 Deweese Pkwy. in Dayton.The documentary for ages 6 and up runs weekly Thursday through Sunday from 4–4:40 p.m. through Aug. 21 at the Caryl D. Philips Space Theater. Amazing Butterflies runs through Aug. 20.  For more information about the exhibit or the documentary, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at

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Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at

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