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'Wings in the Park' Celebrates Butterflies

by on July 10, 2015 4:05 PM

The seventh  annual celebration of “Wings in the Park” will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 18 at the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden at Tom Tudek Memorial Park.

“Wings in the Park” is a free annual event popular with adults and children alike.

Its purpose is to educate the public about the importance of pollinators to our ecosystems and our everyday lives.

Not too long ago the current three acre Snetsinger Butterfly Garden site was an overgrown agricultural field.  At the time Robert “Butterfly Bob” Snetsinger, for whom the garden is named, found just a handful of butterfly species in the area.

Under “Butterfly Bob’s” patient restoration efforts, native plants have been introduced resulting in the return of more than 30 resident butterfly species.

The Penn State Extension Master Gardeners have partnered with the Butterfly Garden since 2007. Through the development of demonstration gardens, master gardeners have provided visitors with an opportunity to interact and learn how to create pollinator habitats of their own.

That includes a large Pollinator Friendly Demonstration Garden featuring an extensive variety of native plants, a Native Bee Conservation Garden and “Bee Hotel,” a Woodland Demonstration Garden, and an official Monarch Waystation designated by the organization Monarch Watch as a habitat specifically designed to support the Monarch Butterfly. 

Butterflies come to the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden habitat to sip nectar and lay eggs, their caterpillar offspring eat leaves from the native host plants, and then form a chrysalis, where the caterpillar miraculously metamorphoses into the adult butterfly.

Butterflies are the main focus of study and educational efforts at the site, but many other insect and animal species come to the garden, often serving important pollinator roles. Over fifty species of birds have been documented in the habitat, including the ruby-throated hummingbird, an exciting pollinator to watch.

Providing a healthy ecosystem for these pollinators is critically important as approximately 90 percent of flowering plants, 75 percent of human crops, and 33 percent of human food depend on pollinators. Any decline of pollinators through habitat loss, increased pesticide and herbicide use, pollution and global warming could have a devastating impact on our ecosystems.

With the loss of habitat one of the most critical reasons for the decline of pollinators throughout the United States, individuals, schools, businesses and communities can play a vital role by creating pollinator friendly habitats on their properties and in their backyards. 

The Snetsinger Butterfly Garden is playing a leading role in the community to promote the importance of pollinators and educate the public on how people can incorporate pollinator-friendly practices in their own lives.

This year, at “Wings in the Park,”  the first 150 households will receive a free native plant, Asclepia tuberosa or orange butterfly weed, a “butterfly magnet” for monarchs and other species. 

A colorful Pollinator Parade kicks off the day at 10 a.m. All are invited to come dressed as their favorite pollinator, perhaps a carpenter bee, a Luna moth, or a hummingbird!

The Great Scavenger Hunt, butterfly net construction, observation honeybee hive, caterpillar cookie decoration, and shutterbug booth are popular with kids. Parents can learn how to garden for pollinators, see the view from the planned Serenity Space, or chat with “Butterfly Bob” himself.

Over a dozen exhibits will represent organizations such as the Penn State Center for Pollinator Research, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society, the Frost Entomological Museum, Discovery Space Children’s Science Museum, and more with hands-on activities and information for the whole family. 

At the Snetsinger Gallery, an art exhibit will show children’s art work. Community Stewards will also be on hand to share how they contribute to the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden’s mission. The Stewards are interested individuals or groups such as the Girl Scouts, who receive a part of the garden habitat to tend.

The Snetsinger Butterfly Garden is located at Tom Tudek Memorial Park at 400 Herman Drive in State College. If you’re traveling by car, the entrance is off Martin Street, which is one block west of North Atherton Street about a mile north of the Penn State campus. If you’re on a bike or on foot, the Tudek Park bike and pedestrian trail go right past the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden.

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