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Cambridge realtor helping endangered monarch butterflies

Distributing milkweed seeds for people to plant to aid the monarch butterflies
Cambridge real estate agent, Alana Russell at the Mill Run Trail in Cambridge.

Monarch butterflies are an endangered species and the population has shrunk between 22 to 72 per cent in the last decade.

Cambridge real estate agent Alana Russell has started an initiative to help the current monarch population.

She started the Fly Home Project, sending interested people in Waterloo region milkweed seeds to plant in their garden. Orders can be made through her website.

Milkweed is the plant monarch caterpillars feed off of.

“So it's the sole nourishing plant for them. Without milkweed, they don't survive,” said Russell.

“The idea kind of came to fruition from local homeowners,” she said. “I've found that people are really into their gardens.”

Russell tried to plant milkweed last year but it didn’t end up working, she had planted too early. The key is to plant milkweed seeds is to plant after the first frost of the season.

Last year she saw in the news the monarch population was in steep decline and wanted to help, since the butterfly is such an icon, she said.

By connecting gardeners, and homeowners with the means to plant the seeds, she knew she could start this project.

“And then we can really start to, no pun intended, grow something. So it's been a huge success.”

Russell has over 600 seed packet orders to fill, well above the initial seed supply she had. She launched the project on Aug. 1 and within less than two weeks saw interest beyond Waterloo Region.

The supplier is Northern Wildflowers, suggested by Russell’s cousin who is a flower farmer in Alberta. “Go big or go home,” her cousin said when she found out how many seeds were ordered.

“To me, I thought that was modest because I just had so much motivation and hope for it,” she said.

“I think that's the most impressive part about them. Maybe the reason why they've become an icon, really symbol of hope, I guess, is because of their migration paths.”

Since she has received so much interest in the project, she said she is hoping to bring other real estate agents on board as ambassadors to distribute seeds to people in other communities in Ontario.

The next steps for her project is to develop relationships with butterfly researchers and eventually connect with a national wildlife conservation organization to develop a strategy.

“It's something that's measured by various organizations. And we can see it year over year and hope for the best and hope that we can continue to support,” said Russell. 

With hopes the population can grow overtime she said it's something to celebrate and unite over.

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Santana Bellantoni

About the Author: Santana Bellantoni

Santana Bellantoni was born and raised in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. As a general assignment reporter for Guelph Today she is looking to discover the communities, citizens and quirks that make Guelph a vibrant city.
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