Of nymphalidae in Second Life

Kaleidoscope, February 2023 – click any image for full size

A recent visit took me to a Homestead region called Kaleidoscope, the home of the Monarch Education Project, itself branded as a MORPH / SPARK Project undertaking, with Raven Banrion (RavenStarr) as the core designer. Raven is the name behind a range of projects in Second Life, including Ravenport Reclaimed (which I wrote about in February 2022) and The Pond (I covered in May 2022), and having covered them both, I was keen to take a look at Raven’s latest work.

This is a very different setting compared to the likes of Ravenport and The Pond, offering as it does a literal walk into the world of nymphalidae – butterflies, notably danaus plexippus, the monarch butterfly, and particularly the sub-family of D. p. plexippus, the migratory monarch butterfly found in North America.

Kaleidoscope, February 2023

This subspecies is amongst the most familiar of North American butterflies, its annual southward late-summer / autumn migration from the northern and central United States and southern Canada to Florida and Mexico, and their reverse spring migration back up into the central and northern United States. The Monarch  was the first butterfly to have its genome sequenced, and the first butterflies to be reared in space, after being carried up to the International Space Station (ISS) as pupae.

Offers as a walk through a natural setting, starting high on a tree-crowned plateau on the south-east of the region. From here a trail runs north along a ridge before turning west before it switch backs its way down from the high ridge by way of others topped by wooden walkways to reach the ground. Along the way are information boards offering those following the trail the opportunity to find out more about the monarch – including the migratory habits of D. p. plexippus, their lifecycle and the growing threat to their continued existence in the United States.

Kaleidoscope, February 2023

The latter us believed to be in part due to the increasing destruction of milkweed, the monarch’s natural breeding ground in North America and in changes to their overwintering habitats in Mexico. As a result – and given the butterfly’s role in pollination (which is admittedly as great as the role played by bees) – President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum entitled Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which led to a national strategy in the United States to promote the health of pollinators in North America – and specifically identified the monarch by name. Even so, in 2022, the International Union for Conservation of Nature added the migratory monarch butterfly its red list of endangered species.

Kaleidoscope, February 2023

As well as the information boards, the walk leads visitor past flutters (or kaleidoscopes, if you prefer) of monarch butterflies. These flutter around the trail and board walks, circle trees and flitter in and out of sunbeams. The also hide within the region’s secret location (which can be easily missed – all I’ll say here is waterfalls 🙂 ). Also awaiting discovery are various places where visitors can sit and cuddle / relax and simply enjoy the ambience of the region, or for those who prefer, a walk along the canon floor around which the ridge path runs and descends as it departs the landing point.

Altogether an engaging and informative visit – and don’t miss the opportunities for you to get involved in helping monarch butterflies through the Monarch Joint Venture.

Kaleidoscope, February 2023

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