The fifth annual Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival wrapped up in late October after moving online and reaching a broader audience than would have been possible had we staged the event live.

More than 4,000 people have already viewed the programs we recorded, and the audience continues to grow. Thousands more were touched by Festival messaging, altar kit and caterpillar condo distributions, a monarch butterfly curriculum and video set for teachers, partner events and programming.

WATCH NOW: 2020: A Metamorphosis

The Festival’s 24-minute documentary, aptly titled 2020: A Metamorphosis, and released on October 29, chronicled the chaotic year, offering a message of hope amidst disruptive change. The video seems prescient just weeks after an historic presidential race.

Earlier in the month, native plant advocate, conservation rock star and New York Times best-selling author of Nature’s Best Hope Doug Tallamy wowed audiences in a  well-attended webinar that encouraged participation in Tallamy’s Homegrown National Park program. The  initiative encourages every landowner in the United States to plant half of their yard, ranch or landscape with native plants.

WATCH NOW: Doug Tallamy, Nature’s Best Hope

As Tallamy said in the presentation, “The question is no longer whether natives are better than non-natives….It’s whether productive plants are ecologically better in our landscapes than ecologically destructive plants.”

On October 15, Festival goers had the chance to meet Danielle Belleny at Pajaros as Pollinators.  The presentation represented our first foray into birding, and the important role birds play as pollinators and disbursers of seed.

Avid birder and wildlife biologist Belleny, a cofounder of Black Birders Week, shared her love of birding in cemeteries, which she called an ideal place for wildlife watching.

“They bring me a lot of peace right now, especially during a pandemic,” said Belleny.

WATCH NOW: Pajaros as Pollinators with Danielle Belleny

On October 22, the Bat Man of Mexico Rodrigo Medellín returned to the Festival for a timely discussion of the truth about bats and COVID-19.

In the early days of the pandemic, the night flying mammals were unfairly scapegoated as responsible for the virus. Uninformed people burned bat caves. Medellín, credited with saving the Tequila Bat from extinction, addressed the baseless claim that bats caused the virus.

“COVID-19 is a human virus,” said Medellín during the presentation. “No animal, including bats, can give you COVID-19.” He added that the best defense against future pandemics is ecosystem and biodiversity conservation.

WATCH NOW: Rodrigo Medellín and the TRUTH about bats and COVID-19

The Pollinator-to-Plate webinar on October 24 featuring Master beekeeper Cecile Parrish and renown San Antonio chef Elizabeth Johnson of Pharm Table was another first for the Festival. The chef/beekeeper mash-up included a honey-themed cooking lesson, honey tasting, and Bees 101 tutorial in a fun at-home date night for those who attended.

Viewers got a peek inside Johnson’s San Antonio kitchen as she assembled a meal that featured a Pumpkin Moqueca Stew with Seasonal Fish and finished with an Avocado Chocolate Mousse with Pomegranate Seeds and Bee Pollen. As the stew came together on the stove, Parrish explained the highly social, complex matriarchy of life in the hive.

“We can even compare aspects of the hive to the human body,” said Parrish, presenting the bee hive as a super organism. “The wax inside of the bee hive acts like a liver and absorbs the toxins bees are exposed to.”

WATCH NOW: BEE my Honey with Elizabeth Johnson and Cecile Parrish

Other worthwhile watches available on demand:

DIY Pollinator Videos by the City of San Antonio show how to plan a pollinator garden and how to make “pollinator bombs.”

Teacher Training Workshop featuring Doug Tallamy Tallamy spent two hours with teachers in a workshop organized by the San Antonio River Authority. Continuing education credits included.

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner!  Native Plant Society of San Antonio President Lee Marlowe presented an excellent overview of how to present a “backyard buffet” for bees, butterflies and other wildlife.

Biodiversity without Borders: A Natural Pathway for Cooperation Co-hosted by the World Affairs Council of San Antonio and the City of San Antonio’s Global Engagement Office, this two-part program featured representatives from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada and focused on sustainable policies in North American cities. It included the announcement of a tri-national pollinator garden at San Antonio’s Confluence Park.

While 90% of our Festival occurred online, select occasions to engage in person occurred.

We distributed 30 caterpillar condominiums to Title One schools in San Antonio and created a set of curriculum videos to accompany them–taking a load off public school teachers at a time of great stress and extra work. More on that in a future post.

We also tagged 800+ butterflies, some of which carried the names of those who passed away this year. Free altar kits provided a tool for healing and hope and were distributed to 50 families in time for Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead, when monarchs traditionally arrive in Mexico. The tagging conducted also involved participation in a science experiment organized by Monarch Watch.

This year’s Festival presented many learning opportunities to all who attended and for those who put it together. Many thanks to all our education partners and sponsors, and especially to the Winkler Family Foundation, the John and Florence Newman Foundation, HEB, Valero Energy and the San Antonio River Authority.

Looking forward to 2021. In the meantime, enjoy the videos on demand.

    TOP: Altar at Confluence Park for Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival 2020 / Photo by Monika Maeckle

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