Did you know that Northwest Florida is part of the Monarch Butterfly’s migration path to Mexico? Every year, during the month of October, thousands of these orange and black insects fly through our neighborhoods, down 98, and over the Gulf of Mexico. The Panhandle Butterfly House in Navarre is a a rest stop and milk weed feeding station for these travelling butterflies, and is a great day trip from Destin or South Walton County.

This free attraction will remain closed for the month of September, but will reopen October 12th with Monarch Madness, a weekend of butterfly inspired fun. Families can learn about the life cycle of the butterfly, create butterfly arts and crafts, and participate in the tag and release program. Garden Gate Nursery will also be on hand to help you select the right plants and decorations for your own butterfly garden. School groups (both traditional and home school) can participate in ‘Kinderpillar” school, an in-depth look at all things butterfly. Please contact the Butterfly House for more details

In November, The Cultural Alliance of Walton County will host the annual Fluttery Festival, a weekend of live music, storytelling, animal encounters, street games, and face painting. Children can create their own butterfly wings and then flit and flutter through the butterfly parade each afternoon.

If you’re inspired to create your own butterfly garden, you can use these butterfly houses  to nurture some larvae. They are simple and fun, and your kids will enjoy watching the stages of butterfly growth and development. Creating a true butterfly garden is fairly easy and no real green thumb necessary;  just sun, space, water, and the right plants will do the trick.  Butterflies like the sun, so chose a spot that gets 6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day. Populate your garden with bright, butterfly attracting plants, like Asters, Black Eyed Susans, Lantana and Butterfly Bushes.  Create small pools or pond so the butterflies can get a drink along their journey. Small dishes and birdbaths work well. Add a few rocks to give  the butterflies a warm place to rest, and you will be attracting the Monarchs in no time. According to experts, the key to a successful butterfly garden, is to make sure you have the right plants for the female Monarch to lay her eggs. Milkweed, clover, snap dragons, and thistles will all serve as nursery for the caterpillar larvae.

When we think of The Emerald Coast, we often think of marine life and fish. The migration of the Monarchs is a nice reminder about the importance of biological diversity along the coast.