Gina Charpentier (left) is a volunteer, treasurer, and board member at the Transition Habitat Conservancy-or THC- in Pinon Hills, California. Their mission statement is to Transition Habitat Conservancy protects transition zone and wildlife corridor ecosystems and their scenic, agricultural, and cultural resource values in the West Mojave Desert. We provide education about the fragile and inspirational nature of our desert plants, animals, and ecosystems to connect people to nature. At Transition Habitat Conservancy, she is their butterfly expert. She has been very fascinated with butterflies for most of her life. When she was ten years old, living in South Corona, California, she found a fuzzy plant that was covered with caterpillars. For weeks, Gina would take the caterpillars home and put them on her screen patio. Each year she would go back to that same area where the plant was. Sadly, she only found the plant once. Now that Gina has kids of her own, she shared her passion for plants and butterflies with her kids.
At the Transition Habitat Conservancy, Gina installed the first Monarch Butterfly Waystations. Carol Hill, another volunteer, board member, and secretary at Transition Habitat Conservancy, called Gina to see if she would volunteer with giving lectures on butterflies, Gina happily agreed. Gina works very closely with the butterflies, so close she touches them! As Gina is handling the butterflies, she is measuring their wingspan, check for diseases-like OE(Ophryocystis Elektroscirrha)-, and put identification tags on them to help improve the studies for their population since they are beginning to go extinct. The tags also help study flight behavior and migration patterns. There are less than 1% of the population left. Experts are saying that the Monarchs are on life support. Click here to see more information- The Xerces Society .
Besides working at the Transition Habitat Conservancy, Gina was also in Girl Scouts! She was a leader for 12 years. Now she gives presentations at local schools to grades kindergarten-12th. She also collects native seeds to give out at these presentations to encourage others to plant native milkweed since it is the Monarch’s preferred plant.
Annually, Gina hosts the Monarch Butterfly Waystation and Pollinator Event. It will be the events 3rd year. This year it will be hosted on Saturday, June 15, 2019, from 10am-12pm at the Dewey Center in Pinon Hills. At the event, Gina may show how she tags Monarchs and tests them for diseases. She also brings butterflies, caterpillars, and chrysalis to show. If you would like more information event or would like to reserve a spot at the event call or text Gina at (760)964-0273. For more information at the THC, website click Transition Habitat Concervancy.
Gina’s favorite type of butterfly is a Monarch Butterfly, or scientifically known as the Danaus plexippus. Their “host plant” is called milkweed, or Asclepias, but only plant milkweed native to your area. The reason milkweed is a monarchs “host plant” is because the plant a female Monarch will lay her eggs on. Gina says that if you are buying milkweed and planting it, to not buy it if it has been treated with pesticides or to use pesticides on it. Some pesticides contain something called Neonicotinoids (ne·o·nic·o·ti·noids). Neonicotinoids can cause different pollinators, like bees and butterflies, to become harmed.
(right) Gina tagging a Monarch Butterfly
(bottom) Gina measuring a Monarch’s wingspan