Dee’s Bee and Butterfly Festival


It’s a beautiful sight to observe the journey of the Monarch butterfly. Every year, the colorful orange and black butterflies travel south in the early fall and then reside in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico during the winter months.

Some of the Monarch butterflies start their migration journey from the balcony of the Dickinson County Nature Center.

This year, Dee's Bee and Butterfly Festival will take place on September 8, from 4-7 p.m.

“The festival is one of our largest events of the year and the pollinator process is a huge part of who we are at the Dickinson County Nature Center,” said Lee Sorenson, Executive Director of the Dickinson County Nature Center. “Every year, we love to share information about the Monarch butterfly’s migration journey to attendees.”

Dee's Bee and Butterfly Festival

The pollinator event was introduced to the Iowa Great Lakes area in 2005, by Delores Maser and Barb Tagami.

“The first festival took place before we even had this current Nature Center building,” said Lee. “These ladies had the desire to educate our area about pollinators and every year the event has grown.”

Early September, the Dickinson County Conservation crew, as well as volunteers, net the Monarch butterflies.

“During a wetter fall, in the early mornings, we can swipe down with a net on the trees and get 50 at a time,” Lee shared. “When it’s dryer, you may find us chasing the butterflies.”

The butterfly collectors try to get over 600 wild Monarchs to tag for the annual festival. Then between 800-1,000 attendees, mainly children, are broken up into two lines and select a Monarch to tag. They then take their butterfly and release it outdoors, as it starts their winter migration route.

“Tagging the butterflies is always a hit, especially for the kids,” Lee said. “It ties in so well to our interactive Pollinator Paradise inside the Nature Center. The kids also love all the provided activities throughout the night, from entertainment to crafts to food.”

Boernson Bees hosts an interactive bee extraction event. The blow-up bee house is popular, as well as entertainment in the amphitheater (Laura Ernst). Plus, the outdoor playground and the Pollinator Paradise inside are favorites of younger visitors. With a visit to the basement, there’s an opportunity to meet some of the animals who reside on the lower level.

Lee said once a family registers their tagged Monarch, they can follow along the Monarch’s journey as they make their way south.

“We’ve had a number of families who’ve discovered their butterfly made it safely to Mexico,” he shared.

In the winter, Monarch butterflies from this region follow a route that takes them to the Sierra Madre Mountains, where they sleep in clusters in roosting spots in Oyamel Fir Forests at elevations between 2,400 to 3,600 meters. This area’s temperature ranges between 0 to 15 degrees Celsius, allowing the Monarchs to preserve their fat storage and the lower humidity assures they won’t dry out. Sometimes tens of thousands of Monarchs can cluster on one single tree.

Then in the spring, a generation begins the journey north and travels a little farther north each year. They use a combination of air currents and thermals to travel the long distances, with some flying as far as 3,000 miles to reach their homes.

Sherwood Forest Plans

The Dickinson County Nature Center received exciting news this past year, when they were the recipients of 70 acres near West Lake Okoboji. The area was the former Inn Golf Course and through grants from the State of Iowa and Sherwood Foundation, it will be transformed into a beautiful, interactive outdoor haven.

In August, construction began for the year-long development of turning the 70 acres into a variety of activities.

“We are so excited for what Sherwood Forest will be to our community,” Lee shared. “It’s a wonderful project for our area in terms of fun outdoor adventure, but also will be important for ensuring water quality and protecting endangered species on a unique piece of land.”

The 70 acres will include walking and biking paths, as well as an off-road path for dirt mountain bikes. It will provide different levels of experience for bikers and a pump track.

“It will be one of the first tracks in the state of Iowa, which is really exciting,” Lee added.

There will be a two-mile path surrounded by beautiful landscapes and a restroom on the south part of the property, near the only parking lot. There will be eight acres of protected remnant prairie in the northeast corner of the property.

“There aren’t a lot of native prairies left in the Midwest, so we value maintaining it for years to come,” he said.

For more information on the upcoming Bee and Butterfly Festival or plans for Sherwood Forest, contact Lee at the Dickinson County Nature Center at 712-336-6352 or Lots of information can also be found on their Facebook page or their website, The Dickinson County Nature Center is located at 22785 Nature Center Road, Okoboji.