Monday, June 8, 2015

Raising Monarchs with the Next Generation

Meet Avery! She's been raising monarchs for half her life! Photo by courtesy of Matt Lipps.
It makes no difference if you’re four or 104, you can help make a future for monarch butterflies. Meet four year-old Avery, she’s been interested in monarchs since she was two and has been raising them for half her life! She wanted to share her experience and help us spread the word about how important it is to help monarchs thrive.

Monarchs are fascinating creatures. From eggs to caterpillars and chrysalises to butterflies, this lifecycle is one that you can watch unfold in your own backyard in the short span of a summer. Avery enjoys the chrysalis stage the most, because she likes to watch the caterpillars squiggle as they enter and loves how sparkly the chrysalises are, though each stage is truly captivating.

Monarchs typically lay a single egg per milkweed plant. A female monarch is estimated to lay 100 to 300 eggs in her lifetime. After four days, caterpillars are ready to hatch and eat through the outside of their eggs. This makes up the first meal. Next, the tiny caterpillars munch on milkweed as they grow over the span of 10 to 14 days. During this time, the caterpillar increases in mass by 2,000 times!

Once monarch caterpillars are ready to become adults, they look for sturdy plants or structures to make their chrysalises. Monarch caterpillars usually move away from their milkweed host plants to do this, crawling as much as seven feet away! Chrysalises have been spotted on wood siding, under park benches and bird bathes, so you never know where you might find one. The chrysalis stage usually lasts 10 to 14 days, but sometimes even longer. Finding a chrysalis can be tricky, because they often blend in very well with the surroundings.

Avery watching a monarch butterfly. Photo by courtesy of Matt Lipps.
After emerging from the chrysalis, adult butterflies rest for a while and allow their wings to dry. They are unable to fly during this time, so it is best not to disturb them. The main objective of the adult is to reproduce. While adult butterflies don’t grow, it is important that they have an abundance of food to remain healthy and strong. Nectar plants provide the majority of the food that an adult monarch needs, so having nectar plants near your milkweed is a good idea.

If you’re interested in creating a monarch garden, Avery recommends starting with a milkweed variety that is native to your part of the country. The best part is, you don’t need to have a lot of land or a massive garden to make a difference. Even a small collection of milkweed and nectar plants can provide an essential place for monarchs to rest and feed.
Avery lives with her parents, her brother Caleb and their cat, Jack, in Michigan. She’s not sure what she wants to be when she grows up, but she really loves butterflies and other insects, so she thinks maybe she can get a job helping them.

Thanks to Avery for sharing her enthusiasm for monarch conservation! We hope her story has inspired you and your family.