Training a monarch butterfly to dance on your finger isn't easy. It may be impossible. For a few hours after a monarch butterfly emerges from its chrysalis it is dependent on having a safe place to dry it's wings before flying. For that short period of time the monarch is a great companion. For the rest of its life it is your best memory.
Here is the data record of monarch butterflies that were reared at The Biggest Little Butterfly Garden In The World. Monarch Waystation #8269 is a 200 square foot monarch waystation located in my backyard in the town of Sparks, Nevada USA.
8/3/16 #31 Female
8/4/16 #32 Male
8/5/16 #33 Female
8/11/16 #34 Female
8/12/16 #35 Male
8/14/16 #36 Male m
8/14/16 #37 Female
8/21/16 #38 Female
8/22/16 #39 Female WSU tag A1656
8/22/16 #40 Female WSU tag A1657
8/23/16 #41 Male A1658
8/23/16 #42 Male A1659
8/23/16 #43 Male A1660
8/23/16 #44 Female A1661
8/23/16 #45 Male A1662
8/23/16 #46 Female A1663
8/23/16 #47 Female A1664
8/23/16 #48 Male A1665
8/23/16 #49 Female A1666
8/23/16 #50 Female A1667
8/23/16 #51 Female A1668
8/23/16 #52 Female A1669
8/23/16 #53 Male A1670
8/23/16 #54 Male A1671
8/23/16 #55 Female A1672
8/23/16 #56 Male A1673
8/24/16 #57 Female
8/24/16 #58 Female
9/11/16 #59 Male A1674
9/11/16 #60 Male A1675
9/11/16 #61 Female
Monarch Butterflies are Everywhere
Monarch's are now all over North America. Mexico has monarchs. America has monarchs. Canada has monarchs. Summertime is primetime for monarchs to migrate. Use the milkweed locater to see which type of milkweed is native to your state.
Monarchs are not on My Milkweed, Why?
The distribution of monarchs can appear to be uneven at times. I am happy to have seen a total of three monarchs in my yard this year. It is still early in the monarch's migration season. No eggs have been laid on my milkweed yet.
The milkweed patch is a busy habitat for hundreds of animals that visit the plant throughout the summer. Bees are actively pollinating the blooms. Spiders are laying in wait for tiny bugs. Tiny bugs are striving to survive on the milkweed plants. One of the smallest animals on milkweed is the monarch caterpillar.
Caterpillars can be very difficult to see when they are small. A newly hatched caterpillar is only 2-6mm in length (source: Monarch Watch) and nearly transparent. The day after my latest caterpillar hatched I didn't see it on the milkweed until two days later. They could be hiding out in the open.
Monarchs need time to reproduce
The monarch lifecycle is an amazing process. Metamorphosis is incredibly complex and requires that many steps in the process goes well for the monarch to take flight. An entire metamorphosis from egg to butterfly occurs in about 30 days.
As monarchs enter your region of N. America they may be at the end of their short life. An egg laying female is likely to lay as many as 500 eggs on the milkweed plants in her lifetime. Those eggs take about a week to hatch the tiny caterpillar. It may be another week before you notice the leaves being chewed up by the hungry caterpillars.
Once the caterpillars have grown thru five instars they may have crawled away from the milkweed to form the chrysalis. The chrysalis is the last step in metamorphosis before the butterfly takes flight. As fun as looking for monarchs in flight can be, we may be looking in the wrong place.
Egg, caterpillar and chrysalis are also monarchs that haven't gotten ready to fly. Take some time to look at the milkweed throughly. Eggs are small, oblong and have a light gold color. You may find an egg before you see a monarch.
Monarch eggs in Twin Falls, Idaho
While traveling to attend a wedding visited a park that I went to in 2014. There was milkweed in the park in 2014 so I was hopeful to find monarchs in 2015. While I did not see any monarchs, I did see a viceroy butterfly.
Raising monarchs at home
In one month a monarch can be raised in your home. With a little preparation and a lot of patience you can contribute to the monarch butterfly population explosion that is overdue. I have a goal to raise and release twenty-five healthy monarch butterflies in 2015.
The most natural approach to supporting monarchs is to grow milkweed on your property. Monarch waystations and pollinator gardens are hugely successful and provide wonderful habitats for monarchs and other beneficial insects.
Currently I am growing milkweed in a monarch waystation. The name of my way station is "The Biggest Little Butterfly Garden In The World" Monarch waystation #8269 as registered with the Monarch Watch Waystation Program. Registering your garden is not necessary. I chose to register and even ordered the cool sign. I consider it a donation to a good cause.
The monarchs habitat is a cruel unforgiving place to grow up. Spending a month outside in the elements is dangerous, even in the summer, for a monarch larvae. Eggs get eaten, caterpillars become meals. Chrysalids can become damaged. Any one of these events will kill that monarch larvae.
To control the process I am trying to raise this years 25 monarchs indoors. By preventing eggs from being eaten. Keeping caterpillars from becoming meals. And by hosting the chrysalids in a safe place I plan to increase the survival rate from a dismal 5% to above 75%. Some folks raising monarchs report successful rearing of above 95%. By removing a few variable from the environment the monarchs stand a better chance of completing their metamorphosis.
From One to Twenty-Five in only One Year
Monterey Bay Monarchs
I created a video documenting the metamorphosis of Andy.
I visited a great park along the Truckee River. I walked a few miles of paths. There are both bike paths and nature trails. The nature trail is very rustic. At one point I had to dart away from a snake in the grass.
Make milkweed your friend. Your friends will love your milkweed. My name is Brad. Learn more about me now.
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December 2017 Holiday
June 2015 Monarchs Everywhere
February 2015 Podcast launch
January 2015 Monarch Count
January 2015 Winter 2014
November 2014 - Welcome
October 2014 - Migration