Periodically this summer I have been posting on my progress with raising monarch butterflies this season.
It is the 15th year I’ve raised monarchs and, as an Environmental Educator, I am active in other aspects of Monarch Conservation as well. My fall speaking schedule is filling up with both classroom teachers and community groups asking me to speak about monarchs.
My home butterfly habitat has been prolific this summer in producing healthy milkweed plants and providing a place for adult monarchs to lay eggs, of which I’ve been able to find with ease. If, by chance, I missed finding an egg, I was able to find a plethora of caterpillars. So far, to date this season, I’ve been able to raise and release 32 monarch butterflies! But, the real fun is yet to start! As I’ve done for the last three seasons, I ordered tags from Monarch Watch for this last generation of monarchs. This generation, born in late August through mid-September, is the generation that lives eight months as they migrate to the mountains of central Mexico to overwinter.
Last year I filled a tagging sheet which means I recorded 25 raised butterflies that I tagged and released. I was very excited when I found out this spring that two of the monarchs I had tagged here in the upper mid-west made it all the way to Mexico! So, I zealously ordered 50 tags for this season! My tags arrived last week, but I have not had any monarchs eclose (emerge from the chrysalis) since I got the tags. I am impatiently waiting!
Here are my current counts:
Released so far: 32 adult monarchs
Current eggs: 0
Current larva: 17
Current Chrysalises: 10
Tags Available: 50
As soon as I am finished with tagging season, it will be time to collect milkweed pods. Some years ago I made a video about doing this for Monarch Watch. My garden club students helped collect the pods in our school butterfly garden. This year, I will just collect pods at home. Saving the seed is fairly easy, as I let it overwinter in my garage so it receives the cold period it needs to germinate the following year. This is called stratification. I’ve had a number of groups and individuals ask for seed and distributed more than 80 packets to conference attendees at our Spring into Gardening, local Master Gardener Conference this past March! However, autumn is a great time to plant it if you are willing and able.