A Quick Monarch Update

Monarchs are mid-season for breeding here in the mid-west.  As usual, I have been checking the milkweed patches in my yard for signs of visitors.  So far, it has been slow!

Today, I released my first monarch of the season. It’s late. The butterfly was a female and she is still sitting on some phlox in my back garden.  This monarch was raised from an egg I found about a month ago.

Monarch on Phlox in Wisconsin, July 10th, 2019                            © Carol Labuzzetta

Currently, I have an another egg, a very small caterpillar (instar stage1-2, most likely), three large caterpillars that all were hanging in their pre-pupal J last night, and two – no, now one, chrysalis. The other chrysalis gave way to this beautiful monarch today.

My milkweed looks healthy – all three types have flower buds or blooms. But, alas, the leaves are not being eaten which tells me I have had very few visitors.  The milkweed patches in my yard were very slow to erupt from the ground this year;  we were well into June before I saw any sprouting.

               Swamp milkweed under our maple tree in Wisconsin.               © Carol Labuzzetta, 2019


Purposely, I have cut back on the number of monarchs I am rearing this year. I was able to share the two large caterpillars and a small caterpillar with a school group at the end of June.

It was fun to see their engagement in the subject, but not surprising. I’ve taught school aged children about this iconic species for the last 18 years. But, recent concerns about raised monarchs not having the same ability to migrate has made me aware that raising monarchs is not a conservation activity. Raising monarchs is, and has been, and will continue to be, highly educational as well as awe-inspiring. But, raising monarchs will not help sustain this species for the future. And, now, perhaps we are finding out more about why.

Common Milkweed in my south facing garden in Wisconsin.             © Carol Labuzzetta, 2019

Monarch Watch, a long time leader in Monarch research, education, and conservation released some best practice advice for those of us who just cannot seem to give up this seasonal activity. You might have noticed that I stated I was cutting back, but not giving up, my summer hobby of raising monarchs. I am first, and foremost, an educator. And, a method I commonly employ with children to educate them about our natural world is the science of awe. What is more amazing than a creature that weighs less than a paper clip, flying on its own power to a place it has never visited before?  It never ceases to capture my attention or that of my audience when I have the chance to share my passion about monarchs.

Rose Milkweed behind our barn. These plants were started from                               seed by my garden club students in 2014!                       © Carol Labuzzetta, 2019

However, much like the oath physicians take, we educators and citizen scientists, must take care to do no harm (or, at least take steps to minimize it).  To support the best practice information released yesterday by Monarch Watch, I decided to share it here – alongside my slow monarch rearing season update.  I really admire how Monarch Watch is trying to increase awareness regarding monarchs. They are not releasing ultimatums but rather, lending the most current suggestions for those of us interested in knowing the best way we can help this species to survive. I, for one, am trying my best to heed their advice.

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