As of leaving for our cabin on June 29th, I had only seen one monarch egg on milkweed in the field behind our house. Three or four monarch butterflies had flown through our yard, but as of this date, I had not seen any larvae or caterpillars.
I know that less than fifty miles away, the situation was very different! A friend had found a plethora of caterpillars to raise with her two young sons! I was jealous! Of course, I did what I always do and shared information about raising monarchs in the summer. I have eighteen years of experience doing this.
Another 150 miles away, we arrived at our cabin. As luck would have it, the population of caterpillars was different. Within a day, I had seen eight larvae of different sizes. Within another day, eight more and two eggs. There was evidence of a more robust monarch season at our cabin!
Upon returning home, I checked out yard. Finally! The season has started here! I found at least four stage one instar caterpillars – tiny guys. And, I found several eggs. The most exciting find was a caterpillar, one of the tiny ones, on a new rose milkweed plant inside the outdoor enclosure my husband made. This is a first! Hopefully, this is where I can raise some monarchs to be tagged and released in the fall – all outside!
Research has shown that the monarchs raised outside, with exposure to the natural sunlight and rhythms of the day such as wind, humidity, and a natural photoperiod do a better job when orienting themselves to migrate. I am trying to provide that type of experience as well as continue to raise a few monarchs. My own numbers were so low last year, I never had any in the enclosure. In the past, I did have two monarchs that I tagged in my yard make it to the overwintering grounds in Mexico! That was a thrill!
Currently, I have seven monarchs in chrysalises, five caterpillars, and two eggs. Plus, there are the small larvae and eggs in my yard that I left outside to develop. It’s turning out to be a good season after all!
And, last night I attended my training to be an IMMP field observer for a grant the Natural Resource Foundation of Wisconsin had received to work with Monarch Joint Venture. There will surely be stories about that to share in my August update! Can you tell that I’m in my element?!
Oh, happy summer!