Raising Monarchs Part III: Early August

Raising Monarchs Part III: Early August

While sitting in the dentist office yesterday I saw a that our local paper featured a man in my town who was raising monarch butterflies. I have to admit that seeing the article stung a little bit.  I’ve been doing the same for fourteen years but have never been featured in the paper!  I guess it’s all in who you know and where you volunteer. He volunteers for the USFWS, while I volunteered in a school district. Obviously, the value placed on what we were doing and who was paying attention to our individual quests was different. Still, when it comes down to it, we are both trying to help save and educate about an iconic species. Many people need to do what we are doing, so in the end, it’s all good!  Therefore, I am working at letting not letting the sting I felt yesterday fester today.  I also hope no one has a problem with what I wrote here. I try to be a good person and do see the larger picture but am subject to all the same emotions and feelings every human experiences. The difference is I just shared what I felt. Enough said.


It’s a special time of year if you raise monarchs! The last generation of the breeding season is being born in the North and this is the generation that migrates to Mexico to over winter.  Later today I will order my tags from Monarch Watch so that by the time my last group is raised and ready to be released, they can be tagged. It’s been a great season to raise monarch butterflies in our area. I’ve done it long enough to have personally experienced the ups and downs of this population. As of this writing I’ve raised and released 30 monarchs in my own yard this season! There, I offer monarch habitat in the form of three different kinds of milkweed (all native species) and a wide variety of nectar plants for the adults. I am also “caterpillar sitting” for a friend who is on vacation. In the few days I’ve had her four caterpillars, I found a fifth – maybe from an egg or maybe from a new piece of milkweed introduced to the cage for food. Right now, four are chrysalises and one is J-hooked, ready to become a pupa and proceed with metamorphosis.  The daughters of my friend were all former garden club students, and thus, I want to be sure to do a good job for them, as I have a reputation to uphold! It would probably make me more unhappy than them to have to return a cage with fewer monarchs than I received.

In my own cages, I currently only have 2 chrysalises right now. However, the other night I found five small caterpillars on my rose milkweed. Prior to that I had found four eggs on my common milkweed, too.  The eggs and the caterpillars are separated for they do cannibalize – a fact I just learned by reading the book, Monarchs and Milkweed (2017) by Anurag Agrawal.  My milkweed patches, although large, are getting dry and already have formed seed pods, waiting for distribution by mother nature or myself later in the fall. I’ve been picky about which leaves to pick to feed the enclosed caterpillars because I know they prefer a more tender, moist, younger leaf. If you want some really scientific specifics about how monarch caterpillars have evolved special feeding techniques to help them survive on a noxious plant, you must read Agrawal’s book!

A great read if you love monarchs! 

Finally, I am bolstered by how many people I know support my monarch conservation activities. Truly, I am involved in so much more than just raising them. I love sharing what I know and I am proud to say I am sought out for this task more and more often. In late July while at a local art show, we ran into a friend who was with a friend of hers. After some pleasantries were exchanged, we parted ways. A few minutes later, they were approaching me again. Our friend asked me to share what I know about monarchs with her friend. So, there in the middle of the art show, I did just that! She asked questions and I answered! A few minutes later, after parting ways again, a young father approached me (calling me “Miss” which was really rather nice) and asked if he had over heard me talking about milkweed. Yes, I replied; I raise monarchs and was sharing some information about milkweed. I asked if he had a question.  He did. I answered. Wow! I came away from those encounters feeling great. Apparently, I’ve gained a reputation as a monarch conservationist and I cannot tell you how much that means to me!


I’m looking forward to finishing a piece of curriculum on monarch tagging for an assignment this week. It will give me yet another way to share my passion with more school aged children, as it is never to early to plant the seed of environmental stewardship.


The Difference a Week Makes

The Difference a Week Makes

Wow! It has been a whirlwind week. I am mid-course learning about environmental history. It has been a challenging course just due to some computer issues and heavy reading. But, I have been learning lots of new facts…..and realized that the course is already half over! My final project will be on the history of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy.  This is a local organization that preserves and conserves local lands through working with citizens and stewardship. Another realization I had is that active citizenship and the development of environmental stewardship are at the core of what I have done for the last 14 years as a volunteer.  I value citizenship and stewardship!

But, my volunteer status is about to change!  This week, for the first time in a VERY long time, I had a job interview!  And, this week, for the first time in a VERY long time, I was hired to do a job – a job that I have done before, but as a volunteer! A job I am excited about taking, and which will allow me to plant more seeds of environmental steward ship in a new group of local youth. It almost feels like my professional rebirth! More will be written more about this opportunity in future posts. Stay tuned!

This week, I was reminded that life can change on a dime. Every day is precious. Every day is important. It is not worth getting excited about things which I cannot change, no matter how much I want that change.  Sometimes, you just have to move positively forward and hope for the best.

And, the best might be revealing itself.  This week I learned that my children, not I, have agreed – on their own – to be involved in seeking positive change.  Mature, potentially change making discussions are taking place with students – one of whom is mine – considering their views, their feedback, their opinions, and what they view as important.  Is this not what we all want? We all want our children to be self-advocates, to have their opinions sought, to have them be able to verbalize what they consider important and what their personal view of learning holds. By the time our children are in high school, they should be self-advocating – our years of lessons, role-modeling, discussing, and demonstrating should be coming to a close, not be ramping up.  Let this be a lesson for all parents who rush the doors of the teacher or counselor.  Do your job as a parent, and then watch your child do what you have so carefully, but even possibly, incidentally, taught them. It will amaze you and lighten your heart!

I was reminded I can be excited about my own course of learning. My research study was approved by my mentor – it will be going on to the IRB by early next week. I learned that patience does pay off. Sometimes, it is just important to wait and let others take the time they need to accomplish what they said they would. Most people do make good on their word.

This week made a difference.  I am headed in a new direction.  The time is now.