The drought in the Midwest in 2012 and the freeze in their Wintering Grounds in Mexico has decimated the population. It is more important than ever to help them recover from the set-backs of the environmental pressures.(See documentary here)
A concerned group based out of the University of Kansas called the Monarch Watch, tracks the population of Monarchs in the United States. They are doing amazing work keeping track of the various pressures on our Monarchs. They also provide tracking tags for people to tag Butterflies, and resources to set up your own Monarch waystation.
Monarchs are a very particular butterfly, they have a specific plant, the milkweed, that they use to lay their eggs.
Fortunately, we have a ready supply of this plant in our area. It is called a weed for a reason and once established can be quite difficult to eradicate if you should not wish to have it around. I myself enjoy the pink blossoms and sweet smell when they are in flower. It draws the Monarchs to your garden as well.
For several years, I have been collecting Monarch caterpillars and raising them in buckets. If you would like to share the process, I have created a page over at Squidoo where I outline the process. Go to this page to learn how to raise your own. Raising Monarch Butterflies
I have shared them with teachers in Honeoye Falls and other area schools. The kids love to watch them develop and hatching day is always a thrill.
Last week, the milkweed around my garden was visited by a mother Monarch, she laid eggs. Each day, in the morning another visitor stops by and drops another few on the plants. I have been watching carefully and have tried to count and keep track of the eggs. Yesterday I located 28 eggs on the various plants around my garden. This morning, they began to hatch into caterpillars. The young ones emerge from an egg that is about an 1/8 inch across and 1/4 inch long. When just hatched the caterpillar is almost impossible to see and is about 3/8 inch long. They grow rapidly with a ready supply of their favorite food.
Once they hatch, they are an eating machine. Dawn to dusk they chew and grow and drop castings behind. Their Green and Black and Yellow striped bodies tell the birds that they are not the tasty morsel that they appear. In about 2 weeks they will turn into Chrysalis’ and start their final phase into a butterfly. Stay tuned and I will share their development as they progress.