The Monarch Butterfly is one of the most recognizable and most beautiful butterflies out there, but sadly they are starting to decline in population. I have decided to help them and start raising them from egg to caterpillar to butterfly... then I get to release the joyful butterfly back into nature! Such a fascinating process that I absolutely must share this experience all about the joyful butterfly!
I will tell you a little about how I got started, so join me on this awesome adventure!
My excitement for the Monarch Butterfly began when I saw this huge caterpillar outside along with a few others chomping away on the milkweed plants in my backyard. I actually didn't know what kind of caterpillars they were and I was so intrigued by their cool-looking black, yellow, and white stripes that I just had to look online to see what they were.
I found out that they were Monarch Caterpillars and that they ONLY eat Milkweed. (I have lots of Tropical Milkweed growing in my backyard.) I was very intrigued by them! I couldn't wait to go check on them the next day, but when I got outside, I couldn't find any of them. There had to be at least 5 large ones out there just the day before, so where did they all go?
I decided to read more about the Monarchs and discovered that the really large ones will wander off somewhere safe to form their chrysalis before becoming a butterfly, but most of them will probably get eaten by a predator...lizards, large insects, snakes, birds, and so many other things can get them! Turns out they have lots of predators in nature and less than 10% of Monarch Butterfly eggs will actually make it to an adult caterpillar to even have that small chance of turning into a butterfly. That's not a very high survival rate for the Monarch Butterfly! It's proven that if they are raised inside from egg to butterfly, they have about an 80% chance of survival. This is why I want to help them! The Monarch Butterfly shares joy just by being a beautiful butterfly and of course by pollinating all of the flowers around us... it's hard not to smile when you see a butterfly fluttering around!
Here are some awesome resources if you are interested in learning more about the Monarch Butterfly or if you want to help their population to thrive and raise some of your own.
Mr Lund Science does an absolutely amazing Monarch Butterfly video series on You Tube. There are 5 parts to get you started from identifying and bringing in the eggs all the way to the release of the Monarch Butterfly back into nature. By clicking the above link, the first video will start and if you watch it until the end, the second one will automatically start. I watched all 5 of those videos and jumped right into raising the Monarchs. His whole process has worked perfectly for me. He also has a lot of other helpful educational Monarch videos.
It's so easy and rewarding to be able to help the joyful Monarch Butterfly to continue to thrive in nature!
Besides learning how to raise Monarchs and donating money to help our pollinators, it's equally as important to use safe and natural products when you are gardening. A very popular product (herbicide) used in gardening is Roundup, however it poses a huge risk to humans and animals...especially to our pollinators. Please click here to read a thorough page written by Consumer Notice* that outlines the dangers and risks of using Roundup. There are many other organic alternatives that are available on the market today plus home recipes that you can try here. Stay away from all of the hazardous chemicals to truly help our pollinators!
* Consumer Notice is a "consumer advocacy organization that informs the public about the health and safety risks associated with defective products, environmental dangers and other hazards and presents legal options to those who have been injured through the fault of another person or entity." (as quoted from their website.)
Take a look at all of the slideshow photos and the videos below of the entire Monarch Caterpillar and Monarch Butterfly metamorphosis!
They go through such an amazing metamorphosis before becoming a butterfly!
The 5 sizes of the Monarch Caterpillar are called "Instars" and they will molt (shed) between each size. From the tiny larva size when hatched to adult caterpillar, it grows about 2,000 times in size!
What a metamorphosis to become the beautiful butterfly! We all must go through crazy changes in our lives to become a butterfly!
They go through such an amazing metamorphosis before becoming a butterfly!
Here are 2 Caterpillars eating Milkweed... It's recorded in 2x speed so they're eating super fast. Such nice lines they make!
Caterpillar Molting and Shedding its Skin.
Monarch Caterpillar becoming a Chrysalis.
(There's really no sound to this video, but if you happen to have your volume all the way up, you might hear my dog panting in the background, ha-ha!)
Here's a butterfly emerging from its Chrysalis!
This video shows the butterfly forming its proboscis. This is the "straw" that they use to drink nectar. When they first emerge, it is 2 pieces and looks like antennae. They will continue to curl and uncurl it until it sticks together to form the straw!
Another Butterfly emerging from its Chrysalis.
Butterflies #3 and #4 - Emerged within 1 hour of each other.
It's just so amazing to see the butterfly emerging!
Butterfly hanging to dry its wings.
Crumpled Wing Butterfly (#12) drinking nectar from Milkweed.
Monarch Butterfly Season 2021
April 27th - August 8th
Monarch Butterfly Season 2022
April 5th - October 26th
Butterfly Season in Florida can start as early as April and go through November as long as the weather stays a bit warm. Depending on my schedule is when I will start collecting the eggs and bringing them inside to raise the hatched caterpillars until they become a bright green chrysalis and then emerge as the beautiful Monarch Butterfly. It's kind of like a part-time job because you have to clean their enclosure almost everyday plus feed them plenty of milkweed sometimes a couple of times per day because they eat a lot, but overall it's so rewarding when you get to release so many butterflies! In April 2021, I first started this Butterfly journey so I didn't know what to expect, but I still did really well in raising and releasing a total of 53 butterflies that season! There were 30 males and 23 females. I brought in a total of 59 so that's a 90% survival rate...out in the wild it's barely a 10% survival rate! I plan to release even more butterflies in 2022 now that I've gotten down the process.
Time for Butterfly Season 2022! I decided to start a bit earlier and end a bit later than in 2021. This year I was able to release even more butterflies by doing it for a longer time plus I know what I'm doing now so it was easier to bring in more at one time. The total number of butterflies released in 2022 was 107...just 1 more than double the number that I was able to release in 2021. There were 57 males and 50 females. I brought in a total of 133 so that's an 80% survival rate! It's a little lower survival rate than last year and I can attribute that to 2 things: some sudden crazy cold weather and a hurricane that went through... I brought in quite a few eggs and baby caterpillars that I found during the cold snap and also during the storm, but sadly a lot of those were the ones that didn't make it to becoming a butterfly. In 2023, I plan to make an even larger caterpillar enclosure so that I can save even more of these lovely Monarch Butterflies, so stay tuned because I'll add those photos once it's completed!.