We have finally gotten the Naturedigger YouTube channel populated with videos from our monarch rearing adventures this summer. You can view the one of a monarch eclosing from its chrysalis below. Such a cool thing to catch!
The last half of July and the entire month of August was dedicated largely to raising monarch butterflies. Other fieldwork included photographing invasive species for upcoming app updates as well. But monarchs took up the majority of our time. It has been ten years since monarchs visited our garden, and we had the amazing good fortune to witness a female laying eggs on very young (up to 1 foot tall) milkweed plants. We collected 20 of those eggs and 18 made it to the chrysalis stage. We chose one butterfly to monitor daily and called her Truman.
We released Truman yesterday to embark on an epic journey to Mexico where, if she makes it, will overwinter until the spring when she begins northward to mate, lay eggs and die. She is special because she is the generation that lives up to 8 months rather than a couple of short weeks. Here's to hoping Truman makes it to Mexico! Below is our very own Truman show from when she was a tiny 1 mm egg to her release into the wild 5 weeks later. See her being released here!
Today we are monitoring several monarch butterflies in various stages. Some are still eating and moving around, others are in their J stage, while several others have just formed a new chrysalis, like our favorite larva (caterpillar) Truman (from the Truman show - we've been watching every stage since he hatched. Truman is the chrysalis just to the right of our very first reared monarch butterfly of the year. She made her appearance around 9:30, and Truman formed his chrysalis alongside her about 1/2 hour later. Needless to say, this has been a very exciting morning at Naturedigger!
Watch for monarch butterflies laying eggs on milkweed across the country right now. If you spot a female (see monarch SOS app to learn the difference between males and females) flitting from one small milkweed plant to the next, especially those lacking flowers, be sure to check under the leaves, you may see tiny cream colored or white eggs have been laid. This is exciting to say the least, since monarchs have been declining dramatically over the past 10-20 years. It's too early to say whether they are making an official comeback, however, major strides have been made with respect to monarch conservation. Mowing practices have been altered to accommodate hatching larvae, cities and towns have begun planting pollinator gardens to support adult monarchs (and other pollinators) once they've eclosed from their chrysalises, and communities in general are taking steps to eliminate pesticides that kill milkweed, the larval host plant of monarch butterflies. These seemingly small steps could make a huge difference and could be the reason monarch butterflies return in large numbers to our landscape.