Latest Obsession: Raising Monarchs

by | Sep 7, 2017 | Lay of the land, Word Up

Since I’m already inundating my 7 Instagram followers and 37 closest fb friends with this latest obsession, I figured: why not go platform-wide? Here’s the deal: What started off as a quality-time project with the grand and a couple of mason jars is now the reason I get up each day. I harvest eggs and just-hatched eggs from the mess of milkweed that came with my house and which I’ve let spread into a proper mini-meadow. I bring those eggs inside, artfully placing them in two begged and borrowed aquariums, and then I sit and watch. It’s one of nature’s craziest, creepiest, drama-filled jawns: the life cycle of Monarchs.

In their short time as caterpillars, all they do is grow. That combines eating, pooping, sleeping, and molting. Rinse and repeat. My job is to clean the cages every other day, provide fresh and well-hydrated and parasite-free and pesticide-free milkweed leaves for them to tuck into, and to wait. And watch. And wait.

On CatTV , some development is always afoot.  This guy’s going into J-formation (the precursor to pupating). That guy’s chrysalis is turning dark, which means it’s T minus 48 hours (or so) till you’ll see a butterfly. Or that it’s dead. Why can’t this little molter paw off his own face? And that long thin white thread that wasn’t hanging there the other day? Could it be—(step away for intense Googling)—the detritus of the dreaded Tachnid Fly maggot?!?

At this very moment, there are 10 caterpillars and a dozen chrysali in one tank and a nursery of 3 micro-caterpillars in another (you can’t mix bigs and littles, since the bigs have poor vision and a small caterpillar tastes just like…milkweed).

I could go on. But using state-of-the-art time-lapse technology (an iPhone 5 and packing tape to secure it to the side of the tank), I’ll share a couple of highlights instead.

To see one of my caterpillars turn into a chrysalis (ew!), click on the image (and note the photobombs)

To see one of the butterflies bust out of a chrysalis, click on the image (slow build, worth waiting for)

To see offsprings #4 and #5 before they were set out into the blue sky (and hopefully headed to Mexico), click on the image

Finally, if you’ve got access to milkweed and want to set up a Monarch nursery, here are three resources:
Basic overview from MONARCH WATCH
21 Monarch Survival Tips from MONARCH BUTTERFLY GARDEN
and basic tools and tips from MONARCH BUTTERFLY GARDEN

One small step for humanity; one giant leap for Danaus plexippus.