Raising Monarchs, 2019
Thoughts and Photos
April 13, 2020

  The first thought or question that occurs to me:

Was raising monarchs worthwhile?

My answer: Definitely. Given my experiences in 2018 when I let everything run its course, none of the four caterpillars succeeded in becoming a monarch. (Two formed a chrysalis, which failed; two disappeared somewhere or another.) Sue and I increased the numbers of monarchs by 18, and the way I understand, each additional monarch is a plus for the environment.

Question: Would you do it again?

Absolutely yes. Monarchs are beautiful, and adding beauty to the world is one of my ideals. The initial year's cost in supplies was minimal, and I hope to reuse everything.

Those are my two main questions and answers. Now for some particulars.

The photo below shows two aspects. The closer cube is more or less at rest, so the caterpillars in the cube behind have relatively more space to be themselves (without my having to worry about competition for the best places to form a cocoon).

The second aspect is my stick construction in the center: a mast and a crosspiece that I had tied together. I used that to compensate for any caterpillar that decided to cocoon under a leaf (which would ultimately sag too much) and for the one instance when a cocoon fell off the ceiling of the cube. With carpet thread, I would tie a cocoon (after it hardened on day 2) in place. I remember the first time I did so, I was quite nervous about it. By the second time it became perfectly straightforward.

Active cube with second cube in background
  The mast and spar became useful in other ways too. If a monarch preferred to cling to it when transferred to an outdoor flight cube, fine. Yes, it made life that much easier.
Monarch transfer to flight cube
  Of course, the greater excitement was the time of monarch release.

For the most part a monarch seemed content to ride on Sue's hand and then decide when it was time to take flight. (A couple of them took flight immediately as soon as Sue took them out of the flight cube.)

Monarch to be released
  Photographically speaking, the main challenge was capturing the moment a butterfly takes flight from Sue's hand. (I look forward to doing better next year.)
Monarch flying free
  As difficult as it is photographing a monarch launching itself, a number of monarchs had their first stop in my backyard or nearby bushes or trees. The first here is a female.
Monarch resting in cypress
  Photographing a resting monarch was easy and a welcome relief. Here is a male (with squarish scent glands visible on the hindwing).
Monarch on top of cypress
  One of the oddities is that I cannot prove whether any of the monarchs came back to visit after release. It might be a coincidence of other monarchs in the area; on the other hand, I'd like to think that a few returned to wish us well before the long flight south.
A monarch visitor
  This concludes my pages on raising and releasing monarchs during 2019. My final thoughts on the subject are:
Monarchs are beautiful, and the more there are, the better it is.

My monarch 2019 home page  ||  and Pennsylvania butterfly page

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