One of nature’s most amazing creatures is the Monarch Butterfly.
I have always loved butterflies. They are beautiful creatures. Butterflies have come to symbolize change and growth to people myself included. Four years ago I had a butterfly with a semi-colon body tattooed on my foot to remind me to keep growing and going.
It came to my knowledge in recent years ago that Monarch Butterflies are dwindling in number. I could not imagine a planet without the amazing orange and black insects. I also began to hear of people raising butterflies in their backyards. I had raised painted lady butterflies with my fourth graders, so I decided to look into it
Adult Monarchs love to sip nectar from a variety of backyard flowers.
Monarch butterflies lay their eggs only on Milkweed plants. It is the only food the caterpillars will eat.
The first thing I needed to do was to start planting flowers and plants butterflies would eat, specifically Milkweed.
Well, my backyard had been given over to the kids and the dogs for the last fifteen years. Time to reclaim the uncharted territory for myself and the butterflies!
March 13, 2020. My world stopped turning. I was teaching first grade happily in my home town. We heard word that there was a strange virus coming to town. We sent home the iPads and chargers with the kids and said goodbye. That was the last day I was a teacher in a school building with live children. For the rest of the year, we had school online. By July, I had left teaching for a new career in social work. In the meantime, my family and I were quarantined for months at home.
It was the perfect time to launch Backyard Makeover 2020!
The first thing we did was take down the old swing set and dismantle a couple of rabbit cages. My amazing husband turned the wood from the swing set into raised garden beds, a picnic table, and a garden shed for me. We began hauling dirt and planting butterfly-friendly flowers all over the yard.
I found a company in Pennsylvania that sells Milkweed and Monarch caterpillars. We planted Milkweed both native and tropical. I learned the tropical grows much faster.
In June the first caterpillars were delivered to our house. So exciting!!
We had planted lots of milkweed. We learned that those little guys sure do eat A LOT!
Monarch Caterpillars only eat Milkweed. Boy do they eat A LOT!
We placed the caterpillars with fresh milkweed into a pop up Butterfly habitat container that we kept inside the house. The caterpillars grew rapidly. The caterpillar stage lasts about 2–3 weeks.
Our entire Family LOVED feeding and watching the caterpillars grow.
When they crawled to the top and made their chrysalis we were all so excited. Even my husband got into watching the caterpillars and cleaning out the Habitat.
Caterpillars who eat a lot also poop a lot. The dark green balls are called frass.
When the first Monarch eclosed, or came out of its chrysalis, it was so fun to watch the butterfly hang and dry its wings.
I also learned that my cat thought he could play with the butterflies! He almost knocked the whole habitat on the floor.
After that we had to keep the butterflies upstairs behind a closed door! Whew!
After about 3–4 hours, we released the butterfly. The first one was READY! She took off and flew away high and fast!
Eventually, we started finding baby caterpillars in the milkweed we planted. We would bring them inside on a piece of the plant and put them safely in the habitat. There they would eat and eat and eat. Form the chrysalis. Emerge as a beautiful butterfly.
They loved my Zinnas.