In my September 3 post, “Joy in the Journey,” I had not as yet seen a Monarch emerge from its chrysalis. Well, now I have. In fact, I watched three in one morning. Pop! Pop! Pop! Watching that transformation take place from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly was really exciting. Made me appreciate even more using it as the metaphor for my spiritual journey.
I did manage to catch a couple of emergings on video, but am unable to figure out how to embed them in this post or even post them on Facebook. I’ve met my match with technology.
The tags arrived from Monarch Watch in time for me to tag 9 of the 17 butterflies I released. The tags came with instructions and to be sure I did it right, I also watched a video on YouTube.
I learned that they have no feeling in their wings … sort of like fingernails. I had to press the wings together to make sure the tag adhered. This only reinforced for me how strong these creatures are despite how fragile they look.
Here is one of them tagged and ready to begin its journey to Mexico.
This year is the 28th year that the University of Kansas has been tagging Monarchs through Monarch Watch. Their database has 1.8 million tagged butterflies recorded. In addition to the date and location of the release, the sex of each is recorded along with whether it was raised or caught in the wild.
To my chagrin, I learned that wild Monarchs have a better chance of survival than raised ones. And raising them in my house isn’t as good for them as raising them outside. That science teacher with all the YouTube videos raises his on a screened-in porch. That would be ideal. I guess next year I’ll put my terrarium cages on the deck instead of in my meditation room. I’ll have to figure out a way to weigh them down so they don’t blow away.
Monarch Watch would prefer that people catch them in the wild and tag them.
I also learned that they can emerge too small in size and with diseases and deformities. That only makes sense, but is sad to contemplate. I had one that was noticeably smaller than the rest. Some of them may not emerge with the ability to determine the direction they need to fly to reach Mexico.
The science teacher on YouTube has a video about how to tell if they are diseased. I have not watched it yet. Another thing to figure out for next year.
On September 28, I released my last two of the seventeen butterflies I raised. Don’t get too excited. Some people raise as many as 50 or more. I could not have handled anymore than I had. That kept me busy enough.
Those last two released were quite lucky. We had a couple of cool days and I was a bit too hasty in cutting down my milkweed. It gets pretty ugly late in the season. While it was laying on the ground waiting to be carried into the woods, I found a cat … a big caterpillar. Then, when I was discarding the stalks in the woods, I found another big cat. I brought them both in. The next day they spun their chrysalis.
It was interesting to watch them fly off. They were eager to get going. None of them hung around long enough for me to get a picture. All except two headed South immediately. Two of them landed on a tree in the woods to the north of my house. I doubt they stayed there long, however.
The males were outnumbering the females. We had six males and only two females. Nicole said, “We must need more testosterone in the house.” 🙂
I thought maybe the females would catch up. Between September 17 and September 25, five more females emerged. But in the end, the males outnumbered the females.
Here’s my collection of chrysalis. Those on the left represent the 10 males who emerged and those on the right, the 7 females.
Saturday, September 28 I sent my report to Monarch Watch. Apparently a majority of the recovered tags are obtained in Mexico. Untagged far outnumber the tagged. Tagged butterflies aren’t easy to find and so Monarch Watch pays $5 for each tag found. That is considered reasonable compensation for the time and energy spent locating them. The cost of buying the tags helps with this expense.
Monarch Watch has learned a lot about migration patterns and annual cycles through their tagging program. I am grateful that they report that the number of Monarch sightings is up in 2019.
I learned a lot this year and I still have a lot to learn about raising butterflies! Any tips from butterfly enthusiasts out there will be appreciated.