How to Raise and Release your Own Monarch Butterflies!

How to Raise and Release your Own Monarch Butterflies!

Want a fun and free activity that your kids will love?  Well check out what I did today:

As you may know from reading about me in other posts, I taught high school biology for 8 years.  Each year, right before the school year began, I would go on a hunt to find monarch caterpillars to have in my classroom.  I knew that once I resigned from teaching that this annual event would turn into a fun project to do with my kids instead of my current students.  Now even though my daughter is only 13 months old, I dragged her out today so that I could find some caterpillars to enjoy this tradition early on.  🙂

Lucky for me, I live only 3 minutes from this place:

I know that there is a lot of swamp milkweed (Ascepias incarnata) that grows here at the Conesus Lake Inlet. Butterflies, especially monarchs, love this stuff!  So I come here and search out the milkweed plants in hopes to find a caterpillar.  I didn’t want to be out too long today because it is so stinkin’ hot today in NY!  Luckily, it took me less than 10 minutes to find these:

I actually found the little guy (I named him Tiny) first.  So I pulled off the plant and noticed the big one (we’ll call him Fatty McGee) right after and I said “score” out loud.  See, when you have a baby with you, you don’t look as crazy “talking to yourself”, especially about caterpillars.

I grabbed some more milkweed leaves to feed them with and we headed back to the car.  As I was placing our findings on the passenger side floor, I noticed that we also picked up this guy (we’ll call him Middle Man).  I’m sure my daughter would have come up with much better names – if she could talk.  🙂

When we got home, I found some vases and sticks to make them nice temporary homes in.  I thought it would be fun to have a “nature” center piece on our dining room table for the time being so we can always check out their progress while we eat.  (This wouldn’t gross me out while eating – maybe for some of you it would. 🙂 )

I’ve done this enough times to know that Fatty McGee will be in his chrysalis stage in the next 24-48 hours.  I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the other two.

I’ll let you know that this is a super fun activity to do with all ages.  I taught 9th graders and they got a kick out of it as much as probably kindergartners would.  Now if you don’t have a place near your home with lots of milkweed that you can “hunt” for these, there are relatively inexpensive butterfly kits you can get at places like Amazon and still watch the stages of development.  I still like finding my own – but not everyone is that lucky.  🙂

I’ll post some more pictures in the coming weeks, especially when it is time to release them.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4 – Release Day!

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