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Easy and educational, raising monarch butterflies is fun for the whole family. Nici McCruer shows us how to do it
This is a special time of year for our family. As soon as the warm weather finally arrives our almost-six-year-old insistantly starts asking when we are going to go pick up “our baby butterflies”.

For our daughter Amelie’s third birthday we gave her a “Butterfly Project”, where we adopted some monach caterpillars and bought some milkweed and raised them in her bedroom. This was such a great experience for her that we have done it a few times now.

We went to the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory for Amelie’s birthday, and they actually sell monarch kits. They were sold out when we went, but a very helpful woman told us that there was a nursery called Greenway with a very small butterfly conservatory about a five-minute drive away.

Greenway sells milkweed plants (which caterpillars eat), chrysalises, butterflies and caterpillars of all different sizes, it was very cool. But when we were first looking into it, we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to find everything (like complete kits) you need online, including caterpillars.

Something very exciting happened the last time we bought a milkweed plant. We didn’t know it, but there were four eggs on the leaves that hatched tiny little caterpillars. We needed another milkweed plant to provide enough food for all our friends, so when choosing your milkweed make sure to take a look under the leaves for little white specks.

 

Because caterpillars eat like mad, they poop a lot. There were tiny little black pebbles all under the plant. Aaron was good about being on poop duty. Amelie thought it was more funny than gross. The way you can avoid messes is simply by making sure that there’s something underneath your plant (like a flat piece of cardboard) so that when their little “gifts” fall, they’re contained.

Don’t worry, they won’t take over your house. At the nursery, the womanl told us that as long as we put them on the plant they wouldn’t leave their food source. (I’m not kidding when I say they eat all day.) There are mesh cages you can buy/make but we didn’t find it necessary.

I don’t suggest raising butterflies in the winter. First of all,  you can’t release them, and monarchs have interesting life cycles. When they are born in the season depends on their purpose and lifespan. If they are born in the earlier part of the summer, their job is to make babies and they only live around two weeks, whereas if they are born closer to the end of the summer they live much longer so that they can do the migration. It takes four generations of butterflies to do a migration. That was the most interesting part of the whole project for me.

There are some great reasons for raising monarchs besides it being a great experience for the whole family. Check out this article written in The Toronto Star. They need our help!

We can’t wait to go pick up our new friends within the next few weeks. Hope you can join us in our efforts to help our beautiful friends.

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