5 Things I Learned While Raising Monarch Butterflies With My Kids - Firefly Books Blog

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5 Things I Learned While Raising Monarch Butterflies With My Kids

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5 Things I Learned While Raising Monarch Butterflies With My Kids


A Guest Blog by Suzanne Gardner

My family and I have always loved butterflies, but this summer our love flew to even higher heights thanks to three little monarchs we named Mirabel, Zebra, and Kitty.
With the help of Carol Pasternak’s How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids, my family successfully raised and released three monarch butterflies this summer – finding them as teeny tiny eggs, and watching them hatch into caterpillars, transform into chrysalises, and eventually emerge as the most stunning butterflies. 
And while I thought I already knew a fair amount about butterflies, what I definitely didn’t know is how surprisingly easy it is to raise monarchs at home. Pasternak’s book is a super detailed guide to everything you need to know about raising monarchs, including:
  • how to find monarch eggs and caterpillars,
  • how to feed and care for your caterpillars as they grow, 
  • and even how you can create a butterfly garden to attract butterflies to your own yard next year. 
(Psst, the short answer to all three of those things is milkweed plants! That’s the only place that monarch butterflies lay their eggs, and the only food that monarch caterpillars eat.)
Raising monarchs with my kids was an incredibly special experience and we all can’t wait to do it again next year. Here are a few of the key things I learned throughout our adventure with our monarchs:
Most of the things you need, you already have at home: Before you start your monarch caterpillar or egg search, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need to raise them. The good news? You probably have most of it already! We were surprised to learn we could keep our eggs and small caterpillars in a large plastic food container. Once they grew larger, we moved them to a mesh butterfly enclosure that we bought online for about $20 – but in her book, Pasternak says that you could also use a big salad container with holes punched in the lid, or an old aquarium you might have at home. Other than that, you’ll just need some household basics like a yogurt container for gathering your eggs or caterpillars, scissors for cutting the leaves from the milkweed plant, and paper towels to wrap the extra milkweed leaves that you store in your fridge.
Finding monarch eggs is hard, but not impossible: Believe it or not, a monarch egg is smaller than a sesame seed! In Pasternak’s book, she says that you may have to turn over a hundred leaves or more to find an egg – so I was pretty sure we’d be scouring each and every milkweed leaf in our neighbourhood until we found one. Turns out my 4½-year-old son Zayn and I were incredibly lucky and found three eggs pretty quickly, all on the same milkweed plant in the alley behind our house! Monarch eggs are most often found on the underside of big milkweed leaves, but if you’re on the hunt, be sure to check all over the plant, including on top of the large leaves, on the new leaves near the top of the plant, and even on the buds.
Caterpillars eat a lot: Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar may not be completely accurate, but it sure was right in teaching us that caterpillars love to eat. But unlike Mr. Very Hungry who likes to eat sausages, cupcakes, and lollipops, monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed leaves – and lots of it. Whether you’re starting with caterpillars or eggs, make sure you have a good, fresh supply of milkweed, as you’ll need to keep cleaning out your container and adding in fresh leaves every couple of days.
To give you an idea of just how much milkweed monarch caterpillars eat, it helps to understand just how much they grow in their short life. When a caterpillar first hatches, it’s barely the size of the writing on a dime, but by the next day it has already doubled its size. In less than two weeks, a monarch caterpillar grows to 3,000 times its birth weight!
And because they eat a lot, they also poop a lot, too: Like with all creatures, what goes in, must come out. Once our three caterpillars started munching away, I was cleaning out tons of small green caterpillar poops (called frass) every evening after the kids were in bed. I look forward to when my kids are a bit older and can help with this part, too! (A bit of payback for all the diapers I changed, right?)
Watching a butterfly transform is even more miraculous in person: Seeing the magic of a butterfly’s metamorphosis through my kids’ eyes was truly incredible, especially on the days that they changed form completely. Zayn really formed an attachment to each of the butterflies, talking to them and calling them by name, and it was really special to see his connection with nature continue to bloom. And thanks to our constant chatter about butterflies at home, my 1½-year-old son Samyr quickly learned “buh-fy” as one of his earliest words! 
The day after each butterfly emerged, we released them near some beautiful flowers for them to enjoy. Watching them take their first flight, Zayn sweetly wished them goodbye while Samyr waved. Every time we’ve seen a monarch since, Zayn and I assume it must be one of our friends dropping by to say hello. We definitely feel like we formed a special bond with the butterflies we raised from infancy.
We all learned so much throughout our month with our monarch friends, and we’re thrilled to have a new way to continue to deepen our connection with nature. We hope that you’ll check out How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids and try raising monarchs with your own family!
Get the book:
b2ap3_thumbnail_9781770850026-1.jpg How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids
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