The Monarch Butterfly

From Egg, to Caterpillar, to Chrysalis, and adult butterfly.

Butterfly Bonanza was a SOLD OUT Wildways event put on by Shasta Land Trust this August.

The Boisclaires in Northern California have spent the last couple of years searching for Monarch caterpillars. Their goal is to help them become full grown butterflies within the safety of their home and eventually be released back into the wild. We were lucky enough to be invited over to learn the secrets of the majestic Monarchs and how we can help this species for future generations.

If left in the wild you’re lucky to have 10% make it to full grown Monarch Butterfly.
— Larry Boisclaire

Larry Boisclaire is well-versed in the monarch butterfly. He explained what the Monarchs on his property like to eat. You may say, "they eat Milkweed." which is true, but the Monarchs on Larry and Bonnie's land like a particular Milkweed, the Narrow Milkweed. In fact, they eat so much of the Narrow Milkweed, a Monarch will lay only one egg per Milkweed plant - a Monarch can lay up to 700 eggs!

It typically takes 3 days for the caterpillar to hatch from egg and two weeks to form a cocoon. while in the cocoon they will grow 2500 times their size as they undergo complete metamorphosis. As the Monarch starts to emerge from the Pupa, they ingest it as they go until the cocoon is gone. The adult butterfly will only be alive for two to six weeks with their only goal being migration and reproduction. Within a season there are 4 generations of Monarch butterflies. What we saw during Butterfly Bonanza was the fourth generation of butterflies ready to be released back into the wild. 

This time last year the Boisclaire's released 700 buttferflies. This year, due to the heavy Northern California rains, numbers were down 90%. 

Want to help with the Monarch population? 

The Boisclaire's have a great process to saving the Monarch population which involves a dorm mesh metal wastebasket, a plastic conatiner for water, a cover for the trash bin, and plenty of Milkweed, of course. 

 - Fill container with water and make Milkweed shoots for the larvae to eat. -

 - Only have 8-11 caterpillars in a basket at a time. -

 - Expect to find escapees! (See Picture below) -

Releasing the Butterflies

When the time came to release the Monarchs into the wild, Larry Boisclaire prepped the crew on what the butterflies will typically do.

He asked for a volunteer and together they carefully helped the Monarchs out of the mesh laundry basket, where they were transferred from the trash bins, and watched as they flew up into the nearest tree. It felt good to know these beautiful insects would soon head North to start generations of their own.