Calling All Creators: Plant some milkweed to raise some Monarch butterflies in La Jolla and Southern California
I would like to share my Monarch butterfly success story this season and invite others to participate.
It is very difficult to change things in this world. I have no control over healthcare costs, environmental regulations, child abuse, changing the deficit, politics and so on ... The only thing I can change are the things I control, which I have discovered are very few.
However, I can plant a seed, water it, pull weeds and participate in creating Monarchs. So far this spring, I have hatched about 30 Monarch butterflies. And if those 30 go on to create 50 more, that’s 1,500 butterflies flittering around La Jolla this summer!
I know other people are growing milkweed, and from my perspective, it is quite an accomplishment to be participating in creation and helping butterflies regain their “foothold” in our environment. I physically cannot save the rainforest, but I can participate in creating a butterfly.
Just to let you know, I have lots of milkweed seeds that I am willing to share for free. In addition I have California Poppy seeds to share, too.
When the milkweed grows, the Monarchs visit and lay their tiny little green eggs, which hatch into caterpillars. They munch and munch — and they will only eat milkweed — so you don’t need to worry about your other plants.
After they eat their fill, they start crawling around for higher ground to form their chrysalis (cocoon).
I collect them at this point and put them in a wide-mouthed plastic jar from the recycle bin. In the bottom, I place a little cup with water and put in a few sprigs of milkweed.
Then I place an old recycled orchid plant next to the tub, so the caterpillars can crawl out and climb up to start their transformation process.
The reason I bring them inside is because the spiders, flies, hornets and cockroaches kill them. Their survival rate decreases dramatically when they leave the milkweed plants searching for higher ground.
They form a bright green chrysalis that has iridescent gold spots. After about 10 days, the chrysalis becomes darker and then they turn almost black. If you look closely, you can see orange wings through the chrysalis. When they come out, they unfold like they came out of a “Transformers” movie.
After about five hours of hanging upside down, their wings dry and they are ready to fly. When they first open their wings, the colors they emit are brilliant. They will usually crawl on my finger and accept a ride outside. How cool is that!
That is when I name them after my friends, or for someone who is having a hard time, or to thank someone for an act of kindness, or after someone who has hurt me.
Milkweed has a white milk that is poisonous when you cut the stems or pull a leaf off the plant. Indians used milkweed to burn warts off. And speaking from experience, after working with the plants, I touched my eyes and my vision was blurry for three days.
So far, two of my neighbors at the office, Nate and Mike, have started growing milkweed and raising caterpillars into Monarchs. It’s been a noble adventure and it’s been good for my soul.
Perhaps you would be interested in participating in creation, too. That’s why I’m extending this “offer” to La Jolla Light readers: “Creators Wanted!”
— Learn more about Monarch butterflies at monarch.org.nz
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