Although seemingly counterintuitive, the reasons why captive raising Monarchs in the hundreds, and in some cases thousands, is not the way to help the butterflies. The following is a fantastic article recently published by one of the foremost authorities on Monarchs, the Xerces Society.
The gist of the article is that rearing no more than ten at a time is educational and worthwhile, if the guidelines provided below are followed to a tee. If you are one of the well meaning folks that are rearing hundreds/thousands of Monarchs, please read the following –
Instead of rearing—which is risky and unproven in helping monarchs—we should focus on more effective ways to conserve these glorious wild animals.
Many of us have been there: Finding a monarch caterpillar, collecting it in a jar, raising it on milkweed, and then waiting patiently for a butterfly to emerge and take flight. Helping a child (or an adult) learn about this captivating, up-close example of metamorphosis can be incredibly rewarding. Unlike many wild animals, monarchs are easily reared, so it is no wonder that bringing caterpillars into the classroom or home has been used by teachers and parents for decades as an educational tool—or just for the pure enjoyment of it. Rearing monarchs also has been a part of monarch research: From the tagging efforts started by the Urquharts in the 1960s to the multiple tagging programs of today. These programs, as well as other community science projects, have greatly expanded our understanding of migration paths.
Because rearing a butterfly in captivity enables people to share in the amazing transformation from a caterpillar to winged adult, it deserves a place in the future of monarch education and research efforts. However, we need to approach it thoughtfully and responsibly. Like any wild animal, we have to make sure that our interest in rearing monarchs does not harm the butterfly’s populations. This is particularly important today, with monarch populations down by 80-97%. These levels are so low that the migratory phenomenon to Mexico and coastal California is at risk. In an attempt to help reverse the monarch’s population free-fall, many people are attempting to save the species by rearing and releasing monarchs on a large scale. There are, however, serious concerns about this approach.
For more about how you can help the magnificent migrating Monarch, visit my documentary’s website here – Beauty on the Wing
From the Xerces Society
Answers to a few frequently-asked-questions and answers about rearing
How can I rear monarchs responsibly?
- Rear no more than ten monarchs per year (whether by a single individual or family). This is the same number recommended in the original petition to list the monarch under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
- Collect immature monarchs locally from the wild, heeding collection policies on public lands; never buy or ship monarchs.
- Raise monarchs individually and keep rearing containers clean between individuals by using a 20% bleach solution to avoid spreading diseases or mold.
- Provide sufficient milkweed including adding fresh milkweed daily.
- Keep rearing containers out of direct sunlight and provide a moist (not wet) paper towel or sponge to provide sufficient, not excessive, moisture.
- Release monarchs where they were collected and at appropriate times of year for your area.
- Check out Monarch Joint Venture’s newly updated handout, Rearing Monarchs: Why or Why Not?
- Participate in community science, including testing the monarchs you raise for OE, tracking parasitism rates, and/or tagging adults before release.