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It all started on a family hike in July 2007 when Shane said, "Look, a monarch caterpillar!" He was right! He had learned about the life cycle of monarchs (Danaus plexippus) in Kindergarten and had received a book on insects for his 6th birthday from Aunt Angela. And so, the caterpillar came home with us and was the start of an ongoing family project. Actually, it has become a bit of an obsession. At times, I have sacrificed sleep in order to get the photos I wanted -- you have to live on the monarch’s schedule. This is an awesome transformation that we wish to share with you.
The monarch segment of my website is meant to be a photo journal of our experience with monarchs and I will include information that seems relevant or interesting. If you would like a more scientific discussion of monarchs, there are links on these pages and at the bottom of this page to sites run by monarch biologists. You can also follow our adventure through Facebook and Twitter.
Valerie, Joel and Shane Evanson
P.S. To the left you will find the Windows Media Player video that was made by Shane as a 3rd grade project on family traditions. It was a surprize Christmas present (2009) . Click on play (the white arrow) to hear and see Shane’s short presentation.
Initially it was a great challenge to raise the monarachs from egg to butterfly. Our first few years focused on that issue and we decided to approach raising monarchs in a more scientific way than we did in 2007. Our butterflies are checked for Oe with a microscope (Celestron 44340) before releasing them. We record all of our data on Excel spreadsheets. The data is then submitted to the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) website. Since 2008 we have tagged our monarchs for Monarch Watch starting in August through the end of the season. In 2010 we began to send our samples for Oe to Monarch Parasites.org’s Project MonarchHealth. As a result of being involved in the citizen science projects, the focus of our studies shifted from trying to achieve a high success rate of butterflies released to one that collects data for the scientists. We also enjoy sharing our monarchs and their various stages with visiting friends and family. Each year has its own detailed page.
2008 Monarch Study: We wanted to know the average days of each stage, and here is what we found:
|Egg: Collection to Hatching||43||2.4|
|Hatch Date to Pupa Formation||34||15|
|Pupa Formation to Eclosion||41||10.7|
|Hatch Date to Eclosion||25||25.9|
2009 Monarch Study: We collected over 400 monarchs! We tried to grow common milkweed from cuttings, but were unsuccessful. We found that tropical and swamp milkweed eagerly rooted in water. Butterfly weed may root in water. The highlight of the season was the day we released 18 butterflies at once.
2010 Monarch Study: Our season started 4/10/10. We added a variety of milkweed to the yard, bumping our total milkweeds to over 370 plants, and participated in the MLMP milkweed study (4a Plants with Monarchs) and Project MonarchHealth for the first time. We also focused on the MLMP Parasitism study by collecting 4th and 5th instars. We wanted to see which milkweeds the monarchs prefer and found that swamp, tropical and poke were high on the list, but since we do not have a full season of data, we look forward to next year’s results.
2011 Monarch Study: Due to my husband’s open heart surgery at the end of March, our monitoring did not officially begin until May. We introduced a few new species of milkweed and continued to collect data to see which milkweeds grow best in our yard and which ones the monarchs like best. Although the milkweed weevils were devasting to the milkweed seedpods, I was able to collect seed for next year.
2012 Monarch Study: Due to a warm winter, the milkweed leaves started to sprout at the end of February! Squishing milkweed weevils early in the season limited their damage to the seedpods and plants. The monarchs showed preferrances for narrowleaf (A. fascicularis) and tropical (A. curassavica) milkweeds along with my Chimney and Milkweed Gardens.
2013 Monarch Study: Has started with the appearance of milkweed on 4/7/13!
In 2010 we expanded our lep study to other butterflies and moths, which you can read about on the Other Butterflies & Bugs page. We frequently raise black swallowtails and spicebush swallowtails, but have also raised (or tried to raise) IO moths, a hickory horned devil, questions marks, sulphur butterflies, luna moths and more. Occassionally we have raised other insects such as lady bugs.
In the fall of 2012 Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) asked its members to submit their monarch stories to National Geograhic for their GeoStory project, which is an online teaching tool for K-12. Our story was selected to be a part of the US Citizen Scientist segment. On the GeoStory page, you can view our monarch story by clicking on Start GeoStory or clicking on the balloon with our photo. Then click on our photo (top row, 3rd from the left) to go to our story, which was published in April 2013.
The photo to the left is the one used on National Geographic page. It shows us tagging a monarch after we checked it for the Oe parasite (you can see the microscope we use behind our hands). Usually Shane holds the monarch and I apply the tag.
Here is a sample of my original paintings where butterflies are the subject. All of these pieces have been sold. To see if there is any new butterfly original artwork, go to my Original Drawings and Paintings for Sale page.
My monarch butterfly photos and art can be purchased as prints or on merchandise from vendors and you can check the list on the Monarch Butterfly Items for Sale page. See my Realistic Photos and Prints pages for prints and merchandise of other butterflies, moths and insects.
These websites will give you more information on leps and lep items for sale. I have noted if I am involved with projects listed below or have purchased items from them. Sites may be listed more than once below and I have tried to make the landing page correspond to the category.
Monarch Monitoring Programs
Journey North Tracks the migration of a variety of species including monarchs. We participate in this program.
Monarch Watch Extensive biological information on monarchs. We get our tagging kits through this group and our yard is a certified Monarch Waystation. We have been tagging monarchs since 2008.
Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) We have participated in this watch program since 2008. Great info on monarchs.
Monarch Lab Various monarch projects developed at the University of Minnesota (MLMP is one of the projects).
Monarch Parasites.org Lots of info on monarch diseases. We have participated in their Project MonarchHealth since 2010.
Monarchs in Texas Monarchs are tracked by the Texas Parks and Wildlife department.
The Monarch Butterfly in North America put together by several US federal agencies to serve as a gateway for monarch news, education and info.
North American Butterfly Association NABA tracks all the butterflies.
Southwest Monarch Study Do monarchs from Arizona migrate? This study probes that question.
Wisconsin Milkweed Ozone Study Studying milkweed helps to monitor ozone damage.
Monarchs Across Georgia Projects for people from the state of Georgia.
Eggs, Larvae, Pupae and Butterflies for Sale
The USDA restricts the sale of monarchs east and west of the Rockies due to aphids and I will mention this if I see it listed on the site. Be prepared to pay for overnight shipping -- live organisms often ship this way.
Monarch Magic Larvae kit. Ships east of the Rockies.
Monarch Store From the University of Minnesota. Eggs and larvae for sale.
Butterflybushes.com You can purchase eggs and caterpillars from this website. Ships to certain states east of the Rockies.
Educational Science You can purchase eggs, caterpillars, and butterflies from this website. They also sell special monarch food and a disinfectant for disease problems. Ships to the continental US.
Live Monarchs You can purchase eggs, caterpillars, and butterflies from this website east of the Rockies. They have a partner in CA that sometimes is able to ship west of the Rockies.
Monarch Watch Caterpillars ship east of the Rockies.
Peg’s Basketry Silk moth pupae and eggs. We have ordered luna moth eggs from them.
Butterflies Etc. Eggs, larvae, chrysalises and butterflies. Ships east of the Rockies.
Association for Butterflies Want to try your hand at butterfly farming? You should read through this site. Butterflies are very time consuming and require 24/7 care even if you are doing it for fun (which is what I do). If you want to do it for profit, then you will need special permits in addition to the right environment and equipment.
Butterfly Workx Butterflies for sale as well as pupae, eggs, caterpillars, rearing kits, and silk moths.
Whispering Wings Farm Butterflies for sale.
Milkweed Seeds and Plants for Sale
The Milkweed ID & Sales page lists what seeds I have for sale and also lists other vendors for milkweed seeds and plants.
Monarch Monitoring/Rearing Supplies and Gifts for Sale
Monarch Butterfly Items for Sale Check out my monarch photos that are available as posters, archival prints and on merchandise from Imagekind, Cafe Press, Zazzle and Fine Art America. Includes posters and products on the life cycle of the monarch. For original artwork, check out my Original Paintings and Drawings for Sale page.
Monarch Store Books, teaching materials, workshops, monitoring materials and more from the University of Minnesota.
Butterflybushes.com Jewelry, garden decor, and rearing kits.
Educational Science Teaching materials, gifts, books, videos, equipment for raising monarchs, scientific equipment, artificial monarch food and more.
Milkweed Farm Books, videos, stuff for raising butterflies.
Monarch Watch Books, cloths, gardening, gifts, artificial monarch food and tags.
Insect Lore Shop Painted lady kits, kids toys.
Butterfly & Nature Gifts Store Lots of great kids stuff.
Butterfly Workx Butterflies for sale as well as pupae, eggs, caterpillars, rearing kits, and silk moths.
Butterfly and Bug Books
As you start looking for monarchs, you will find other eggs, caterpillars and insects and find yourself wondering what they are. So, I am going to list the books that we use instead of an exhaustive list on monarchs or other insects. I love having a bunch of refence books available, as you can see. The more photos and illustrations, the better. You should be able to find these at some of the stores listed above (under Monarch Monitoring/Rearing Supplies and Gifts for Sale), Amazon, eBay or through your local bookstore.
600 Butterflies & Moths by W. F. Kirby. Originally this book was printed in 1882 in London. It was reprinted in 2007 by Dover Publications, Inc. Being an artist, I love looking at old illustrations and these are beautifully reproduced. Kirby drew a collection of butterflies and moths in various stages on a plant. Each is numbered and in the back of the book it tells you the scientific names.
The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies by the National Audubon Society. This has been our butterfly Bible. Great descriptions and butterfly photos. Only has a few egg and caterpillar photos.
Butterflies and Moths a Golden Guide by Robert Mitchell and Herbert S. Zim. Concise little pocket guide with illustrations of butterflies, moths and caterpillars.
The Butterflies of North America A Natural History and Field Guide by James A. Scott. Well, it is large and I would not want to drag it on a hike (there are pocket guides that work well for that). However, this does have exhaustive info on butterflies, including location maps. Some egg, larva and pupa photos. TONS of butterfly photos that compare open/closed wing and male/female of many butterflies. If you are obcessive about identifying butterflies, this is a must have. You should be able to get it for $20-40 used. I have seen it listed for $500+ -- that is highway robbery!
Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner. Oooooh, such nice photos of caterpillars of all sorts of butterflies and moths! Great info too. This helped us to identify our trumpet vine sphinx caterpillar. Shows photos of the caterpillar and then the adult. This is a must have book!
Eyewitness Books Butterfly & Moth by Paul Walley. Beautifully laid out kid’s book. Gorgeous photos and illustrations with descriptive text which introduce kids to the life cycle of butterflies and moths. A handful of different leps are identified from around the world. Geared towards the 8-10 year old age group. I prefer this book over the Eyewitness Explorer book listed below.
Eyewitness Explorers Butterflies and Moths by John Feltwell. Similar to the above book but shorter and geared towards younger kids. Does not have a lep species ID section.
The Family Butterfly Book by Rick Mikula. I almost did not get this book, but I am glad that I did. Whether or not you are raising butterflies as a family hobby/science project, this is a great book to have. Easy reading, humorous, packed with helpful info, lure and photos on raising butterflies. Some kids projects included. It also shows you how to hand mate butterflies . . . I think I’ll leave that to Mother Nature.
Flandex Family Field Guides Butterflies of the World by Rick Mikula. This unique fan-style guide is a quick reference that has interesting facts, lure and photos. A gift from my sister to Shane.
Milkweed, Monarchs and More by Ba Rea, Karen Oberhauser and Michael A. Quinn. This is a must have. I have the enlarged and updated 2nd edition. This book will help you identify the bugs in your milkweed patch and their role in the ecosystem. Lots of photos. It helped me identify the milkweed weevils that destroyed most of my milkweed seed pods in 2011.
National Audubon Society Pocket Guide Familiar Butterflies of North America by Richard K. Walton. Small enough to take on a hike. In most cases, it shows the open and closed wing photos of the common butterflies and gives you a quick description. Nice photos.
Peterson First Guides Butterflies and Moths by Paul A. Opler. This also is meant to be a quick reference if you are on a hike. This book has illustrations of butterflies and moths. There are some open/closed wing and male/female comparisions.
Take-Along Guide Caterpillars, Bugs and Butterflies by Mel Boring. My sister gave this book to Shane when he was 6, and he was able to use it to identify the 1st monarch caterpillar that started our adventure with monarchs. Nice illustrations and info to introduce kids to the world of bugs.
Tracks & Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates by Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney. Great photos and info. If you asking yourself, "What is this bump or track or spot on the leaf?" this book may help. Organized by the type of track left (eg: egg, burrow, gall, etc.).
The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw. Large book, which is similar to the book above, but organized by the type of insect (eg: leaf chewer, sap sucker, pollinator, etc.).
The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies Beautiful film by Nova which traces the life cycle of the monarch from Canada to Mexico. Available from PBS (the link is to PBS) and Amazon. We have a copy of this.
Monarch Enthusiast and Info Websites
Butterflies and Wildlife.com Blog on Monarchs, butterfly gardening, birds and more in Houston, Texas. Great photos and videos.
NY Site. More info on monarchs.
My Monarch Guide Info on raising monarchs.
Monarch Journey Info on monarchs.
Monarchs & Migration Monarchs and the mystery of migration.
General Lepidoptera Websites
Pro Flowers Not only do they sell lovely bouquets (my hubby has ordered from them), but they also have nice info on butterflies.
How to Make Butterfly Gardens from the Kentucky College of Agriculture.
Prairie Frontier A nifty butterfly guide.
Discover Life Got a caterpillar you are trying to identify? This nifty web tool may help!
Actias luna: Eggs to Adult Moths A Beginner’s Guide by Bill Oehlke from Canada. If you wish to raise luna moths, this is a must read. They are not raised like butterflies -- no air holes in the containers.
Collecting and Preserving Insects by Jeffrey Hahn. Info on how to properly collect, preserve and mount your specimen.