From barely noticeable caterpillar to one of nature’s most beautiful creatures.
Monarch Butterflies have long been a popular and famous insect. Their image is used everywhere from GMO free food labels to makeup ads. And, just a couple of months ago President Obama met with the Canadian Prime Minister and Mexican President to discuss how these three countries can save the monarch. With seven states including Vermont calling it their state insect, it’s a wonder how we’ve let the monarch butterfly population reach the endangered zone.
A magnificent creature, the monarch starts out as the tiniest of caterpillars no bigger than the size of a pinhead. Given enough milkweed, the only plant they eat, the caterpillar will grow and grow until it’s a little over an inch long. When it’s ready, it will start the process of turning into a chrysalis. A quick transformation that you don’t want to miss. Once in the chrysalis, the monarch will grow for 1-2 weeks before emerging as the beautiful butterfly we’ve all come to know and love.
If you’ve been tracking our work, you know the monarch population has dropped 90% in the last 25 years. That’s a shocking number in such a short time. Monarchs are one of our most beautiful pollinators and if we’re now just noticing on a large scale how serious their decline is, what are we going to do about the lesser known and less popular pollinators? That’s why we’ve taken the task of growing milkweed, adopting caterpillars and partnering with Jose Luis Alvarez and Francois Simard so seriously.
You may have noticed I said adopt. You read correctly! We adopted about 40 caterpillars and even found one in our milkweed patch at our showroom. They range in size and while not all of them will make it, we’re excited to be raising some of the monarch superstars that will make their way back to Mexico come Fall.
But, isn’t that shocking. We only found one monarch caterpillar in our entire milkweed patch. I think we can all remember growing up and seeing monarchs everywhere. Now they’ve become as elusive as Big Foot. You think you saw something orange fly by, but are you sure it was a monarch?
At the end of August, we’re excited to be taking our story and the monarchs on the road with monarch habitat expert Jose Luis Alvarez. Alvarez is joining us all the way from Michoacan, Mexico, where the monarch butterfly over-winters every year. We’ll be traveling to Boston, Burlington, Connecticut and Philadelphia.
I never imagined myself being a mini-expert on the monarch butterfly and its plight, but once I learned how complex their migration is and how we as individuals have caused their population to decline so drastically I was immediately motivated to help the cause. You can help in many ways, from not mowing your yard as much, planting milkweed near gardens, donating to causes like Forests For Monarchs (Jose’s NPO that works to reforest the disappearing winter habitat for monarchs in Mexico), and you can write to your local town, county and state representatives to ask them to limit highway mowing, allocate funds for public butterfly gardens and more.
Have you been lucky enough to spot a monarch in New England this summer? Let me know!
This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.