Oak Learners founder, Kelly Farrell, first experienced the magic of raising monarchs as a student in Second Grade. Her teacher at the time, Ms. Thoeny, raised Monarchs in her classroom each year, introducing her students to the magical life cycle and migratory journey of these fascinating insects. As a teacher, Kelly has endeavoured to recreate this experience for her own students. Each summer, from July through September, Oak Learners has become the home to dozens of Monarch Caterpillars so that the children attending programs and members of the community can learn more about these beautiful and endangered insects.
Now a member and co-admin of the local “Lakeshore Moms Monarch Butterfly Facebook Group”, Kelly coordinates with other local moms and educators to advocate and raise awareness of the importance of nurturing native habitats and flowers for summer pollinators, like butterflies and bees. The group has even taken part in a citizen science project through Monarch Watch, to tag monarchs each fall to help with the gathering of migratory data that will eventually lead to more concentrated conservation efforts. Last year, the group together was responsible for rearing and releasing almost 300 monarch caterpillars; this year they hope to double that number.
Monarch Butterflies are beautiful but also represent one of the greatest mysteries of the insect world since for a very very long time, no one knew (or asked the question) what happened to the monarchs in the winter. Upon the discovery of their overwintering site in central Mexico, the investigations and conservation efforts to save this endangered insect have grown exponentially. With the growth in awareness of the importance of Monarchs to our crops, the interest in home-rearing these insects has grown too.
Raising monarch butterflies can be an exciting and rewarding activity for families and classrooms alike. There is so much to learn when you start exploring the world of insects, pollinators and eco-conservation. Despite the ease and popularity of raising monarchs, we must remember that first and foremost these are wild animals, sensitive to their environments and deserving of respect and consideration for their place in the circle of life. As such, it is important to be aware and mindfuln of accepted best-practices to guide your monarch discovery.
It’s quite simple to raise and release Monarch Butterflies since they require very little. In fact, the caterpillars will only eat Milkweed, thus only require fresh leaves to eat for the 10-14 days before they pupate. The caterpillars go through five stages of growth and this can be a fascinating process for little children to watch something grow so much in such a short time, not to mention the beauty of the chrysalis and the wonder of the butterfly at the end of the cycle.
We hope you enjoy observing or even raising and releasing Monarch Butterflies as much as we do! It’s something that every child should have the opportunity to participate in at some point in their education. The lessons learned from observing the natural world around are invaluable for children as they grow up to become the future conservators of our world.
Additiaonl links to reference for more Monarch Butterfly information and resources:
Monarch Watch – http://www.monarchwatch.org/
Journey North – https://journeynorth.org/
Monarch Joint Venture – https://monarchjointventure.org/
Canadian Geographic – https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/animal-facts-monarch-butterfly