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by Tony Gomez

2 years ago

Raising Book Resources

Raising Hope for the 2020 Migration- Raise the Migration Results


Share Your Raise The Migration 2020 Experience in a Comment Below

2 years ago

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By Tony Gomez

Raise the Migration 2020- Share Your Raising Butterflies Experience

by Tony Gomez

2 years ago

Raise The Migration is an annual North American challenge to raise monarch butterflies to release for fall’s annual monarch migration. The time has come to share your 2020 experience and raise it forward…

Raise the Migration 2020- Share Your Raising Monarch Butterflies Experience

The raising season is coming to an end, so we’d love to hear how many butterflies you released for fall’s annual 2020 monarch migration…and more importantly, what lessons you’ve learned through this amazing raising experience?

If you’ve still got some raising to do, raise on! But please post in the comment box at the bottom of this page after you’ve released your last butterfly.

Every year, I start Raise The Migration in early August, but monarchs raised at that time aren’t actually migration generation butterflies…they’re actually the parents to that amazing generation of travelers.

There’s no way to tell whether butterflies will mate or migrate, but one telltale sign of a migration generation butterfly is its size, which is dependent on how much the caterpillar eats. The first super-sized caterpillars start to form chrysalides around the first week of September in our northern region…

In the garden, you can tell non-migratory butterflies by their worn out wings. Non-migratory males are also more aggressive, chasing off potential competition while seeking out female companionship…migratory monarchs are in sexual diapause and only interested in stocking up on nectar for the long journey ahead.

So how did our Raise The Migration Monarchs fare this season and what lessons did we learn raising forward?

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If you’re interested in a step-by-step guide digital guide with free updates (before each monarch season begins in spring) please check out the monarch raising guide by clicking this butterfly photo:

Raising Monarch Butterflies Book

For anyone who purchases the guide (or any other item) from Monarch Butterfly Life, you will be invited to our closed facebook group where you can discuss raising monarchs with other raisers and post your photos.

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Here are Raise the Migration results from the past seven seasons:

2019- 81% survival rate

2018- 93% survival rate

2017- 100% survival rate

2016- 96% survial rate

2015- 96% survival rate

2014- 90% survival rate

2013- 100% survival rate

As you can see from the results, this raising system is consistently producing healthy monarchs to help support the struggling monarch population.


Raise The Migration 2020 Results

I am counting our 2020 migration generation as all butterflies that eclosed September 1st and after.


Caterpillar Escapes

Since using food container hatcheries for eggs and baby caterpillars, this has helped us to easily keep track of the wee cats until they can be placed in the larger mesh cages. We have not lost a caterpillar for years...


Unexplained Caterpillar Deaths

None to report in 2020


Caterpillar Diseases and Parasites?

There were no caterpillar disease issues to report in 2020. Check out a pre and post molt of one caterpillar graduating from instar 3 to instar 4:

A Monarch Caterpillar is about to molt with protruding face cap
BEFORE
A Monarch Caterpillar After Shedding its skin and face cap
AFTER

Accidental Deaths?

There have been two accidental deaths this year...seems fitting for 2020. 🙃

1. This was an odd fluke that happened in an egg hatchery. There was one container with two eggs that looked like they might have fungus issues from the leaves I found them on.

After monitoring, I thought one of the eggs had succumbed to a rust-like fungus that was growing around it. Little did I know, the caterpillar had hatched and crawled under the paper towel that lined the hatchery....there was even a fresh milkweed leaf under the fungusy leaf piece.

This has never happened before so I was shocked to find the dead baby cat as I cleared out the hatchery.

2. On a cold morning in the 3-season porch (low was 40° F), I picked up the floral tube/racks (with milkweed and caterpillars) and walked it into the kitchen without using the boot tray. Two of the cold, lethargic caterpillars fell to the floor. I rescued one...and stepped on the other. 😔

Chrysalis Problems

Chrysalis formation was perfect this season. I conducted 6 removing/rehanging experiments this year: 3 chrysalides hung up with pins, 2 hung up on a microfiber cloth, and 1 taped to the floor:

6 Monarch Chrysalides Rehung- Raise The Migration Experiment

All 6 butterflies eclosed with no issues and the butterflies were released to join the 2020 monarch migration. The last male emerged Sunday October 11th, and was released on Monday October 12th:

6 Monarch Chrysalides Rehung- Raise The Migration Results

Butterfly Eclosures

All butterflies emerged from their monarch chrysalises without issue.

Final Results

2 accidental deaths

0 disease or parasite issues

0 unexplained death

4 healthy males

5 healthy females

82% survival rate


Lessons Learned?

Of the two caterpillar accidents that occurred this season, one was a fluke that will likely never happen again.

However, the 'stepping' accident could have been easily avoided if I would have just followed my own advice for caterpillar safety. If moving caterpillars outside of the cage, place them on a boot tray so they will never fall on the floor.

I also learned that keeping chrysalides in the 3 season porch at night (during the fall) is a bad idea for our northern region. Cool night time temps slowed down metamorphosis by at least a week, meaning the excellent window I had to release butterflies in warm weather, quickly shrunk to just a few days.

The chrysalises get plenty of exposure to natural lighting and temperatures during the day through open windows. If these monarchs would have been left to fend for themselves outside, their wintry fate would have been sealed...🥶

Also, my preferred way of rehanging chrysalides is pinning the silk to the top of the cage. Really though, all 3 methods work well, so do what you're most comfortable with when you need to rehang a chrysalis.


August 2020 Migration Memory

And now, here’s the part I’m most excited about…hearing about all the valuable lessons you learned raising monarchs over the past few weeks!

Share Your Results?!

Please share your results below by letting us know how many monarchs you released to help boost the struggling monarch population…remember to include your location.

More importantly, please share the most valuable lesson(s) you learned about raising monarch butterflies, that you believe can help others raising forward.

Thank you for helping to Raise the Migration in 2020

348 comments


  • From Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This is my 2nd year raising monarchs. In 2021, I raised and released 18 total, the first monarch eclosing 8/26/21 and the last 10/16/21. THIS YEAR, my first monarch eclosed 7/31/22 and the last 10/20/22 and a grand total of 103 healthy monarchs! I collect the leaves w/eggs soon after they are laid, starting in the plastic containers on moist paper towels inside a baby cube to keep insects out. When they get larger, I move them to the big cube with stems of milkweed in the tubes OR in a glass bottle. The lid from the top of the tubes supplied by Tony actually fit over antique glass bottles that I have. It allows a lot more water in the container so I’m not constantly filling it up. Paper towels line all cages and I clean them twice daily. I also bought the keyboard vac which is a huge help with all the poops. Boy these guys can sure poop! This year I had a problem in that many of the cats formed a chrysalis on the milkweed leaf, which would eventually die and fall off. I devised a great system to take the leaf, cut part of it off to make a small rectangle which I would wrap around a stick I collected and secure with gardening wire on both sides. I wish I could post a photo, but I will go on the Facebook page and do it. I keep all the cages outside under a retractable awning that we leave open day and night. Unless we get really bad or windy weather that will automatically close the awning, then I move my operation inside until the weather passes. I had 3 caterpillars die, instar 2 and 3, I don’t know why. I had one black chrysalis that after several days never hatched so I disposed of it. But everyone else turned out healthy. Common milkweed is their definite favorite host, but a close second is swamp milkweed. I have tons of swamp milkweed so that was good. I had a lot of orange butterfly weed too, but they barely touched it.
    It was a lot of work for sure, I am a full time Realtor on Cape Cod and super busy so this took any free time I had, but well worth the effort. The local weekly newspaper in town got wind of what I was doing and did a feature on me which was super cool. A lot of people read it and asked me for info and milkweed seeds so any publicity you can drum up is helpful towards saving the monarchs. Most towns have a weekly paper, right? Let them know what you are doing and invite them to come see it in process. Anyway that is my story for 2022, had a great Summer and looking forward to next year!

    Lori Jurkowski on

  • I found a total of 58 caterpillars this year, compared to 6 last year. I released 45, had one deformed butterfly, 2 died, and the rest are still hanging in their chrysalides. I had many of them make their chrysalis on leaves and I moved them to a repurposed jewelry tree that worked well. It is now October 20 and it is starting to getting cold, I do not know if they will elcose in time to leave or if they are infected. I will wait and see.

    Susan Spelman on

  • We don’t have anywhere inside to raise butterflies but I do plant tons of milkweed and have butterfly bushes, zinnias and cosmos. Over the years, I am learning to plant milkweed in stages because by September there are hundreds of hungry caterpillars with no food if I don’t plant that way. We used to have a lot of wild milkweed in fields but uninformed people like to kill it. Every year we have well over 100 caterpillars and butterflies. Since they are outside, it’s hard to keep count. If I knew about monarchs growing up, my life would have taken a much different path. I love doing this!

    Sally Cochrane on

  • I released 152 butterflies from Feb. through Sept. this year. (Yes I actually had caterpillars in Jan. & butterflies in Feb.! Very shocking to me even though I live in southern Calif.) My success rate was not good due to the tachinid flies infecting too many of the caterpillars. 4 of the 331 caterpillar deaths were due to mishaps (one drowned in a small puddle of water in the cage, 1 was squished by a falling flower tube & one that I accidentally stepped on.

    I had 8 butterflies that died after eclosing due to malformed bodies.

    I’m still trying to find a good way to keep the flies away from the milkweed. Last year I had fly traps which helped but it sometimes seemed that the traps brought more flies than not having traps. (The traps were on the opposite side of the yard from the milkweed.) This year I didn’t use the traps but I made sure to check the plants at least twice a day to look for the caterpillars. Hopefully I’ll have better luck next year.

    Cathy West on

  • 2 Oct 21
    2021 Raise the Migration Report
    George Slama, South Yarmouth, MA Cape Cod

    Healthy Males Healthy Females Healthy Total Deaths TOTALS Survival Rate
    Gen 3 8 Jul 21 – 18 Aug 21 19 26 45 2 47
    Gen 4 8 Aug 21 – 25 Sep 21 24 31 45 4 48
    Totals 43 57 90 6 96 93.3%
    Final Results
    accidental deaths 1 part of wing caught in chrysalis, malformed
    disease or parasite issues 5 2 instar diseased, 1 partially formed chrysalis,
    Totals 6 2 black chrysalis
    Raising the Migration – Trends
    2017 5
    2018 153 + 306%
    2019 45 – 345%
    2020 54 + 23%
    2021 90 + 67%
    GOAL: Reduce deaths from falls during butterfly emerging at top of cage.
    RESULTS: 0 Deaths in 2021.
    Several days after a chrysalis was formed, I moved them from the top of the cage and created a “chrysalis tree”. I would double up sewing thread and create a loop and slip it over the chrysalis and gently tighten. I would then add another knot. I would gingerly loosen the silk around the chrysalis anchor with a pointed implement. Once removed, I would add a few more knots, incorporating the silk in the knot. Then add the glorious structure to the tree staggering them so they do not get wet when a butterfly above it emerges.
    See y’all next year.

    Be Safe-
    George

    PS Tony, how do I upload several associated photos for my post?
    George Slama on

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