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by Tony Gomez

3 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

3 years ago

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By Tony Gomez

Raise the Migration 2020- Share Your Raising Butterflies Experience

by Tony Gomez

3 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


  • I have released only 16 monarchs so far. I have some late ones in progress. Two crystallized and one 4th instar caterpillars are being kept indoors. The milkweed is done in Ohio by early October, so I have been raising them on pumpkin and dried milkweed leaves. I am concerned about how they will find food when these are released.

    Our large milkweed patch got compromised in the spring. I believe a neighbor’s spraying of his flower bed with insecticide spread to our milkweed. No butterfly would even land on it until late August. That is why my count is so low this year.

    Sharing information with neighbors might prevent this in the future.

    Gail Ruminski on

  • Hello from South Yarmouth on Cape Cod,
    The last of our 57 monarchs (28 female-29 male), a beautiful, healthy female was released on October 17th, a month later than 2019. She did not linger and I hoped that she had a speedy trip south to find nectar.

    This raising season was odd from the beginning. There was a noticeable lack of monarchs in the pollinator garden from late June to mid-July. This was evidenced in the following statistics:
    - Eggs Harvested: 53 in July, 94 in August and 9 in September.
    - Monarchs Released: July 0, August 39, Sept 15, Oct 3.

    Overall I released 13 more monarchs than in 2019 (44) with a survival rate of 90%. One final statistical observation: Eggs collected =156 ; Monarchs released = 57 for a conversion ratio of 37% compared to 44% in 2019.

    I am curious if others have had similar conversion ratio? I did not see evidence of disease on the leaves that the eggs were laid on as they incubated? Do females lay unfertilized eggs?
    So, until the growing season of 2021, stay safe and healthy!

    All the Best,
    George

    George Slama on

  • Bettendorf, Iowa

    This has indeed been a strange year. Our first Monarchs laying eggs arrived May 27, but in small numbers providing only 13 butterflies by the end of June. More Monarchs appeared at the end of June and what appeared to be a normal summer began. Unfortunately the first of two death events occurred in mid-late July. the combined impact of this and another in mid-late August resulted in the loss of over 100 cats. It was pretty obvious poisoning, likely from spray drift, but we could not be certain.
    Never-the-less we have released 404 total this season: 192 males and 212 females. Our totals for late season were:
    8/16-31 – 67 males, 80 females
    9/1-26 – 59 males, 57 females
    10/21-22 – 14 males, 16 females
    This late season release resulted from at least two females depositing at least 47 eggs that we collected in mid-late September.
    Lessons learned: 1) Beware of spray drift from adjoining properties; ; 2) Be certain of the viability of food sources; 3) Don’t get eggs if you can feed the cats.
    Finally, be mindful some of the recent research that suggests negative impacts of raising Monarchs in conditions that do not mimic outdoor temperature and light conditions.
    P.S. We still have two late eclosures and two more on the way for November 1. We hope that they can migrate.

    Karen and Will Collier on

  • My goal as a newbie was to raise 50 monarchs. I was beyond thrilled to see my final count was 401!! I even got to share the awesome experience with not only my family, but also my neighbors who showed interest, my first graders, and other teachers who wanted to do it in their own classrooms. I also released 4 swallowtails and 1 Luna moth. I have 4 swallowtails that (I assume) will be overwintering as well as a tomato hornworm and a giant woolly bear!

    Jenna on

  • Today, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 I released my last monarch, a male. I rescued him as an egg. It was so sad to end the season so I wrote a Haiku.
    Monarchs float and soar,
    Dreams of roosts in Mexico,
    On wings and a prayer.
    This was my 2nd year as a mother of monarchs. I released about 35 males and females as opposed to my 8 last year. I had caterpillars forming their chrysalides all over the place; on the milkweed tubes, on the tube stands, on the plastic of the cage, and on the milkweed themselves. I had a few fall to the cage floor and some developed wrinkled wings; not flying wings. I learned that I should have pinned the fallen ones to the mesh of the cage. At the peak of my caterpillar numbers cleaning house was getting to be quite a chore. Although I have 2 poo poo platters I think in the future I should line the cage floor with paper towels as well. I definitely will grow more milkweed next year. I had just enough to feed my last one.
    When this pandemic is over I would like to invite school children to my gardens to teach them about monarchs. I am a retired teacher and I so miss the children.

    Patricia Buckley on

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