28 Apr Magical Monarchs
My name is Aaron Diament. I’m 12 years old and I have been raising monarch butterflies for 5 years to help increase their chances of survival. It all started when a friend of my family gave me a monarch chrysalis. After watching the butterfly emerge and releasing it, I wanted to know more about them. What I found out is that monarchs are incredible and unique, but they are in trouble.
The monarch butterfly is one of only a few insects that migrate. They may look fragile and weigh less than a paperclip, but they fly close to 3,000 miles to reach Ocampo, Mexico where they spend the winter. Plus, somehow they know how and when to get to Mexico even though it was their great-great-great-great grandparents that left Mexico to fly north in the spring. However, this miraculous migration is endangered!
There are many reasons why the migration is endangered. One is that the monarch’s host plant, which is Milkweed, is disappearing. Milkweed is the only plant that female monarchs will lay their eggs on and the only food that monarch caterpillars will eat. Climate change has also impacted the monarch population. One reason for this is that there has been an increase in severe storms. One storm in 2002 killed over 80% of the monarch population when it was hibernating in Mexico. Warmer weather in the fall has caused monarchs to start their migration south to Mexico a few weeks later than they used to. By starting their trip later, monarchs sometimes end up in the midwest too late when temperatures are already too cold for them to survive and they die before they reach Mexico.
I raise monarch butterflies to help increase the size of their population. By bringing monarch caterpillars inside away from predators and other dangers, I increase their chances of survival from 5% to 95%. I look for monarch eggs and caterpillars on milkweed in my yard and other areas near my home. I take care of them, and when they become butterflies, I release them.
The butterflies that emerge in the fall will fly all the way to Mexico. I tag those butterflies with a special circular sticker I get from Monarch Watch. The monarchs are tagged to help collect data for scientists to help answer questions that they still have about the monarch butterfly. It’s exciting to know that when I tag a monarch butterfly someone in Mexico or along the migration path might find my butterfly.
I enjoy bringing my monarchs to fairs and events where I set up a table and talk to kids and adults about monarchs and what they can do to help save the migration. For Earth Day this year, I also made a slide show presentation about monarchs that I presented at an assembly at my school. A few years ago in my town’s recreation center, I helped to create a monarch waystation and now I help to take care of it. A monarch waystation is a special garden that has milkweed for the monarch caterpillars and other plants with flowers that provide food for the butterflies.
There are so many interesting facts about monarchs! For example, caterpillars grow to 3,000 times their size in 2 weeks. If a human baby were to grow this fast, it would get as big as a bus! In the summer, monarch butterflies live 4 to 6 weeks, but the ones born in the fall live for 8 months, which is the equivalent of a person living for 1,000 years!
When I have butterflies to release, I often do it with friends so they can share the experience. I hope that more people will see the importance of the beautiful and amazing monarch butterfly and make a bigger effort to save them. You don’t have to raise monarch butterflies to help. Something as simple as planting milkweed along their migratory path can save hundreds or even thousands of butterflies. There are also many simple ways we can help reduce the impact of climate change, which will not only help monarchs but will be beneficial to our earth.
For more information on Monarch Butterflies, make sure to visit https://www.monarchwatch.org/
If you want to see more kids taking action, make sure to watch our film Save Tomorrow at https://www.youngvoicesfortheplanet.com/youth-climate-videos/save-tomorrow/