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Halton Hills Monarch Butterflies Rearing Young for a Species at Risk

Halton Hills Monarch Butterflies rearing young for a species at risk

This is Samantha Anne Popp's third year raising monarch butterflies, but the first year she's going for big numbers. “I've got 40 eggs, 60 caterpillars and 15 chrysalises,” she said. “My goal is to release 100 monarchs this year, and I should have no problem reaching that.”

The Acton resident has also got one sibling and several friends hatching Monarchs from egg to adult. The Facebook group she started three weeks ago now has 42 members and lots of keen interest. “I've probably got 20 people raising them. This thing has blown up”, said Popp. “I've got people I don't know coming to my house so I can give them lessons.”

Most folks are familiar with the orange and black-winged insects who make an incredible 4,500 km journey from Canada and the north-eastern States to their wintering range, a mountain forest in central Mexico. “I've actually got a permit from the Toronto Entomologists' Association,” said Popp. “It's not enforced but you need a permit in Ontario if you want to rear more than one individual butterfly. My permit also allows me to raise swallowtail butterflies.”

Popp got involved with Monarchs because she heard they were a species at risk, and recently some organizations have put them on the endangered species list. “Only one in a hundred monarchs will make it from caterpillar to adult. Their numbers are up a bit from a few years ago but they are still struggling. It takes four generations for them to get back here. The monarchs I release in September and October will instinctively fly to Mexico,” she said.

Popp goes out hunting for caterpillars and eggs on milkweed patches in the surrounding area. The insects feed on milkweed and every few days she collects fresh leaves for her nursery. “I've got milkweed growing in buckets and pollinator plants in my garden. My house has been designated a way station by The eggs and caterpillars are raised in special mesh enclosures to keep them safe from predators,” she said.

Popp also tags her Monarchs with a tiny tag, part of a program run by Recently she found one with a crumpled wing and completed her first ever wing transplant. “ I fed her watermelon for two days so she could build up some strength. I used a wing from another butterfly that had passed away.”

Popp carefully cut off the crumpled wing leaving a stump so there was enough left to attach the replacement wing. She used contact cement and a drop of super glue to finish the transplant. “I took her outside this morning to see if she could now fly and she took off!”

Members of Halton Hills Monarch Butterflies have been posting pictures of these amazing creatures going through their metamorphoses. “Rearing monarchs is a truly rewarding and heartwarming experience, it's a feeling of accomplishment,” added Popp. Your heart feels full every time you rear one and let it go. My kids are amazed by it and love watching them grow.”


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