You might be wondering why this topic is on my blog because I am a therapist, mentor/coach, but not a National Geographic scientist.
While I will tell you how I began the journey, let me tell you why this is important for your psyche.
In general, a butterfly is one of the most well-known visuals and symbols for transformation in all areas of psychology, therapy, and self-help.
The monarch teaches us that life is fragile, short, and valuable.
It teaches us that the transitions we go through are not always easy but always bring us to a new level of life, giving us a new lens to view life.
The larvae begin helpless and minuscule- almost any other insect towers over it, even some ants.
Through time, it becomes an insatiably hungry caterpillar, with markings to protect it and filled with poisonous milkweed protection. Don’t we all have stress and memories inside of us that we protect ourselves?
Then, they need to isolate and work on themselves in their cocoon, similar to our need to process and grow; both the butterfly and ourselves emerge from the darkness, spread our wings, and enjoy a healed, ever-transforming life. The journey is not over for them or us; we will have battles and struggles.
The Monarch, now with expansive wings, can view the world not as a tiny, vulnerable larva but as a free butterfly. We see the world differently, with more freedom and peace when we heal.
I have a home office that is separate from my home and has garden access. I used to take clients, weather and season permitting, to the butterfly house my husband constructed for me; let me tell you, it was tough for someone to be depressed or anxious with butterflies landing on them.
It is almost a meditation raising the Monarch. Every step of the process requires mindfulness. Those memories over many summers were some of my fondest mindful moments.
How it began
Monarch butterflies are often on the edge of extinction. For those of you who do not know, I’ve been an avid Monarch advocate since 2013.
I viewed a sobering documentary on the Monarch Butterfly that left me powerless and empowered; I knew I needed to do something.
For me, that something was learning as much as I could about the Monarch. I began with raising six larvae for release; then, it became exhilarating and a passion, perhaps even a bit of a summer obsession, to rear as many Monarchs as possible.
I looked at the world around me differently; why didn’t more parks have milkweed at their edges? Why are we as a society obsessed with clearing every landscape into a flat space with no wildness?
I ended up becoming so serious about my Monarch research that two of my butterflies were sent into space, via NASA, for research; while I see the value in research, I would never do that again as now I am also a much more educated vegan. (They were returned to earth and released as a sidebar).
I encourage you to begin in some way the rearing of the Monarch butterfly. If not rearing directly, then indirect planting and gardening will help.
How to begin saving the Monarch
An excellent start to begin rearing Monarchs is to have a story habitat. You’ll need something tell enough to have milkweed in it; I had a walk-in habitat for years but opt for this one now, as I can move it quickly. This one is large enough for about 40 larvae/caterpillars and offers side door opening; unlike some that are more flimsy and cheaper, this one has some strength to it so you never worry about safety.
You’ll need milkweed for the larvae, caterpillars, and nectar-rich flowers for the butterflies. If you are just starting, this great pouch includes milkweed, echinacea, and other flowers. It is GMO-free, organic, heirloom quality, and natural. These are essential considerations when raising your Monarchs.
More than anything, research is vital. Here are some books I recommend.
Monarch Butterfly Books
This is a seasonal labor of love; for year-long love and inspiration, here are items I hope you’ll enjoy.
If you are not there already, I’ve begun a Facebook Group (please join if you want to learn more and connect with others). Happy Monarching!