As you may know, Duke Farms celebrated August with Monarch and Meadow Month. Everything from events, classes, and social media highlighted the stunning glory of monarch butterflies and native meadow species; even our Discovery Cart and Book Nook were decked out with resources.
It was a joy to unite so many people through a shared appreciation for nature; educators, students, scientists, journalists, conservationists, and hobbyists alike came together to learn. Even our staff learned a thing or two about the importance of monarch butterflies; we had a entire staff Lunch and Learn on it! Now that it’s September and M&MM is over (but our Monarch Corner is still up!), we thought it would be fun to show you what we learned. It’s never too late to learn something new!
The Lunch and Learn was set up in stations; each station focused on a specific aspect of monarchs.
Mrs. Bird roleplaying a bee (the most common pollinator for milkweed) feeding on pollen (Anthony) as Laun observes
Mrs. Bird (Joanne Vogel) greeted us at the first station, where we learned about milkweed. There are many species in the milkweed family (Swamp, Common, Butterfly Weed, etc.) and each differs in size, color, and fragrance. However, all produce their pollen in waxy sacs called Pollinia. Milkweed is the only source of food for monarch caterpillars. They start munching on leaves from birth; they eat and eat and eat and can grow up to 12x in size!
Sam schooling us on monarch longevity
We gathered in the classroom to learn about the journey of the monarchs’ migration. Spanning three generations, each lasting four weeks, monarchs migrate north (towards us Jersey folk). However, the fourth generation is special because it migrates south towards Mexico; living 8x longer than their parents and grandparents (up to eight months) and traveling 10x farther. No wonder they’re called the monarch “super generation”! Once they arrive in Mexico, the super generation hunkers down in the Oyamel fir forest; resting in the 12 mountaintops for the winter.
Jeff guiding us through all stages of monarch growth
At the Monarch Corner, we spotted Jeff holding a container of monarch eggs. He discussed the life stages of monarchs; from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to monarch. Additionally, when a caterpillar’s skin is too small for its body, it molts. Intervals between molts are called instars; monarch caterpillars go through five instars. It takes 4 weeks to go from egg to butterfly.
Kathleen’s vibrant manicure rivals the gorgeous colors on a monarch
Alejandra and Shannon were waiting for us at the last station with a butterfly enclosure. Here, they introduced us to the tag and release process in which:
1. A small sticker with a unique ID code is carefully placed on the discal cell of a monarch's hindwing
2. Location, gender, and ID code is recorded
3. The monarch is released into the wild
We had a chance to witness the tag and release of three butterflies! Hopefully, later in the year, we can hear back from someone in Mexico who looked up the ID code of a super generation monarch; yes, it’s possible!
Like the way we felt about Monarch and Meadow Month, we never wanted this Lunch and Learn to end. Let’s continue to give the monarchs our well wishes and keep our fingers crossed that we hear from Mexico in a few months.
Bonus pics! We thought it was only fitting to show you Mrs. Bird’s very topical earrings for the occasion.
Thank you for celebrating monarchs with us!