AMES, Iowa – Monarch butterflies receive a great deal of attention these days. While children chase the vibrant orange-black fluttering across yards and gardens, adults are paying attention and taking actions to increase milkweed stands and native plantings in hopes of rebuilding monarch populations. By taking this attentiveness one step further and rearing monarchs, adults may encourage a child’s interest in science.
Laura Jesse Iles became fascinated with monarch butterflies as a child, an attraction that inspired her lifelong interest in insects and nature and led her to becoming an entomologist. She retains a fondness for monarchs, and eagerly encourages others to share in the marvels of the transformation from egg to butterfly.
“Monarchs are one of the most recognizable butterfly species in the U.S.,” said Iles. “They are really great for kids to rear because it is easy to find eggs and caterpillar food. Kids get to experience the marvelous transformation from tiny eggs to an adult butterfly that they release and watch fly away.”
Iles, an entomologist and director of the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic at Iowa State University, recently recorded a series of five videos where she walks viewers through the steps of rearing and releasing monarchs. She begins by sharing where to find and how to collect eggs – which is only possible if milkweed is present.
“Rearing monarchs is a great thing to do with kids. It’s not a lot of work since the caterpillar knows what to do. All you’re doing is giving it fresh food every day,” said Iles. “As long as you have milkweed nearby, feed it every day, keep the cage clean – it’ll transform from an egg to a butterfly before your eyes.”
Iles describes the life cycle of the monarch, shares tips on types and care of cages and tells how to release the butterflies in 3-minute to 4-minute videos produced by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
How to Raise Monarch Butterflies
1. Collecting Eggs
2. Choosing Containers
3. Life Cycle and Caterpillar Care
PHOTO: Laura Iles collecting monarch eggs from milkweed plants.
Audio files are available: For use in 2019
Transcript. Monarchs Quote 1 from Laura Iles: "Monarchs are one of the most recognizable butterflies that we have. They are really great to rear for kids because it’s so easy to find eggs, to find the food and to rear them inside to get the kind of experience, that marvelous transformation from egg to an adult butterfly that you can actually release."
Transcript. Monarchs Quote 2 from Laura Iles: "Rearing monarchs is a great thing to do with your kids. It’s really not a ton of work, um, the caterpillar really knows what to do. So, all you’re really doing is giving it fresh food every day. As long as you have milkweed nearby or a nice neighbor nearby who’ll let you take their milkweed, feed them every day, keep that cage relatively clean – it will transform from an egg to a butterfly before your eyes."