By Nicole Hamilton
For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been raising and releasing butterflies, primarily Monarch butterflies but sometimes a swallowtail or other friend will come under my care and observation as well.
I started this when I first saw a Monarch caterpillar transform from caterpillar to chrysalis and was fascinated by what was happening. All the years (and butterfly transformations) later, I’m still in awe by what happens, and it’s nice to be a part of it.
If you planted a Monarch Waystation last fall (or have a nice robust garden with host plants that butterflies will come to), you might want to give a go at raising and releasing a butterfly or two this year.
Having the host plant (the plant that the caterpillar eats as it matures) is critical – caterpillars eat a lot and you don’t want to run out. The host plant is unique to the butterfly you are raising so keep that in mind too. Our Gardening for Wildlife Plantlist provides information on host plants for Loudoun butterflies.
Here is a link to the fairly new Raising Butterflies website. It provides some very detailed and useful information and techniques for rearing butterflies. While the focus is on western U.S. butterflies, many of the species and techniques are applicable to the east.