Last Thursday, Meadow View Growers, just south of New Carlisle, released monarch butterflies from their butterfly house. As you may know, Meadow View is a designated Monarch Waystation in the global endeavor to help this species not only survive but increase in numbers.
The butterfly house is a wooden structured greenhouse that contains everything butterflies need to grow and produce generations to come. Or in this case, go. Once released these monarchs will begin a journey of thousands of miles to winter hibernation and breeding grounds as far south as Mexico.
On release day, mesh netting covering the entire south side is rolled back, opening up to the wide outdoors. On the north side, both the human entrance and exit screen doors are taken off their hinges, creating more flight space and a current of air by which the butterflies can dry their newly hatched wings and pick up an upward draft to carry them to stronger sunlight and the great outdoors.
Last Thursday’s weather was cloudy, damp, and cool with misty rain, so they didn’t make a break for the doors. Butterflies need a body temperature of 86 degrees to fly. We saw, what seemed to be, some shivering going on, but this is one way they can warm-up on cloudy days. Some were just emerging from their chrysalis, many hanging from the wooden frame-work like tiny twinkle lights at an evening get-together.
Old and young butterfly enthusiasts gathered for the 11 a.m. roll out and didn’t seem disappointed that the kings and queens of the butterfly world were slow to move. All the better to sit and watch. That’s a great thing about Meadow View. There are plenty of places to rest, watch the movement of insects, flowers, leaves, water and contemplate just what a marvelous gathering of beauty there is in this one spot.
Back to the monarchs. There are actually four generations of these butterflies each summer. After winter hibernation down south, eggs are laid on local milkweed. Eggs hatch, a larvae emerges. It will go through five stages of growth, eating and molting. Before pupation these larvae or caterpillar must consume lots of milkweed. Then, caterpillars spin a silk pad attached to a horizontal fixture, such as the wooden beams and wall frame in the butterfly house. It hangs upside down, sheds its skin and is left encased in a chrysalis. The adult butterfly forms and emerges about two weeks later. It must dry its wings, pump body fluid into them and only then can it expand and contract them. It’s up to the weather then. Wet, damp, cool and misty rain keeps them in place. Sunshine and a dry breeze stirs in them an urge to fly and forage on nectar plants such as numerous milkweed species, butterfly weed, crown flowers, asters, thistles, wild carrot, coneflowers, zinnias, goldenrod and more. The first three generations of butterflies live 2-6 weeks. The final one lives up to nine months. They are the ones that will migrate south for the winter and begin the generations next summer.
Connie’s personal note: Since the weather was less than optimum for watching these winged wonders take off on Thursday, we returned to the butterfly house on Friday. Sunshine and warm breezes brought the monarchs to life flying, feeding, drifting in and out of the house (mostly out). Newly formed caterpillars munched on milkweed leaves, stoking up for their time as a pupa. While there was movement all around us, we sat still, enjoying the sound of a pond waterfall, bees busy as only bees can be and a soft background of voices as customers strolled the grounds looking for pottery and plants.
Have you ever watched a butterfly glide? Have you ever felt those tiny feet settle on your arm? Have you ever been close enough to look them in the eye and see their tongue uncurl to sip a flower’s nectar?
As I have said before, there are just some things Google or a good book cannot give you. You need to be here, where the butterflies are. Some of them will still be here this week. They know a good thing when they see it.
Meadow View hours are Monday-Friday- 9 am to 6 pm. Saturday- 9 am to 5 pm. Butterflies and visitors welcome!