This week we saw our first hard frost in New Jersey and with that an official “Goodbye” & “Adios” to our beloved Danaus plexippus, aka Monarch Butterfly. These animals go through an amazing metamorphosis and take part in one of the world’s most interesting migrations, traveling over 2,000 miles to the Oyamel Fir forests of Mexico. (Read more about their journey in our previous post about Monarch Migration)
Starting off as an egg about the size of a grain of salt, each instar of caterpillar that hatches will eat the exoskeleton of the stage that it just molted out of. Once these hungry caterpillars go through five major stages of growth they enter into a pupal stage and form into a chrysalis. These bright green and gold-accented gems are what visitors see when they check out our butterfly house inside the Farm Barn Orientation Center. If you were lucky enough to get here this year you know what I mean, and if not there is always next year.
We reared, tagged, and released over 100 Monarchs this year at the orientation center, each time educating visitors on the issues that these critters face upon leaving the sanctuary that we created for them. Working meticulously on creating time-lapse footage of the lifecycles for a few months, we eventually got some really great footage that can be seen here and here.
These incredible insects are a great way for us to educate visitors on sustainable gardening/lawn care practices that they can take back home with them. Using our butterfly garden as a demonstration as well, visitors can see the beauty and benefits that these plants will offer them at home. Our TALON guests also had a great day learning about the Monarchs and the role that our meadows play in their lifecycle. Monarchs must stop every 20-30 minutes along their migration to feed from the nectar of flowers, so they have to beat the frost on their way down to Mexico.
So we say to all of the Monarchs that passed through here, “Adios and Goodbye”.
See you later for now, and looking forward to meeting your relatives in the years to come!
– Jon Dugan, Duke Farms