JDI clients raise monarch butterflies


For about three minutes, staff and clients at Jackson Developmental Industries sat in amazement at what was unfolding before their eyes.

In an enclosure at the Seymour facility, a monarch butterfly was emerging from a cocoon.

They had gone through the steps of raising the butterfly, and this was the most rewarding part of it all.

“I sat there in the chair, and it started changing. It’s pretty awesome to see them come out of the cocoon and spread their wings,” client Montana Casto said.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Fellow client Sonja Branaman said it was neat to see the butterfly flutter its wings as it moved around inside the enclosure awaiting release.

“They all sat around and watched that, and they find it very interesting. I think it’s interesting, too,” said Amelia O’Neal, who works in the education and enrichment department at JDI.

“It’s very engaging for our clients,” said Chrissy Stormes, who works in the same department. “They really enjoy it, and it gives them something to look forward to. In the morning, they ask how the butterflies are.”

Before that monarch butterfly emerged, another one had come out of its cocoon and been released. Since then, another one has emerged.

After all is said and done, the staff and clients hope to raise and release three more.

“Those monarch butterflies that will emerge will live six to eight months, and they will go back to Mexico. They migrate to Mexico. They are the only butterflies that have an internal GPS,” Stormes said.

“That is a generation that has never been there, and it will take them about two months to get to Mexico,” O’Neal said. “(One of the butterflies still in the enclosure) is what’s called the supergeneration, so they have like three smaller generations, and then the supergeneration.”

Once the clients decided they wanted to do a section on butterflies, Stormes and O’Neal began doing research and learned they could help contribute to the monarch butterfly population.

“We did research and found that these lost so much,” Stormes said. “We just thought it would be a really interesting thing for us to be able to contribute to the monarchs because 90% of their population has dwindled.”

The staff purchased an enclosure. They started out with painted ladies, which are large butterflies marked predominantly with orange and black.

“Starter kits usually start out with painted lady butterflies, and they send you these little bitty caterpillars,” Stormes said. “Then we got to watch them grow, and they become chrysalises and then become butterflies.”

After they successfully released about a dozen of those, they decided to order monarch butterfly caterpillars. Those, however, were hard to find, so they went outside in search of milkweed.

“We had an expert, she’s a lady that has been doing it for 20 years now that raises butterflies, and she brought us a couple eggs, which have now become the caterpillars and gone into chrysalis form,” Stormes said. “Then we found some caterpillars on some milkweed plants, but they only eat milkweed.”

The monarch caterpillars, which are black, yellow and white, were placed in the enclosure. They eventually climbed to the top and became chrysalis until cocooning.

“When a caterpillar is in this kind of an area, it’s safer and it’s protected, and so it allows the monarchs to be able to go and grow and not be eaten by other predators,” Stormes said.

O’Neal said the plan is to plant a butterfly garden at JDI and continue raising monarch butterflies next year. They also hope to get city officials involved by planting monarch butterfly- and honeybee-friendly flowers to help with the population.

“The only thing they eat is milkweed, and it grows wild, but if you tear it down, then that’s their food source, that’s where they lay their eggs,” O’Neal said. “A lot of the same flowers that they feed on, the honeybees are attracted to, too, and they are endangered. We want to get the city involved setting out areas in different parks for them.”

No posts to display