Explore the Garden

Saving the Monarchs

Wednesday, February 01, 2017
by Kaitlin McIntosh | Student Director of Communications and Events

David Thompson is dedicated to the preservation of Monarch Butterflies. Monarchs can be found all across The United States, but normally travel to Mexico or coastal California for the winter months. According to Xerces Society, a non-profit that focuses on invertebrate conservation, since the 1990s, overwintered Monarch populations have decreased from anywhere between 74 and 80 percent.

Thompson is on a mission to change this alarming statistic. For the last three years he has bred his own Monarchs and created public programs and workshops in the hope of creating community awareness about the importance of Monarch conservation.

Anyone can breed Monarchs, and if you’re interested in breeding your own, Thompson holds workshops on how to do it. Breeding a generation of Monarchs takes a little over a month. What’s involved?

Thompson looks for Monarch eggs laid on Milkweed plants around Madison, but he says it’s been more challenging to find the eggs in recent years. After Thompson collects the eggs, they take about five days to hatch. The newly emerged caterpillars enjoy a luxurious upbringing, with Thompson keeping them in a large container with plenty of food and water under an incubator light. Ten days after they hatch, the caterpillars are mature enough to form a chrysalis, where it stays cocooned for 11–12 days. Once out of the chrysalis, the newly emerged adult Monarch needs about half a day to stretch its wings before it can fly. Over the course of a Madison summer, Thompson can raise three generations of Monarchs.

Thompson also runs a summer program at the Sequoya Public Library in Madison. He brings his Monarchs and gets kids engaged with the butterflies, allowing children to hold them and watch them fly. The kids have a blast with the Monarchs. He also raises Monarchs for fall programs in 45 schools around the Madison area. He distributes eggs and caterpillars to the schools so students can learn about and raise their own Monarchs. About 30 people help Thompson raise Monarchs all summer long so they have enough to distribute to the schools come fall.

He is also working with a Spanish immersion school in the Madison area to create an exchange program with a school in Mexico so the students from both schools can share the experience and magic of Monarch conservation.   

Interested in getting involved?

Contact David Thompson: davidthompson20@aol.com 

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Tags: Green Initiatives

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