May is the month to monitor Monarchs

A female monarch butterfly shows off her colors.  Photo: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson.
A female monarch butterfly shows off her colors. Photo: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson.

As a child growing up in New Hampshire, I remember going with my mother to collect Monarch chrysalises for my science classes. We’d park off a nearby roadway, spy a patch of milkweed, and poke around until we found a chrysalis or two. During the next week or so, my classmates and I watched spellbound at the transformation from chrysalis to butterfly. Science truly came alive!

Well, it’s that time of year again. After spending the winter sunning in Mexico or southern California, adult Monarch butterflies migrate north (as far as Canada!) during the spring to lay their eggs.

Researchers with the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project need your help keeping an eye on these critters during all stages of development from now through September!

Since Monarch larvae feed only on milkweed, accessible, abundant milkweed is critically important for the survival of this butterfly species. The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project needs your help to keep an eye on local patches of milkweed, and to count monarch eggs and larvae, and assess milkweed density. Whether you have time to send in observations once a week, or anecdotally as you come across Monarchs, they want your data! Sign up online, and send in your sightings today!

To ensure that citizen scientists collect data in a standardized way, periodic training sessions are held. Looks like there are some coming up in later in May!

For science teachers who would like to incorporate ecology into their classroom, check out the Monarchs in the Classroom summer workshops.

For those of you who are impatient, check out this time-lapse video of the process, first from caterpillar to chrysalis and then from chrysalis to butterfly.

Looking for more citizen science opportunities? Sign up for the Science for Citizens newsletter!

Categories: Animals, Citizen Science, Climate & Weather, Ecology & Environment, Insects, Nature & Outdoors, Science Education Standards

Tags: , , , , , , ,