The Monarch butterfly is the VT State Insect. Nationally, conservation biologists have dubbed its precarious population as the “canary in the cornfield.” In the summer of 2018, Judy Fink, a Dummerston Conservation Commissioner, bought a Swamp Milkweed plant from grower Helen O’Donnell at Bunker Farm and planted it in her garden. This small and unassuming native perennial was inundated with and devoured by Monarch caterpillars, chrysalises formed throughout her yard, and adult Monarchs emerged. Thrilled with these results, Judy purchased more plants from Helen and planted them throughout her garden the summer of 2019. It was a banner year for Monarchs in VT, and especially in Judy’s garden.
Based on this tiny success story, the Dummerston Conservation Commission, in partnership with Bunker Farm, has invited Dummerston residents interested in inviting Monarch butterflies into their garden to plant Swamp Milkweed and monitoring adult, caterpillar, and chrysalis activity this summer. Here’s how it works:
- Get to work. Research where to plant your Swamp Milkweed, and make sure it will be in a location where you can monitor Monarch activity readily (Judy planted her Swamp Milkweed in butterfly friendly gardens right next to her house, and was lucky to observe chrysalis development on every conceivable surface – chairs, outside walls, light posts). Observe your plant regularly and document once Monarch butterflies return in early summer. Keep a careful count of eggs, caterpillar stages, chrysalis, and adults. Documentation may include a written journal, drawings, spreadsheets, photos, citizen science input, or any combination. Monarch Joint Ventures and Xerces are two of the many valuable research organizations that will help you get started and continue learning.
- Throughout the summer, Judy will regularly post short videos on this website and our DCC Facebook page, demonstrating how she monitors Monarch activity in her garden.
- Keep your Dummerston neighbors informed about what you’re observing! Contact us here at the Dummerston Conservation website and Facebook page.
Quick Monarch Butterfly Facts
- An adult Monarch weighs about as much as a paperclip.
- When Monarchs leave their winter roosting sites in Central Mexico in March, it will take three to four generations before they make it to VT. Each full life cycle/generation takes about a month.
- One factor contributing to the demise of Monarch populations is the invasive plant swallow-wort. Adults will lay eggs on this plant but caterpillars can’t develop, thus breaking the cycle.