by Diane Miller


Things seemed a bit dismal in early July as we had not seen a single monarch butterfly at the nursery. None was seen at my home butterfly garden for that matter. I was becoming quite alarmed that this might be the year that we would witness the drastic decline in the monarch population. I had personally raised 1000 plus monarchs from eggs in 2016 (which was a full time job) and was certain that the future generations would have somehow found their way back to my gardens by the end of June 2017. I was also involved in the Butterfly Project at Spohr Gardens and was anxiously awaiting the arrival of these beautiful creatures as we had planned a public butterfly release for the beginning of August.

I left no milkweed leaf unturned looking for the small eggs but still, nothing. One day at the end of July I saw my first monarch butterfly while working at Soares. I would like to personally apologize to the kind and forgiving customer from whom I frantically ran away to follow this beautiful butterfly around the nursery and to my coworkers Marcia and Rachel who thought the “new girl” might be was some kind of crazy person. However they were patient enough to watch me do my thing. I followed this butterfly who finally decided to rest and sip on a lantana plant. Noticing that SHE was a female, I gathered up the lantana plant with butterfly in tow and walked her across the yard to our nearby milkweed patch. It didn’t take much coaxing to get her to flutter onto the milkweed plant, tuck her abdomen under the leaf and deposit an egg for us!!!!! Thank goodness or I would have had a lot of explaining to do. We watched as she traveled around the milkweed patch, depositing a single egg on each leaf. It was magical!!!

Now is where the fun began…I explained to the ladies that only one percent of monarch eggs survive in the wild due predators (ants, spiders, lady bugs, etc) and that in order to help bring back the monarchs we needed to collect each egg and raise it until we could release these beautiful butterflies back into the wild. It is a lot of work raising butterflies but immensely satisfying. Their enclosures must be kept spotless with lots of air flow and ALOT of fresh milkweed daily. One caterpillar can eat an entire milkweed plant! Everyone here at Soares was excited and that was the beginning of us all raising and releasing monarchs at home. Terry, Marcia, Jim and his wife Beth, Lynn and her granddaughter Mya and Rachael and her granddaughter Katharine. We all collected eggs, raised and released them. By the middle of August the nursery and our home gardens were brimming with “our babies”. It was truly magical!

Thank you to our customers who came to listen to my talk on “Bringing Back the Monarchs”. I know a few of you became hooked like the rest of us.

This year we are looking into tagging the butterflies too. This will help scientists in their quest to help the endangered monarch butterfly. We will also be happy to talk to any of you about successfully raising butterflies at home. Heck, likely we will do another talk, watch our newsletter and website. If this is something you would be interested in, let us know. We will be offering a lot of butterfly host and nectar plants along with some other goodies to help get those interested in creating a haven for butterflies at home.

I can’t wait to see everyone in the spring! I feel truly blessed to work with such an amazing crew here at the nursery and especially to our wonderful, friendly and exceptional customers. Thank you Reggie and Terry for accepting and encouraging our mission and passion!
Let’s make 2018 a monarch year.