Patti Andrasak from Inner Peace Reiki in New York talks to us today about helping monarch butterflies. The population is declining rapidly, and without monarchs, our world is not only less beautiful, but we’re in serious danger of not having enough food to eat. Monarch butterflies are pollinators, who make our crops grow and our vegetable gardens flourish. They eat milkweed, and the disappearance of milkweed is one of the largest contributing factors to their decline. The good news is that we can plant milkweed easily, at our own homes, to help.
4 Simple Ideas to Try:
Top 4 actions that you can take if you’re feeling compelled to help monarch butterflies.
- Plant milkweed seeds (go to your local nursery to find seeds that are native to your area)
- Watch monarch butterfly documentaries on YouTube to learn, and get inspired
- Join Patti’s private Facebook group (The Butterfly Lady) and get one on one advice for helping caterpillars at your home
- Order a butterfly habitat to help the caterpillars that hatch on your milkweed survive
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About Our Guest:
Patti Andrasak joins me this week on the For Animals For Earth Podcast. Patti lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY with her family. She is a Reiki Teacher and Practitioner, providing classes in person and at a distance. An animal and nature lover all her life, she is passionate about helping the voiceless and creating a safer, cruelty free, and cleaner environment for every being to thrive in.
Side note: Patti and Brandy actually host another show together called Coast to Coast Reiki Chats if you’re curious about what reiki is and how people use it.
Patti is beyond excited to help people save monarch butterflies in her small private Facebook group called The Butterfly Lady. Please join us there!
My Favorite Episode Quote:
“So the generation that is born in the Canada and New York area actually lives the longest. They live about nine months. And they fly all the way from Canada and New York back down to Mexico to start the cycle again. It’s just so fascinating.” – Patti Andrasak
Why Save Monarchs
90% of the US monarch population has declined in just the last few years. And they’re expected to go extinct in the next 20 years if nothing changes. Monarch butterflies are pretty. But why does this matter?
Monarchs are pollinators, just like bees. Their habitats are disappearing. Parks Services, although they mean well, are cutting down the milkweed along the highways. Pesticides and insecticides kill them. Their migration heads toward specific ancient trees in one area of Mexico, but the logging industry is taking those trees down quickly. Without these places to land, lay their eggs, and feed, they can’t survive. So less are being born. And if they are born, monarch caterpillars are also eaten by predators such as wasps and ants, so many don’t make it, even if their mother was able to survive all odds and find milkweed. It’s a tough situation.
So without monarchs to pollinate them, many crops will not grow. We need pollinators like monarchs, bees, and bats. Patti mentions how a local beekeeper was telling her that farmers rent their bees. By having them put bee boxes in the fields, the bees can pollinate their plants, because there is a bee shortage.
The Migration to Mexico
They migrate from the US to Mexico, and back. The first generation from Mexico flies for 8-12 weeks and lays caterpillar eggs on milkweed before they die. And then the next generation flies further north from there, lays eggs, and dies. The next generation does the same. The fourth generation is born in New York and Canada. This generation lives the longest, for about 9 months, and flies all the way from New York and Canada back to Mexico, at about 100 miles a day.
They don’t learn how to fly from generation to generation because they die after laying their eggs. But somehow the monarchs know how to navigate all of these miles when they fly. Scientists think it’s because they have something like a radar in their head, and they keep the sun to one side of their vision, and know the mountain ranges that they cross.
Keeping those baby caterpillars alive!
So Patti hadn’t ever really known about helping monarch butterflies until a friend from work asked her to “foster her chrysalis” while she was out of town. She began googling how to do this, and it opened Pandora’s Box!
She decided to plant milkweed to help. And within a few days, she saw a monarch land quickly and alight on a few different flowers and fly off. Patti thought, “How in the world did she find those tiny little plants so quickly?” A couple of days later she saw little caterpillars crawling around on the plants and thought they were going to eat and kill the milkweed! She was feeling sad. Little did she know that the monarch that alighted on the plants was actually laying eggs! The eggs look like tiny little white balls on the bottom of the leaves. The caterpillars hatch and eat the leaves for nourishment until they enter their chrysalis.
The saga continued when Patti came out the next day to find all of the caterpillars missing. Google again helped her to learn that both wasps and ants eat caterpillars, and both were swarming the area where her milkweed plants were located. Oi!
So a friend recommended taking any future caterpillars off of the plant and bringing them into the house. Patti bought a collapsable butterfly habitat on Amazon to protect them and cut milkweed from a local field to place them on. They ate through it in a day, and she went back out to get more. After a few days she realized that she couldn’t keep up with going out to cut it everyday. Caterpillars go through milkweed very quickly.
Patti found potted milkweed plants at her local nursery and began buying those to place inside the habitat. These lasted longer and allowed the caterpillars to eat enough to enter their chrysalis and ultimately hatch into butterflies.
Most of the butterflies were healthy and she released them to fly as soon as their wings were dry. But she had one little guy that she named Winston who was born with a broken wing. She had read that they will never fly with a broken wing and that there are two kind things to do in this case: set them free in nature and let them live as a butterfly who may eventually be eaten by a predator, or put them in the freezer so that they fall to sleep before they die. She decided to let him live in nature and nurtured him with a simple sugar water. On the day she released him, he actually flew! He went up high over the tree, and that was the beginning of his free life on earth.
Learn about Monarch Butterflies:
Patti learned from Google and Youtube. She said that there are many documentaries that will help us understand how monarchs grow, why they’re endangered, and how we can help. Here are a few:
Monarch Butterflies by National Geographic
Flight of the Butterflies on Amazon Prime
The Life of a Monarch Butterfly by Dominique Lalonde
How to Plant Milkweed
You can buy a little packet of milkweed seeds for $2-3 anywhere that they sell flower seeds (however, you do need to make sure that the seeds you buy are native to your area). Sprinkle them on the edges of the yard because it grows tall. It gets a beautiful pink and white flower on it. Some nurseries carry it because so many people want to buy it to help monarch butterflies. It’s important to grow milkweed that is native to your area, so go to the nursery so as not to accidentally harm your ecosystem by planting milkweed that doesn’t work in your area.
The Butterfly Lady Facebook Group
I love that Patti decided to start the Facebook group! Listening to her story makes me truly believe that helping monarchs is an adventure much more easily done with friends. This will be a fun group of friends to help each other by doing this together. Patti is happily available for questions and posts photos to help us see what things look like.
You can find her:
in the Butterfly Lady Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/147461753297033/
or on her website: https://www.innerpeacereiki.net/
or on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/inner_peace_reiki/