Raising a Farmer

Alot of work but always room for laughter

Love of monarch butterflies carries down through the generations

on September 18, 2018

This column was first published in Agweek on September 1st, 2018

As Everett was deciding which of his seven 4-H non-livestock projects to enter at the Morrison County Fair, he knew a monarch caterpillar habitat was at the top of his list. I love monarch caterpillars and that love has filtered down to my children, especially Everett.

When I was about 5 years old, my aunt had taken me for a walk to look for milkweed pods while visiting my Grandma Zinniel. At the time, I had no idea how important this plant was. I just remember the time I spent with my aunt and the soft silk seeds ready to take flight. I still have the letter she sent me written in her fancy cursive handwriting telling me how she enjoyed her time with me.


As I grew older, my mom fostered her love of monarch butterflies into her three children. We would catch monarch caterpillars, place them in a mason jar, watch and wait. My mom would send our visitors home with mason jars containing a caterpillar and a hand full of milkweed.

I do the exact same thing now. Everett has followed suit when his cousins or friends stop in August. He finds a jar and makes sure they have enough milkweed. When the chrysalis would begin to turn clear from their bright green and gold ring, we couldn’t wait for them to emerge as a butterfly ready to stretch their wings and fly.

Now as an adult with my own family, when the milkweed begins to grow in the spring, Nate, Everett, Vivian and I begin watching for the monarchs to return to central Minnesota. We look underneath the leaves for the brightly colored caterpillars.

Excitement spreads — “The monarchs are back!” As summer continues on we enjoy monarchs flying through the yard. When August comes, we catch and place them in a jar. We watch them grow and become a chrysalis, then into a beautiful orange and black butterfly. Everett has been sharing his love of monarchs with each of his new teachers by bringing a caterpillar to the first week of school.

The beginning of August was the Morrison County Fair. Everett was ready. He decided he would present his caterpillars as one of his projects during non-livestock judging for 4-H. As he held them and waited in line, his fellow 4-H’ers would ask him about his project. As he sat at the table with the judge, I could see Everett light up and answer her questions with confidence. I couldn’t hear him but I could see he was in his element.

For many years he has been exploring monarch caterpillars, and he knows them inside and out. He was excited to share his four caterpillars at the fair. He was especially excited because one was big enough to turn into a chrysalis during the Morrison County Fair. And it did.

When the judging was complete and the ribbons were placed, our club walked through the projects to find out how everyone did. I saw the pink ribbon said, “Don’t tell Everett.” I wanted to see his excitement when he found his project awarded with the Reserve Champion pink ribbon.

Everett came around the table and froze with a huge smile. For him this was his very first Reserve Champion ribbon with something he loves and enjoys. For me as his mom, I watched my son win a pink ribbon for a project that has been in my heart since I was five. A project that my mom had nurtured and cared for so many years ago.

Even 17 years after having to say goodbye to my mom, she still leaves her mark in places we least expect.


One response to “Love of monarch butterflies carries down through the generations

  1. Marilyn Swenson says:

    Way to go Everett! I love the butterfly circle of life too!

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