KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WFRV) – A Kaukauna woman has made it her mission to help save the monarch butterfly in Wisconsin.
Amanda Kostechka is raising 150 monarch butterflies in her home this year. She said she got hooked on helping monarch butterflies when her mother-in-law gave her son a caterpillar a couple of years ago.
“I was mesmerized by the transformation of how a small caterpillar can turn into a butterfly,” said Kostechka.
In the spring and early summer, Kostechka said she searched mowed fields around Kaukauna for tiny white monarch eggs.
She brings them home and waits for them to hatch into caterpillars which takes about three to five days.
She then takes care of the caterpillars for two to three weeks until they are ready to go through the chrysalis stage of their lives when they become a butterfly. She then releases the butterflies into her backyard.
In the winter, the monarch butterflies hibernate thousands of miles to Mexico for a warmer climate to spend the winter. Once it gets warmer outside, they then travel back north laying eggs along the way.
Monarch butterflies don’t live very long, so it takes multiple generations of butterflies to make the trip back up north.
“It makes me so proud to know that I gave them a fighting chance and that they were well taken care of and healthy,” said Kostechka.
Last week, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) placed the migratory monarch butterfly on its endangered species list. Organization officials said habitat loss, herbicide and pesticide use, and climate change all have contributed to the decline of the monarch population.
According to an Associated Press article, monarch butterfly populations have decreased between 20 and 70 percent over the last ten years depending on what metric gets used.
Scientists divide the North American monarch butterfly population into eastern and western populations with the Rocky Mountains as the divider. According to the IUCN, the western population has declined by 99.9 percent from the 1980s to last year. The eastern population shrunk by 84 percent from 1996 to 2014.
“It made me even more passionate about it, it made me feel even better about being able to help them,” said Kostechka.
She said that other people can help monarchs by planting milkweed. This is the only plant that monarch caterpillars are able to eat and the only plant monarch butterflies can lay their eggs on.
Milkweed contains a number of chemicals that make monarchs poisonous to potential predators. The monarch butterfly is brightly colored to let potential predators know they are poisonous.
“How something so small can transform into something so beautiful their migration path is so amazing what they do for our ecosystem is so amazing,” said Kostechka.