Spending time outside has always been a passion of Jodi Grabbers' who lives in Spooner, thanks in part to a Canadian woman who was a retired teacher. Jodi befriended her when she moved next door when Jodi was seven. Marie Hansen loved the outdoors. Jodi too learned to love to be outside, sometimes to learn, and sometimes just to soak up nature.
She raises lots of flowers and vegetables. It's no wonder that she is still smitten with nature and has decided to be a part of nature's process by "raising" monarch butterflies to ensure their existence. The first year, five years ago, she gave it a go, and she provided a safe home for a handful of these beauties. Now she figures she'll beat all the other year's records by releasing over 900 by September. Not that she spends all her day collecting eggs and leaves. She works a full-time job and has a husband that likes supper when he comes home from his own job. But when nature calls, nature calls.
She's set up three totes with parts of their plastic sides removed, and screening added, and she has one 'official' monarch hatching house that was given to her by a friend, all in her kitchen.
“The process is fascinating,” says Jodi. “I never get tired of watching it.”
The first step in the twenty-four-day process is to collect the leaves that have eggs on their underside. These leaves are then taken inside and placed loosely in one of the 'nesting' boxes scattered like fallen leaves on the bottom. Within four days the eggs grow into caterpillars.
In about two weeks the caterpillars crawl up the sides of the container to the lid where they attach themselves by 'weaving' a bit of silk to the lid, turning themselves upside down so their rear end is attached to the silk and then they spin a chrysalis starting from their head and working upwards, an amazing feat that takes less than five minutes. The healthy caterpillars form a J when they're hanging from the lid, but the ones carrying the Black Death, hang straight down; these are discarded, so the bacterial disease does not spread.
In only five to seven days, the butterflies emerge fully developed but a bit wobbly. This is the stage where Jodi reaches in carefully and, using two fingers, gently clamps onto the butterfly and takes it outside to a potted plant or flowers in her garden to finish opening. Shortly after that, the newly hatched butterfly fly away.
From start to finish, that is from the egg stage to a fully grown butterfly, takes about twenty-four days, and every day their boxes have to be cleaned, the caterpillars go potty a lot, and old leaves have to be removed, and fresh leaves added, with or without eggs attached, daily.
Now maybe the number nine hundred and some butterflies raised last year takes on new meaning. And that's only from June through mid-September. She admits that she's completely hooked and has influenced several others to do the same. The downside of collecting is she can never leave town during the summer months. Happily, her mother is willing to stay at her house to care for them when Jodi needs be out of town. Her mother-in-law also enjoys helping her look for them, and the only comments are gentle ones, like, "Don't you think you have enough now?"
This is Jodi's way of "giving back." Fully knowing that the ones that she helps hatch won't be eaten by other insects and that they have safe passage to produce another generation of butterflies.
These that are hatching now are not the ones that fly south for the winter. There are four generations born before they go. Each of these generations only lives for four weeks, but the fourth generation is different.
“The most fascinating part about monarchs is that the last generation, the fourth one. They live much longer, six to eight months, and fly all the way to Southern California or Mexico for the winter. Only God could design them that way,” Jodi says with a smile on her face. “I'm just a part of the process.”