I’m calling this month's citizen science project “not quite” because technically, it’s not a citizen science project. That is, it is not supporting any kind of research, and there are no scientists or researchers involved in this. Instead, it’s a group of volunteers who are striving to help the Monarch butterflies, which studies are showing to be in decline.
As you may know, Monarchs are the only butterfly species who make a mass migration. They travel up to 3,000 miles! During the summer months, they live in the northern U.S. and Canada, and then they migrate to Mexico for the winter months. (We usually see them in our yard around October.) You can read more about this incredible phenomenon on this National Geographic page.
When my eldest son was seven, we raised two generations of painted lady butterflies. (You can read more about that in the Summer 2014 issue of home/school/life magazine.) Now I have plans to raise butterflies again, but this time, I’d like to raise Monarchs. I knew that before I do that, I’d need to grow milkweed in my yard because this is the host plant that the Monarch larvae or caterpillars feed on. This is how I stumbled upon LiveMonarch.com.
As it turns out, growing milkweed is a good thing because part of the reason that Monarch butterflies are decline is loss of habitat, i.e. loss of the milkweed plant.
LiveMonarch.com is run by the Live Monarch Foundation, a United Charitable Program. Their mission is to educate everyone about habitat loss and what they can do to assist the Monarch butterflies. For a $3 donation, they will send you 150 milkweed seeds! (If you don’t need that many seeds, you can donate some of them. See the different options on their website.) They will also make sure you get the proper seeds that you need to plant in your region and directions on how to grow the milkweed.
Even though this isn’t exactly citizen science, I thought it deserved a place in “My Year of Citizen Science” because 1) it’s easy to order and grow the milkweed, 2) it’s a great project to do while you learn about the butterfly life cycle, which is part of any homeschooler’s science curriculum, and 3) you’d be helping the Monarchs, which researchers and scientists are trying to do too! And who knows? It might inspire you to raise butterflies too!