Garden Musings · Wildlife in the Garden

The Monarch: Saving our Most-Loved Butterfly – A Book Review

One of the benefits of traveling is having time to read. I love to read, but struggle to find the time. I picked up a copy of Kylee Baumle’s book, The Monarch: Saving our Most-Loved Butterfly, at the Garden Bloggers Fling and couldn’t wait to dive in while waiting at the airport for the flight home.

I should disclose that Kylee is a friend, and I expected to enjoy her labor of love. I was not disappointed. In the introduction, as she remembers the monarchs in her grandmother’s gardens as animated jewelry among the static beauty of the colorful blooms, I knew I was in for a treat.

Kylee shares her passion for monarchs in an organized fashion, beginning with the monarch’s life cycle and their migration to Mexico for the winter, all illustrated with her gorgeous photos. She also includes a chapter with an extensive listing of the different types of milkweed. Did you know there is a milkweed species for shady gardens?

The second half of the book offers ways for us to help monarchs. Kylee has raised many monarchs in her home and shows us how we can do it, too. Projects are included for adults, like tagging monarchs and becoming a Citizen Scientist, and kids who will love making the monarch bracelet and ring.

Readers will find a bounty of resources listed at the end of the book. They will find everything from where to buy milkweed seeds and the best places to visit overwintering monarchs to an extensive list of books, films and websites for those who want to continue learning about monarchs.

I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about monarchs. I was aware their population is declining at an alarming rate due to habitat loss in Mexico and the reduction of milkweed in the U.S. I have shared the miracle of a caterpillar turning to a chrysalis turning to a butterfly with my grandsons. One of my favorite books as a child was The Travels of Monarch X. But as Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Kylee shares many amazing facts about monarchs. Here are just a few.

A single female monarch will probably lay between 400 and 500 eggs in her short lifetime. This number varies depending on the availability of milkweed, her age and the weather. That’s a lot of children!

Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants because they contain a toxic sap. When caterpillars eat the plant, they (and as adult butterflies, too) also become toxic to predators.

There are usually four or five generations of monarchs each summer, each generation living two to six weeks. The final generation is the group that migrates. This group lives up to seven or eight months.

It is a miracle that monarchs know where to go when they migrate. After all, it was their great-great-grandparents that made the journey to the U.S. and Canada the spring before. Kylee reports, “A monarch’s antennae have internal circadian clocks that help orient them in the proper direction at the proper time for migration.” I didn’t know that, did you?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly. It had just enough science to fascinate me without getting too ‘sciency’. This book should find its way to a shelf in every library and classroom. If you love learning about and looking at stunning photography of nature, you will love it, too!

Kylee signed the book for me with the notation, “Monarchs rule!” I think monarchs would agree Kylee rules, too!

Here is a link if you would like to take a closer look at the book. Order a copy, and then get outside and garden with me!

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