Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Spreading Their Wings: Monarch Butterflies in the Northwoods

By K. Woodzick, Editor,

Kerry Bloedorn, Director at the Pioneer Park Historical Complex in Rhinelander, has been rearing Monarch butterflies in the Northwoods for several years.

The Monarch enclosure is located just inside the main entrance of the Pioneer Park Historical Complex. At its busiest, the enclosure is home to 40 Monarch caterpillars. A bottle of milkweed rests in the center to feed the caterpillars before they shed their skin for the fifth time, a process called an instar.

The caterpillars will then find a place to hang and start building their chrysalis. Kerry likes to call the process of wandering to choose their new home a “walkabout.” Once they have found their perfect spot, they use silk from their mouth to create a pad called a “button,” from which they hang from their tail, or cremaster. As each butterfly exits the chrysalis (a process known as an eclosure), Kerry documents each one. This summer, he’s up to 73.


“The chrysalis goes from green to clear as the butterfly forms” Kerry explained. There are even jewelers on Etsy who have tried to replicate the delicate jade form with gold accents.

The chrysalis comes from inside of the caterpillar. As the caterpillar hangs in the “J” position, the back of its skin splits open and the caterpillar then starts to squeeze it to the top of its tail to form the chrysalis.

“The organs of the butterfly are the only thing that are inside the chrysalis, and it begins to rebuild itself into a butterfly from the organs up,” Kerry shared. “It’s really amazing.”

Occasionally, a chrysalis needs a little extra help hanging. Kerry has a New Glarus Brewing Company Spotted Cow beer bottle that holds a stick stabilized by clips that house the chrysalises that need a little extra love. He calls it his “Chrysalis Holder.”

Kerry can tell that the season is winding down by the lack of Monarch eggs on milkweed plants. The butterflies will soon migrate to Mexico, where millions of Monarchs spend their winters in huge pine forests. The migration process starts over again next year in Mexico, when the butterflies begin their journey north, following the milkweed. It takes two to three generations from their ancestors in Mexico for the Monarchs to end up in the Northwoods.

Read the full story here.