Beautiful bugs: Kids seek monarchs caterpillars and eggs

Published 7:00 am Sunday, July 30, 2017

There was just no containing Madellane Hicks’ excitement.

From under her purple cap, her eyes shone with pride when she displayed her caterpillar, the first to be found during the “Monarch Magic” summer class for kids at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

Madellane Hicks, 8, grins as she displays her monarch caterpillar, found on the grounds at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. The capture was part of the “Monarch Magic” summer program at the center. The program is so popular, some kids have taken both sessions. Deb Nicklay/

“Oh my gosh!” she exclaimed. “It’s just so surprising — I’ve never seen one this big before.”

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Madellane was one of 12 who attended the class Friday at the nature center. So popular is the class, taught by naturalist and teacher Maria Anderson, that some returned for another session of the same class.

Anderson took the kids through the process of caterpillar-to-butterfly.

The last half of the class was spent catching caterpillars, or their eggs, so they could witness the metamorphoses of the butterflies. A monarch tagging class will be held at the end of August.

Mom Sarah Gustafson accompanied her sons, Shaye, 8, and Kayde, 7, to the class. She was as enthused as the kids about not only this class, but all the nature center has offered.

“We’re here all the time,” she confided, noting that all four of her children are fans of the summer program. “It’s one of our favorite things to do,” she added, noting that the children had participated in everything from pond scooping to taking color walks; and now, of course, learning about monarchs.

It is a particularly good topic, said intern Savanna Dahl, who helped with the activity. There are fewer and fewer monarchs and also fewer and fewer milkweed plants, whose leaves are the only thing caterpillars eat.

“And really,” she said. on a brighter note, “Who doesn’t love looking at butterflies?”