Stuck in Vermont: Donna Bister Has Been Raising Monarch Butterflies Since 2016 | Stuck in Vermont | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Stuck in Vermont: Donna Bister Has Been Raising Monarch Butterflies Since 2016

Episode 671

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Published August 25, 2022 at 7:30 a.m.
Updated August 31, 2022 at 10:04 a.m.


Donna Bister has been cultivating a patch of milkweed along the driveway of the Burlington home she shares with her partner, Marc Estrin. Since 2016, Donna has purchased eggs from Pennsylvania and “graduated” two to three classes of monarch butterflies every summer, about 80 to 100 per year.

In late July, Donna fed milkweed leaves to 31 hungry caterpillars. A few weeks later, she invited Eva over to watch as the monarchs emerged from their chrysalides on a humid morning. It took a few hours for their wings to dry in the heat, but eventually they flew off to greener pastures.

Each fall, migratory monarch butterflies travel thousands of miles to overwinter in Mexico. Last month, the migratory monarch butterfly was designated as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The butterflies face threats from climate change and habitat destruction, and their numbers have declined over the past several decades. This has inspired people like Donna to try to help the species along by adding to their numbers. And she is not alone.

Eva also attended a recent monarch butterfly release in Burlington’s City Hall Park that was organized by Jake Bell and Donna Walters. Children and adults joined together to send the colorful pollinators off on their journey.

Please note that raising captive-bred monarchs is controversial and some experts advise that the best way to help the butterflies is by improving their habitat, growing milkweed and avoiding pesticide use.

Music: Futuremono, “Long Road” & “New Horizons”

This episode of Stuck in Vermont was supported by New England Federal Credit Union.