December 8, 2019

Eversource Manager Cataudella Raises “At-Risk” Monarch Caterpillars, Butterflies in Spare Time

Donna Cataudella at home with the monarch butterflies, which she is raising.

DEEP RIVER — Luann Cataudella spends her days as the Emergency Preparedness Training Manager at Eversource but in her free time, she’s raising monarch butterflies at her Deep River home.

It’s a hobby and passion she stumbled upon when she was clearing milkweed from her yard and discovered caterpillars on the leaves.

“I found little caterpillars on the milkweed and was fascinated.  When I went back to check on them a few days later, I watched six caterpillars get eaten by assassin bugs and it was terrible,” Luann explained. “I knew I had to do something to help, so I started doing some research.”

Luann learned that monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, which is scarce these days because of urban development and residents removing the weed from their garden. That and their many predators is why the monarchs are disappearing – their survival rate is only five percent.

So, Luann got some butterfly enclosures to keep the caterpillars and eggs safe from their predators.

“I started with less than 10 caterpillars. Now I have more than 300 eggs and caterpillars in various stages of development and I’ve released 110 butterflies.”

Luann keeps the eggs and caterpillars in the enclosures until they become butterflies and are able to fly, so they can escape the predator insects.

It’s cool that I’m helping them survive, I just love caring for them.  It’s peaceful and relaxing and I really enjoy it.”

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is currently assessing the monarch’s status to determine if the species’ declining population is severe enough to put the monarch on the Endangered Species list.  That decision is expected in December 2020.

In the meantime, Luann is anticipating the monarch caterpillars and butterflies returning next summer and she’ll be there, ready to help with their survival, once again.

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