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Timing is everying: The life cycle of Monarch butterflies

Paige Davidson raises chrysalises to sell at the Hudson Farmer's Market. She is done for this season but look for her to be back next summer. She collects the caterpillar stage of the Monarch Butterfly, raises them in plastic cups and sells the chrysalises. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl1 / 2
The caterpillars eat various types of milkweed which Paige provides for them fresh nearly every day. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl2 / 2

Paige Davidson took her mom Patty's advice to learn about the life cycle of Monarch Butterflies. The Hudson Middle School student has turned that knowledge into a cottage business.

Paige's entrepreneurial spirit began four years ago at the age of eight when she started to sell the chrysalis form of the butterfly in her mom's booth at the Hudson Farmers Market.

Patty Davidson had started her business, Garden Fresh Cut Flowers, two years before and as a result had a lot of flowers and varieties of milkweed right outside their home.

The process begins in late June when the first of the caterpillars appears. Paige collects them, putting them in plastic cups with a fresh supply of milkweed leaves.

"The cups are cleaned every other day and fresh leaves are put in," said Paige. Once the caterpillar forms the chrysalis she puts a date on the lid when the butterfly can be expected to emerge.

It was trial and error at first for the mother-daughter team to figure out how to keep the chrysalises hanging in the right place.

"The first sign is when you see the caterpillar start to form a small web," said Paige.

"Sometimes they (the chrysalises) falls off." With a lot of extra lids they have figured out a way to reattach them, gently using tape.

Over the course of one summer Paige estimates she is able to sell 75 to 100 chrysalises.

"This year I am raising money to buy a horse, so all of the money is going towards that," said Paige. Her classmates don't say much about her unique business and her brother Blaine is used to it.

"She has learned to care for them and learned a lot about responsibility," said Patty. "Some of the customers' stories are amazing."

One customer, who has two daughters, chose to honor the five year anniversary of her husband's death by releasing them.

Mary and Jack Delaney, who summer on the St. Croix River, were preparing to celebrate their 50th anniversary on Madeleine Island. Mary Delaney, a regular at the market, purchased six chrysalises and took them along.

"It was amazing, we all stood on the deck. "They emerged on exactly the date they were supposed to," said Mary Delaney. "They flew up into a large Norway pine, it was just a perfect day. It was this beautiful event, everyone there including 18 grandchildren were really in awe of the whole thing."

While Paige is learning many of life's lessons, her customers are using the wonder of nature to honor, celebrate, remember and cherish events, people and family traditions. Paige's business is done for this season. The last butterfly emerged on Sept.16. However, you can look for them next season in Patty's booth, Garden Fresh Cut Flowers, at the Plaza 94 Hudson Farmers Market.