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Rare Monarchs Being Raised in Spring Mills

by and on May 19, 2019 5:00 AM

SPRING MILLS — There’s some pretty rare butterflies fluttering around Spring Mills.

How rare? How about one in 10 million rare.

Last September, 15 white Monarch butterflies appeared among the butterflies being raised at Rose Franklin’s butterfly farm.

“I was absolutely shocked when I saw them,” said Rose Franklin, who operates Rose Franklin’s Perennials. “This is really something amazing. People who have studied butterflies all their lives have never seen a white Monarch. Now, we have several.” 
According to Franklin, these white butterflies are the rarest of the rare when it comes to the species and that, she said, was confirmed by an expert in the field.

She contacted Dr. Orley “Chip” Taylor, founder of University of Kansas’s Monarch Watch, a well-known outreach program which focuses on education, research and conservation relative to Monarch butterflies.

Taylor told her the “whites” don’t fit the typical definition of “albino.” He said what most likely happened was that a male and female of the species, both carrying a rare recessive gene, mated and produced the white Monarch.

He also said in nature, one white butterfly might appear in every 10 million Monarchs.

“I was shocked to learn this,” said Franklin. “I knew we had something special on our hands, but never realized how special.”

It wasn’t easy raising them, however.

Franklin said the butterfly larvae emerged in September — not like they normally do in the summer months. She explained that during the summer, milkweed plants flourish, and it is the only plant Monarch butterflies will eat. In September, milkweed begin yellowing and it drops its leaves in preparation for winter dormancy.

“I didn’t want my once-in-a-lifetime experience to end so soon though,” she said. “Andy, my husband, and I started digging up Tropical Milkweed plants from our gardens. This was the only milkweed species that was still lush and green in September.

“We planted milkweed seeds, took cuttings and decided to give our best shot at keeping the whites alive through the winter,” she said.
Now it’s May.

“They are still alive, still healthy,” Franklin said, “and still beautiful and unique.”

But, these rare white butterflies aren’t just in Spring Mills. Franklin said several people who had purchased caterpillars from the butterfly farm have also raised the rare-colored insects.

“I tried to keep track of how many were noted, and at last count there were 88 of them out there,” she said.

Those wishing to view the white Monarchs can visit Rose Franklin’s Perennials, 107 Butterfly Lane, Spring Mills, during an open house scheduled for May 24-26.

Franklin is the proprietor of and She raises hummingbird and butterfly attracting plants and Monarch eggs and caterpillars that are sold to those who reside on the eastern half of the U.S. She is a member of the International Butterfly Breeders Society, the International Plant Propagators Society and the Association for Butterflies.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

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