Queen of the Monarchs: Los Angeles-based nail tech Triana Ramirez helps monarch butterflies thrive as their food source grows scarce.
“I love my babies and I learn from them every day — about life, love, and survival,” says Los Angeles-based nail tech Triana Ramirez. The babies she’s referring to are monarch butterflies. For the past two years, Ramirez has come to the aid of these delicate orange and black creatures, as their food source, the milkweed plant, has grown scarce. “In recent years wildfires have destroyed a lot of milkweed plants,” she says. “Also, people remove milkweed from their gardens because they think it’s just another weed. In fact, it’s the only plant monarchs eat.”
Ramirez grows milkweed in her yard and when a monarch lays its eggs in the plant, she collects them and brings them indoors so other animals won’t eat them. Once the eggs hatch, she feeds and cares for the tiny caterpillars. “I also talk to them and give them love — lots of love,” she says.
Over the course of a few weeks, the caterpillar changes its skin five times. Then the caterpillar stops feeding and searches for a good spot to continue its metamorphosis. “It attaches itself securely to a horizontal surface and hangs down in a ‘J’ position. Then it molts into an opaque, light green chrysalis with small beautiful gold dots around it,” she explains. “The cuticle of the chrysalis becomes transparent and the monarch’s characteristic orange and black wings become visible. Finally, the adult emerges, expanding and drying its wings.” The whole process takes 25 days to a month.
Ramirez shares her hobby with her 5-year-old son. “He knows all about monarchs and their important role in nature. His favorite part of the process is asking friends to help release the butterflies at the end,” she says. “These delicate insects teach us an important lesson: Life is a process and sometimes you have to suffer through changes to reach your dreams and fly. So keep living your life with purpose, focus on your goals, and continue to see yourself as a beautiful butterfly.”
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