Attica’s Elyssa and Ethan Gnagey enlist family to help raise Monarchs


Elyssa and Ethan Gnagey prepare to release a newly emerged Monarch butterfly that they cared for this year. As of late August, the Attica siblings had raised 18 males and 10 females.

ATTICA — Caring for and releasing beautiful Monarch butterflies is a real family affair for the Gnageys.

Elyssa, 9, and her brother Ethan, 7, have cared for more than 30 caterpillars so far this year alone. Elyssa started raising the winged creatures three years ago and since then her family members have got caught up in the excitement too.

“She just likes butterflies. She’s really fascinated with chrysalises,” said mom Michelle Gnagey of Elyssa’s interest.

“Recently, for the first time we actually got to watch one emerge from the chrysalis.”

Michelle said they carry containers in the car wherever they go so they can collect eggs and milkweed whenever they find them.

Grandpa Mark Makedonsky finds time during his day to look for eggs and caterpillars too, recalling the time a police officer stopped to ask what he was looking for in a nearby ditch.

The critters in their various stages of life come with the families when they leave home to do things like camping.

“And we all have to go out together to find milkweed for them too,” Mark said.

As a family they’ve learned together about the importance of milkweed and it’s decline in the landscape. Michelle said she’s been instructed by both her kids to not remove any from her flower beds.

The kids and their grandfather have spent time studying the Monarch’s migration patterns too, marveling at the fact that it takes at least four generations of the butterfly to return to their winter home in Mexico and back.

Michelle said that both Elyssa and Ethan’s love of animals also fuels their interest in raising Monarchs.

“In years past, when asked what do you want to be when you grow up Elyssa has always said a veterinarian and Ethan a paleontologist,” she said, noting that the siblings also help take care of the family’s two Siberian Huskies.

Elyssa is a fourth grader at Borland Elementary School and Ethan is a second grader at Weston Elementary in Imlay City.

Michelle said it’s been enjoyable seeing Elyssa and Ethan dive into this kind of project as it teaches them both responsibility and nurtures their inquisitive nature.

“They like to do it because it’s fun and interesting to watch them grow and change. The whole family gets involved and participates,” she said.

“They know that they are protecting the caterpillars and enabling them to grow into butterflies to keep them coming back the next year.”

For more information about helping Monarch butterflies, visit or