How to Raise a Monarch Butterfly
Part II of V

 finding-and-feeding-part-2

 

So you want to grow you own butterfly.  In a month.  From scratch.

O.K.  I can help you with that.

You’ll need a few things and a bit of information.  If you haven’t read “How to Raise a Monarch Butterfly Part 1” yet, do that first.

Things you need to make a home for your Monarch:

 

1. Any kind of clear blass bowl.

bowl

 

2. 2 way tape (optional)

tape

 

3.  Any kind of screen to cover the bowl (something like a splatter screen for cooking or a piece of windowscreen.

screen

 

CUT A PIECE OF SCREEN TO FIT OVER THE OPENING OF YOUR BOWL.

 

screen-on-bowl

 

RUN SOME 2 WAY TAPE AROUND THE RIM OF THE BOWL AND STICK THE SCREEN TO IT.

(this isn’t mandatory but the baby caterpillars are so small they can wiggle right out from between the screen and the glass if it isn’t stuck down)

4.  A Monarch Egg.

egg

 

You can find Monarch caterpillar eggs on milkweed plants.  There are different varieties of milkweed and what you find in your area of the world might look different than my milkweed that you see in this post.

The Monarch butterfly lays her eggs on the underside of the milkweed leaves so that’s where to look for them.  They’re TINY.

You will also need a supply of Milkweed. Monarchs only lay their eggs on Milkweed. This is because Monarch caterpillars only eat Milkweed. Something in it makes the caterpillar (and later the butterfly) poisonous to most of their predators. Genius, eh?  (or for my American friends “Genius, huh?“)

you can keep milkweed fresh in the house by cutting it and putting it in a glass of water.

If you don’t have any milkweed in your yard, go hunting around in the woods and side of the road.   Cut some and keep it in a vase at home.  Remember though, caterpillars eat A LOT when they get big so you’ll need to be able to replenish your milkweed every few days for a 2 week period.  If you can’t do this … don’t try to grow a Monarch.  It’ll croak on you.  And you will be a murderer.

O.K., now that you have a home and food source for your Monarch all you need is the egg.

Look on the underside of milkweed leaves for an egg.  They usually lay their eggs on the youngest, top leaves on the plant.

It’s a butterfly egg, so it’s stinkin’ small.  Watch for a white, egg shaped blob.

When you find a leaf with an egg, pinch the leaf off and bring it inside.  Keep the stem of the leaf in water until the egg hatches so the leaf doesn’t dry up.  If the leaf dries up, the egg will too.  (more information tomorrow on how to tell when your egg is about to hatch)

Up close, under a magnifying glass it looks like this.  It will be white.  If it looks dark yellow, the egg probably isn’t viable.

DSC_0471

You can also keep your eye out for an already hatched caterpillar. These are harder to find because the tiny baby ones are usually eaten by earwigs, birds or other bugs.

small

 

2-3 day old caterpillar in wild

This is partly why I raise Monarchs.  Take this into consideration … of the thousands of monarch eggs that have been laid on my milkweed over the years, I have never once seen a Monarch caterpillar mature into a butterfly outside.  Ever.  Only 2-3% of Monarchs ever make it to maturity in the wild.

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

So you have a better idea of what you’re looking for, here’s a quick video of a Monarch butterfly laying its eggs in my yard.

READ ON … 

 


 

49 Comments

  1. Kim Norgate says:

    Amazing. I would go out there right now if it wasn’t so friggin dark, oh well I guess the kids and I will wait until tomorrow. Thanks Karen!

  2. You’ve inspired me. I think I’m totally going to do this. I just need to figure out where to find milkweed in Edmonton. I think I know where to look. Thanks!

  3. Shauna says:

    Wow…they lay eggs fast!! That’s super neat! What times of the year do they lay eggs? Are they done laying eggs now?

  4. Pati says:

    Would Love to do this! **see Im here**

  5. Pam'a says:

    Dang it. Now I wish I knew what sort of caterpillar was gnawing on my parsley the other day. It looked a lot like your Monarch, in the big-and-fat stage…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pam’a. If it was gnawing on your parsley, chances are it was a Black Swallowtail. Their main food sources are dill and parsley. I plant dill and parsley especially for them. I have one that matured and has turned into a chrysalis this very moment. (I’ll post pics. on Facebook in a few days) The Black Swallowtail will wander away from the parsley when it’s full grown and find somewhere nearby to become a chrysalis.

  6. Vila says:

    I love your DYI projects and been following them for some time now, but this one with the butterflys…I was completely sold by the idea…however I’m in the EU and I have no clue weather we have Monarch Butterflys or letalone milkweed :((( but will ask around for some locall species to grow 😉 Thanks a whole lot bunch for the great stuff you post! Keep up the great work 😉
    Hugs,
    Natasa

    • Jan says:

      Vila, as far as I can tell, milkweed and monarchs grow only in eastern North America. Here is a map of the range for one common milkweed variety. http://www.everwilde.com/store/Asclepias-exaltata-WildFlower-Seed.html
      Watching this project makes me even more committed to not using pesticides or herbicides on my yard. There are all sorts of neat critters there!

    • Whitney says:

      The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is a milkweed butterfly (subfamily Danainae), in the family Nymphalidae. It is perhaps the best known of all North American butterflies. In Europe it is resident in the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira, and is found as an occasional migrant in Western Europe.

  7. Natalie says:

    So amazing! Can’t wait to see more pictures!

  8. Liz says:

    When i bought broccoli the other day and was cutting it up to cook it, i found 3 tiny green caterpillars wrapped in silk. I am now a murderer and probably a bad wife because i squished the three ‘pilars i found and cooked the head of broccoli which was then fed to my husband who has now probably ingested caterpillar.

    Maybe he is incubating a butterfly?

  9. Alissa says:

    I snorted my drink out upon reading “Genius, eh?” / “Genius, huh?” You crack me up. :o)

  10. I’ll try that!

    What’s milkweed? don’t know it, not being a native of these parts.

    but what I REALLY, REALLY want to do is keep a caddis worm, with all my spare diamonds etc…http://www.leonardo.info/gallery/gallery314/duprat.html

  11. Allison says:

    I was all ready to start in on this butterfly project when I read that milkweed and monarchs are only in Eastern Canada….hmmmmf!

    Any suggestions to suitable substitutes for us here on the left coast, in Vancouver?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Allison? Did you read this on that Big Fat Liar, the Internet? Monarchs can be found all across the world including Hawaii, New Zealand, The Canary Island, Europe, and all of North America. From one coast to the other in Canada. Therefore, if there are Monarchs there’s also milkweed. Look for the milkweed and you’ll find the Monarch eggs! Good luck.

  12. Anemone says:

    This DIY is great for the butterfly population and better than watching Discovery channel…I am soo gonna try it

  13. Kelsey says:

    i only discovered your blog yesterday and thought this was amazing! i live in australia so imagine my surprise today when i was gardening to find a chrysalis dangling from the twiggy branches of a weed i killed……yes i murdered habitat…woops! but the chrysalis looks the same and i have never seen one with my ‘real eyes’ before, just seen pictures. so merry christmas to me (& my 3 kids) – we are now eagerly awaiting the arrival of the newest member of the family! excitement!!!

  14. Dana says:

    can you do a post “II.5 of V” all about how to find milkweed? is there something distinct about it so i know it’s actually milkweed? to me, pretty much all leaves look like milkweed. without your guidance, i’ll likely spend the next month waiting for a butterfly to bloom from a regular old weed.

  15. Tracy says:

    Last year my 12 year old neighbor (and then our local library) taught us How to raise Monarchs. Our kids are hooked! This is the only pet my kids are allowed. My husband has his whole office into this, too!

    You don’t need the glass, any clear plastic container will do ( from the deli counter, recycle Mcdonalds sundae containers, etc. Just make pinholes in them for breathing.

    You may want to invest ($15?) into a butterfly container made of screen, available at Target, Walmart, etc to grow lots of these guys! We have one for this year, been on the egg lookout this week!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tracy! I always suggest glass because it’s much easier to clean than plastic and it doesn’t scratch the same way plastic would. Plus if I’m going to have something on my counter for over a month I don’t wanna be lookin’ at no McDonald’s Sundae container, LOL. Also, I wouldn’t suggest the smaller deli counter containers because the butterfly’s home has to be something big enough for them to stretch their wings out once they’re born. They need room to extend them to their full size and flap them around a bit. The butterfly container is a good option. ~ karen

  16. Dee says:

    I have been providing food for the Monarchs and food for their caterpillers here in San Diego for about 4 years now. The milkweed we grow here is a different variety. I counted 19 in the raised bed with the milkweed plants last week and now they are all in the chrysalis stage. Google raising Monarchs for additional info on the plants. And the butterfly itself needs different plants for food source. A word of caution….once the caterpillers start migrating to a spot to attach and spin into the chrysalis becareful to not step on them or disturb the place they choose to attach. I have found them on window ledges, sides of pots, tables and one now is inside the patio screen door track…..I will not be opening that screen fully now for a couple of weeks. We can also provide butterfly houses for them to rest in at night. And no pesticides……kills the caterpillers instantly if they crawl into an area that has been sprayed.

    • Kari says:

      Hi Dee and Karen
      I live in Los Angeles and this year planted the native long leaf milkweed. It grew like gang busters but then just as quickly & vigorously came: first the milkweed aphid, then the milkweed bug. The milkweed bug became a full blown infestation. After trying the least harmful methods to try and get rid of these pests, finally had to resort to spraying and pull all the milkweed. This still wasn’t enough and continued to hand pick and kill the stubborn ones. Only one month later the milkweed is growing again. The “Weed” part of it’s name is accurate because it is growing everywhere!!! So far this little Monarch Butterfly project has not been a warm & fuzzy kind of thing for me. I really want a butterfly garden but really can’t handle this much work. Does it have to be? Any suggestions on how I could control the pests, milkweed and see the stages of butterfly to the end would be appreciated.

  17. Holly says:

    I must be tired, because it just struck me as very funny that two of the ads on the side of your blog are for concrete (“Put up a mailbox for under $90”) and “Ask Mr. Pickles” blog. (Mr. Pickles is nattily dressed in his hat and bow tie.) I don’t know why this is funny, it just is. LOVE your blog!

  18. SheilaB says:

    Oh my gosh, I so badly want to do this!!! A couple years back I had the task of raising 200 painted lady butterflys in these huge 6ft pavilions for a sermon illustration at work. I loved it! Now I need to find a place in KS that has milkweed. We see Monarchs flying around so it’s gotta be somewhere… This is one of the coolest ideas you’ve ever had, Karen!

  19. B.J.M says:

    I transplanted half a dozen milkweed plants to my garden last year. They are going great! Plus I am likely one of a few who loves the heavy scent.
    We had thousands of Monarchs’ about 4 years ago, mid July..looked like tiny bats hanging from the trees at night. I took quite a few pictures of them. Gorgeous!
    Have a SUPER weekend Karen,
    Brenda

  20. Nicole Mills says:

    I live in Cornwall Ontario(Eastern Canada. We have milkweed growing in our field at the back of our property. At what time of the year should I be looking for the eggs? Many thanks in advance.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nicole. Around Cornwall you should be looking for eggs anywhere from June to September. If you keep your eyes peeled you’ll notice Monarch Butterflies on the milkweed. Just keep an eye on them and you’ll actually be able to see exactly where and what leaf they’re laying on. Makes getting the eggs a lot easier. 😉 ~ karen

  21. Amy says:

    It was kinda tricky finding the eggs, but I managed. I went and stole some plants from the post office and replanted them in my yard. unfornuately I didn’t get eggs from them but they will be used for food source. I did get eggs from somewhere else and now have 3 little catepillars.

    • Karen says:

      Amy – Excellent! ~ karen

      • Amy says:

        Karen,
        2 of my catepillars are doing great (boy do they poop alot!!!), but one of them hasn”t grown at all in 2 weeks, he is still alove but not eating or pooping. can you tell me anything about this?
        thanks
        Amy

        • Karen says:

          Amy – Oh dear. Sorry about your caterpillar. That’s awful. I’m not sure exactly what the problem is, but I seem to remember something about this happening occasionally. Could have a bug of some sort in him. I doubt there’s anything you can do. You can continue to try to feed him, but if I were you, I’d remove him from the container with the other caterpillars. Definitely isolate him and possibly just put him outside and let nature take it’s course. He’ll either survive (if you put him on a milkweed plant) or get eaten by a bird. Sorry! ~ karen

          • Amy says:

            well he died 🙁
            im also sad to say that after raising two other catepillars, they have died today! why am i a monarch murderer? they had gotten really big and should have gone into their “J” phase in the next few days.i copied everything exactly. i even seperated all of them from the beginning.

            • Karen says:

              Oh no!!! I don’t know what happened, but I would suspect the milkweed either had pesticide on it or they had a pest in them themselves. 🙁 I’ve never had any of mine die like that, but it could just be luck. I know it’s a bit of an ordeal, but you could probably try again this year. (or wait til next year) ~ karen

  22. Sandra Shrieve says:

    What time of year do Monarchs lay eggs? I always leave at least one milkweed plant in each one of my garden beds. (and I have many – on 3 acres). Thanks, Sandra

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandra! I’m not certain when they lay across everywhere, but here where I am in Southern Ontario they should be laying right now. I have only seen ONE monarch around my milkweed this year and it was about 5 days ago. I went outside to check the leaves for eggs immediately because if you leave it the earwigs and other bugs will get the eggs. 🙁 They should be around until about September. ~ karen!

  23. Laurie says:

    I was wandering around and came across your site. I’m impressed by the content and your sense of humor. I live in the country in Missouri. It is too cold now but, this summer I will be looking for the butterfly eggs. It would be great to help keep them in existence. On a side note, I love your posts about chickens.

  24. Donna Horne says:

    Again this summer the caterpillars were on my parsley, they eat and disappear. No butterflies seen as yet.

    • Karen says:

      Those are swallowtails Donna! 🙂 They’re the ones on parsley and dill. And yep. They can eat a LOT of it, lol. ~ karen!

  25. Ev Wilcox says:

    Years ago a cloud of Monarchs landed on our driveway out in the country in northeast Ohio. They stayed about 15 minutes and resumed their journey. Years after that I saw a cloud of them landing on my trees to rest for the night. It still gives me chills to remember it. They left just before dawn. My daughter and I want to find the right kind of milkweed to raise/release Monarchs. There is more than one variety of milkweed and we must find the right kind. Any tips on this? Karen, your photos are superb.

  26. Jennie Lee says:

    I love butterflies, ergo I love this post. Thanks, Karen!

  27. Flash says:

    thanks… we really need more butterflys. wonder if they come to Alaska?

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