How To Raise a Monarch Butterfly. 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 glass bowl or vase.



2. 2 way tape (optional)



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








(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.



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.


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.



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.


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.

Coming up tomorrow, what to expect when you’re expecting in Part III. The first two weeks of your caterpillar’s life.

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  1. Jannine Cox says:

    KAREN KAREN KAREN I FOUND ONE!!!! Omg I’m so excited! I’ve been cultivating milkweed in my front garden for 4 years and each year I’ve been disappointed with the lack of monarch caterpillars. Zero. Nada. I remember the monarch caterpillars from my childhood some 50 years ago. Every milkweed patch would have multiple caterpillars and chrysalises. It’s hard to believe that they’re in such peril now. So, armed with your excellent pictures I spotted this first egg in like 30 seconds of searching. I’m outside of the BTK spray area (Locke St. district) so here’s hoping…

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Good luck! I hope they do well for you. :) I still haven’t got one to live this summer so it’s all up to you. ;) ~ karen!

  2. Heather says:

    I found some! I rescued some milkweed from a local building site a few years ago and planted it at the end of my drive. It reminded me of my rural roots. It’s very invasive, so I’m always pulling up little plants. This morning, having read your post, I went out to look under the leaves of the latest renegade sprouters and sure enough one of them was dotted with eggs. Very exciting! I pulled it up and now the plant is in a vase filled with water as I search for a proper incubator.

    By the way, I’ve read the butterfly posts in other years and thought the idea was cool but I never wanted the responsibility. Not sure I do now; it’s bit nerve wracking but there’s no turning back once the plant is yanked from the earth. My husband is as anxious as me – just came in asking “Should it be in the sun or the shade? Are you sure the plant will be able to feed it now that it’s been pulled up?” Will keep you posted.

  3. linda in illinois says:

    So happy you do this. I wish more people would. Thank you

  4. Meredith says:

    I am 48 years old and for the first time this summer I realized milkweed smells REALLY good when it is in bloom. Who knew? Not me!

  5. Chris says:

    Hi. I love raising monarchs, too. I always end up taking pictures of them, with a penny and a ruler for size comparison, so it actually takes me some time every day. And I can’t resist trying to get video of forming a chrysalis or emerging. They will lay eggs and happily eat the milkweed vine that pops up everywhere in our garden. It’s never listed as monarch food, because you definitely wouldn’t want to plant it. I’ve also read that in a pinch, they will eat pumpkin.

  6. I don’t have monarchs here in BC – at least I’ve never seen any. Lots of other butterflies though. I love that you’re doing this!

  7. Alicia Cappola says:

    I just bought seeds for 3 varieties of milkweed and am going to dedicate a whole flower bed along the length of my house to them to see how it goes. I live in Washington state and I have not seen a monarch here since I moved here 13 years ago :( I hope that I see some after getting a milkweed garden going!

    When you originally posted this several years ago I had dreams about butterflies and finding their eggs, but I never did anything. This time I am!!

  8. Ronda says:

    the closest milkweed is in my neighbour’s front yard … will have to look for another source! Is milkweed easy to transplant?

    • Beth Jesch says:

      Home Depot sells milkweed plants, but buy way more than you think you would possibly need if they still have any in stock. It’s amazing how much they can eat.

      • Dale R Lacina says:

        Be sure to ask if the mw plant has been treated with ANY pesticide. No Monarch cat will survive. Plus what ever mw leaves you provide for your cats need to be washed to remove OE or other pests that eat the cats.

  9. Jenifer says:

    OK, I’m hunting for my egg! Wish me luck….I will call him George and I will love him and pet him and squeeze him…..


  10. Karin in NC says:

    I love that you are doing this! My sister does it too – has for years – and I’ve always thought about it. This just might be the inspiration I needed.

    • Karen says:

      You should do it at least once Karin. It’s completely fascinating and not very much work at all for such a huge reward. :) ~ karen!

  11. Lynn says:

    I do not have milkweed in my yard sadly. I do have a problem with white moths though :( . Dang things love the climber hubby planted beside house though:( . I so want to trash that plant as it is such a draw each an every year it is not funny :( . An each year the moth ends up winning the battle in the end so frustrating. I only wish it was the Monarch then I would not mind …

  12. Kathleen says:

    Well I have discovered that the South African Milkweed has very narrow leaves, so I would have been looking under the wrong trees / bushes! Now I just have to wait a few months, and read the rest of your posts so that I am educated enough when the season rolls around! :)
    PS a piece of useless information – our ostriches eat milkweed without any effect.

    Have an awesome day / night!

    • Karen says:

      O.k here’s the real news … I didn’t know there were ostriches in South Africa for some reason! Trade you. We’ll take the ostriches and you can have our raccoons. ;) ~ karen!

      • Jan in Waterdown says:

        Kathleen, don’t do it! Do. Not. Raccoons are cute but evil. I don’t know if ostriches are evil but I do know that they cannot hide the way raccoons do, well maybe just their heads, and they don’t have weirdly almost human hands that can open anything. Although, come to think of it, if we could con another country into taking them, I’m with Karen!

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