The Monarchs are Here! New Practices for Raising Them.

How the method of how to raise Monarchs has changed this year – according to one little study. What you need to change and what you can do the same.

Milkweed leaves in vases.

My very first Monarch of the season emerged today with another 2 that won’t be far behind. Plus another 8 eggs are lined up and ready to hatch.

 

Hand lifting paper towel covering glass jar. Monarch butterfly rests on jar.

Because ’tis the season – Monarch season, not Christmas, although that’s going to be here before you can say, Dear Santa, I’m a size 6 Chanel – I thought I should update you on some Monarch news you’ve probably read about in the past month.  That’s presuming you read about Monarch stuff.  If you do not, allow me to direct you to this post about the perils of a Brazilian Wax and its effects on farting.

Is anyone left here?

 

As you probably know, I’ve been raising Monarchs for over a decade.  (This is how I do it and how you can do it too.) Every summer I go out into my yard in search of Milkweed with Monarch butterfly eggs on it.  I pluck those leaves off and bring them inside where they can hatch in peace in a glass jar with a ventilated lid and CNN droning on in the background.  From thereon in I spend the next couple of weeks feeding them new milkweed leaves and cleaning their glass house.

When I first started looking into raising my own Monarchs years ago, there was almost no information to be found online about it. So I researched what I could and developed my own method. I always knew it was a bit weird to have them in the house where the conditions were so different from outdoors, but it seemed like the easiest and safest way to keep them.

Still.  Every year I’d think, there has to be a better, more natural way to raise Monarchs. Maybe a big birdhouse? Or a box outside? 

Monarch butterfly resting on purple phlox.


For everyone saying, just leave the eggs alone outside on the milkweed, this is where I tell you that only a tiny percentage of eggs laid on milkweed ever make it to the butterfly stage.  The eggs or day-old caterpillars are eaten by bugs and birds. 


I never came up with a better idea so I just kept doing it the same way.  Then this study came out last month proclaiming that Monarchs raised indoors basically lose their GPS instincts.  Not a terrible thing for early and mid-season Monarchs, but for the late-season Monarchs – the ones that migrate to Mexico and continue the survival of the species – it could be a death sentence. 

The study was small though and only involved commercially produced Monarchs from one breeder. There is in fact proof through Monarch Watch that many commercially raised and indoor-raised butterflies have made it to Mexico where they have a grand old time frolicking in cilantro while listening to telenovelas drone on in the background. 

Even if the study is a bit sparse,  I still think raising Monarchs outside is the way to go if you can do it.  Therefore this weekend I’ll finally be building an outdoor Monarch cage to hang on the side of my house.  The upper section will be for the older caterpillars and chrysalises to hang, with the lower section for smaller cats and eggs. 

Also, just to keep things real … Dear Santa, I’m a size 6 Old Navy.

Have a good weekend!

 

 

 

 

 
 

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34 Comments

  1. Beth KH says:

    I love all this information. I went egg hunting today. We have lots of land and I’ve see a lot of butterflies around here (Kentucky). I do see monarchs, too. I started with four jars (3 eggs and one caterpillar). I am keeping them out on my screened in porch. If I have any kind of success, I’m sure I will be building some sort of butterfly house next year. I have to find a way to keep our guy that hays our property from mowing all the milkweed down (he will definitely think I’m crazy) 😉! I think I want to go look for more eggs tomorrow. Only issue is the area where the milkweed is growing abundantly is almost 4′ tall with mixed weeds!

    Karen- My photo of the caterpillar isn’t very good but can you tell if it is a monarch? It doesn’t look exactly like the ones in your photos. Thanks! So glad I found you!

  2. Julie says:

    So we finally have successful milkweed in our yard and the butterflies are everywhere yay! But the aphids are _everywhere_. The tops of my plants are basically yellow.

    I’ve been spraying them with soapy water but I’m not sure that does anything. Do you have that problem and how do you deal with it if you do?

  3. Robin says:

    I have a 3′ garden running the length of our garage. I’ve been counting Monarch caterpillars all summer. One day, there were 47. Yesterday, there were 9 large ones on a two foot tall milkweed. Apparently, they get along well. We have had over 30 chrysalises emerge, so far and more are on the way. I can’t get the house stained until they are done.

    • Karen says:

      Nice! I actually saw my first live caterpillar on milkweed around my yard just a few days ago. In the 20 years I’ve lived here I’ve never seen it. They always get eaten. I’ve also seem WAY more eggs on milkweed than ever before and my yard is loaded with monarchs. It’s so much fun! ~ karen

  4. Chris says:

    I raise swallowtails & monarchs from eggs on my dill (growing in driveway cracks) and 4 milkweeds. Over 30 swallowtails this season so far and at least that many monarchs in the making. Started in mason jars andnow have 3 pop up habitats bought online. Used some grocery dill which didn’t work so well – lost about 3 little guys. Otherwise, pretty darn successful. I always put some sticks in to make it more homey- gives them extra space to hang on to. It is fun for sure!

  5. Heather says:

    Can’t wait to see the butterfly house you build.

  6. Lin Celoni says:

    OMG
    I am a newbie to Stuff. Didn’t realize it would take so long- 2 cups of iced coffee- to read it all and find out about penisii new cuss words and fluffy chicken butts. Mercy me. Love it all.
    But, the memory you gave me was back in the day (when screening was made with metal), we made monarch cages with a tin pie plate on the top and bottom and the screen rolled and connected with a few sticks inside. Bet you can’t come up with anything much better today – if you can find metal screens.

  7. Pattie Meyers says:

    So happy I read this post (I read them all) and clicked on Brazilian wax for a hilarious read. One of your best. Don’t ever stop.

  8. Suz says:

    This probably explains why we have a couple small monarchs dancing around the milkweed for the last two days!

  9. Teresa says:

    My understanding of the study is that all of these monarchs were raised from eggs purchased from a commercial breeder. Not gathered from outside the house where they were raised. That they are disoriented makes sense to me because the eggs are probably from monarchs that have been in captivity for multiple generations in another part of the country.

    I am hoping that this study does not stop people from gathering eggs and raising monarchs, even if they do it indoors, because the ones that they release will lay many, many eggs and some of them will survive out in the wild, emerge as monarchs and hopefully have a successful migration.

    You can get tags for your migrating monarchs and you have a chance of learning whether or not they made it to Mexico.

  10. Julia says:

    I am on my second year of raising monarchs! I have two catepillars right now, and planted 6 milkweed plants in my garden- hopefully they’ll spread and I’ll have more! Thanks for enspiring me!

  11. Jen B says:

    I have been raising Swallowtails for several years now. The first year I brought them all inside, but found dealing with all the poop to be far too much work. The following year I built a small cage (4’x2’x2′) out of cedar 2×2’s and stapled window screen to it. Every Spring, I plant several pots of fennel, dill and parsley and leave them out in the open until I notice some eggs on them, then put the pots in the cage. That way I can swap out the pots to attract new eggs as the cats hatch/munch/go into chrysalis. I leave some twigs and branches stuck in the pots, too, so when the butterflies eclose, they have a place to hang out until I can release them.

  12. Mary W says:

    Its been several years since I even saw a Monarch down here in north Florida (named due to all the flowers a long time ago). I just know that the stupid mosquito spray has a lot to do with it. The county sprays during the night with tons of poison fog so everything dies. We moved to town and picked our neighborhood one acre lot when we saw the fantastic firefly light show in the evening but that was 12 years ago and slowly that show has dimmed to a brief, sparse pen light non-event. I had ten acres in the country before, no sprayer, and not nearly as many mosquitoes as now with the &*&^$%&* sprayer! Sorry for the rant but most butterflies including monarchs don’t stand a chance here anymore. I do get to pay money and take the grandkids to a butterfly museum nearby. Really sick!

    • Ashley says:

      Where in north Florida?? Tallahassee here! I planted milkweed this year and see butterflies. Maybe try that to attract them.

  13. Jane says:

    Good morning, Karen. I have a question unrelated to this article but to your article in the recent Lee Valley Gardening Newsletter. You mention Serenade® Garden Disease Control for blight. I assume it’s this: https://hydroponics.com/shop/natria-natural-disease-control/? I have to switch to blight-resistant tomato seeds for a few years now, but I’m hoping for something to control blight so I can plant heirloom tomato seeds again. Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jane! Yes, that’s the newly branded version. Same thing. It worked GREAT during my trial run on seedlings early this summer. I think for it to be completely effective on a large tomato using it partly as a preventative would be a good idea. ~ karen!

  14. Ruthann Kowalski says:

    I’m in Connecticut and I have propagated Milkweed in my yard for a few years now after reading your original post about raising Monarchs. I have a lot of Milkweed now but not a lot of Monarchs. I saw ONE so far this year. I checked all over for eggs with no luck. I did raise two Swallow Tails from Caterpillars found on my Dill. We raised them outside in a screen covered terrarium. Worked good but need something to keep the rain out. I’ll keep trying. Thanks for the info.

  15. Barb says:

    I have raised Monarchs in one of those mesh “tents” they sell at the dollar stores to put over your food at picnics. It’s easy for the caterpillars to climb, and easy to put newspaper under to clean up all the caterpillar droppings! They stay on my porch till ready to fly, then the mesh tents fold up like umbrellas for next year. In my classroom, some did escape and made chrysalis on my classroom ceiling. Ummmmm….principal not happy about the stains, but the kids loved watching them hatch up there! Great lessons.

  16. Carole says:

    Hi Karen, I though you should know there is something wrong with your link to the article on your email. It redirects me to a page that says someone is impersonating you and if I continue my data would be compromised.
    I got to the article by going through the my browser and typing in your name.

    By the way, my farm is full of monarchs this year. They are on their 2nd or 3rd generation this summer. They are more plentiful this year! Interesting fact, they love animal poop and dead frogs in the road! 😳

    • Karen says:

      Um, that’s weird. And by “that” I mean everything in your comment from the email to the dead frogs, lol! I’ll look into the email thing, that’s very strange. I’d like to know if that’s happened to anyone else. My emails are sent out through Mailchimp and I’m not sure that they would be compromised or if it would be more likely that it’s a virus on your computer (that redirects). I’ll check into it and thanks for letting me know. ~ karen!

      • AudreyD says:

        Both the links in my email work fine (i.e. “continue reading” and “Read the Full Article”. I’m using a gmail account with Thunderbird.

        Karen, you’re terrific. I read your posts religiously, and I agree with TucsonPatty’s comment about your readers, who are often almost as funny and informative as you are.

      • Lyn says:

        I just tried both links on my iPhone and they were accurate and connected quickly!
        Lyn

  17. Jack Barr says:

    Morning, Karen. Thanks for the update info on Monarchs. I have several milkweeds growing next to the sidewalk in my front yard (most sun, other Asclepias out back in a mostly shady yard). Monarchs have frequently been visiting, but we’ve been away for a couple of weeks. Yesterday, I checked to see if any eggs had been deposited, only to find that someone had absconded with seven leaves from the largest milkweed. I hope the culprit is nurturing the eggs, but had they asked I would have given them some. May you have a bumper crop- both Monarchs and veggies.

  18. TucsonPatty says:

    Karen, it took me forever to read this post, because I had to go back and read the pee-pee post, and all it’s comments, and then read the Brazilian wax and fart post and all it’s comments.i’ve read The frozen yogurt tampon post several times already so I could skip over that link tonight.
    You are one heck of a writer, Karen, and your readers must also always, always read the comments, folks. You have some awesome subscribers and commenters, Karen!
    I love it when I can snort while I am laughing and the tears are running down my leg.
    Don’t ever change!

  19. Gayle M says:

    (Sob) Hubby accidentally mosed down my milkweeds out back. They are coming back, and he is now looking out for them, but so far no eggs. On a happier note, the Swallowtails I found in my dill late last August hadn’t eclosed from their chrysalis by late October. I overwintered them in my garage and brought them out once temps hit close to 70°F. Late April we released them. If you love something, set it free…

  20. Sandy Sherman says:

    Hi Karen,

    So…exactly how do you raise them indoors? You must be telling us but by brain. obviously not operating in all Monarch cylinders doesn’t seem to get it…Really want to do this!! Thanks,
    Sandy

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