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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39 Comments

  1. Susan Young says:

    Woah woah woah…. Hang on – Raising monarchs is a thing? Look, I know I’m a little late to the party here, but this is incredible! How have I missed this? I thought I had a wonderful free range childhood in the 70s and yet clearly, I was deprived. I won’t make the same mistake with my child. He’s gonna have a Magical Monarch Moment if I have to eat my way through a dozen Marie Callender’s frozen pies to do it. A mother’s love knows no bounds! Well, ok, maybe my waistline does… exactly how may pie tins are we talking here for this monarch house? Just a top and bottom? Your basic double wide? Nothing fancy? Although I do see they have Cherry, French Apple and Key Lime on sale…. decisions, decisions… I suppose one shouldn’t be too stingy when saving the planet. Ooooh look! They have pecan! Are monarchs considered endangered?

  2. Scout says:

    Ok…..I have tried to grow milkweed in my garden, in the lawn, in sunny corners that I don’t mow down. In pots. I fail. Common milkweed is what monarchs like where I live but what does this plant need to be happy? I am lost on the soil, the sun, the water. It grows behind Walmart next to a highway with no help from anyone. What does this plant want? Any advice is welcome.

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