Monarch Population Help
Helping animals in the environment is something that everyone can do with a little effort. If each person or family raised a few Monarch butterflies, the population would increase. Not only would more Monarch butterflies be flying around outside, but more plants would be pollinated. Butterflies are a major pollinator of many native plant species and other plants in your garden.
Monarch Caterpillars are fairly easy to raise in your home. To get started you will need some plastic take-out containers with lids (tall potato salad type works best), paper towels, and a supply of milkweed either in your garden or in a nearby field. Monarchs return to the North-Eastern Coast of the United States in early May, so you can start to look for eggs then on Milkweed. Monarchs ONLY lay eggs on varieties of Milkweed Plants.
Blooming Common MilkweedCredit: butterflyteacher(me)Credit: butterflyteacher(me)
Collecting, Keeping, and Caring for Monarchs
Collecting and Keeping:
- Locate an egg on a Milkweed leaf (usually on the underside, but can be on the buds or blooms)
- Cut the leaf off of the stem- Watch Out! Milk will flow from the stem- wrap leaf stem in a paper towel to catch the milky sap and to keep leaf from wilting.
- Take indoors, place a moist paper towel on the bottom of the plastic container, and put the leaf egg facing up on top of the moist towel. Then close the lid. (you can make holes with a push pin for air flow)
Observations and Care:
- Watch the egg daily.
- Once you see a black dot on the top of the egg, it is about to hatch. (or chew out of egg)
- If you miss the black dot on top of the egg, you may just see the frass (caterpillar droppings) and find a teeny-tiny caterpillar instead.
- Offer fresh milkweed by placing the new leaf in the container nearby the caterpillar
- Remove the paper towel if it looks moldy and replace with a fresh towel.
- Remove the older leaf if that looks moldy too! I usually cut around the caterpillar if it is on a moldy leaf and place the caterpillar cut-out on top of a fresh leaf.
Cleaning and Feeding:
- As the caterpillar grows and feeds, it will frass (caterpillar droppings), just dump these into a trash can or outside in the dirt.
- Then place fresh leaves and caterpillar back in plastic container with lid on
- Continue this process daily
Plastic Container for MonarchsCredit: butterflyteacher (me)Credit: butterflyteacher (me)
Tall Take-out Container for Monarch CaterpillarsCredit: butterflyteacher (me)Credit: butterflyteacher (me)
More Monarch CaterpillarsCredit: butterflyteacher (me)Credit: butterflyteacher (me)
Making a Chrysalis and Drying Wings Before Release
Making a Chrysalis and Drying its Wings
- After about 2 weeks the caterpillar will climb to the top of the container.
- Right before it makes its chrysalis, it will hang in a “J” position on the lid.
- After it sheds its skin for the last time, it will make a bright green chrysalis on the lid.
- About 8-10 days later the green chrysalis will turn clear and you will be able to see black and orange wings inside. Your butterfly is about to hatch.
- After the Monarch butterfly emerges/hatches, the wings need to dry for roughly 8 hours. You do not need to do anything, the Monarch can care for itself, just observe
Releasing the Monarch
- You have successfully raised a Monarch butterfly
- You can release it into the wild (your garden or a park etc.)
- Start all over again with another caterpillar or egg and repeat the process
Raising even one Monarch butterfly will help their population. Many of the caterpillars will not make it into adulthood due to predators laying eggs on them or diseases that they can catch in the wild. Once you get the hang of raising Monarchs try raising more than one. Start small and find success. I began with 25 and now I raise roughly 400 a season. It is rewarding, magical, fun, and you help a species to survive with very little effort. Start collecting today!