Remember those Monarch eggs I wrote about two weeks ago that I found on my front yard milkweed? The photos below illustrate how easy it is to raise Monarch butterflies at home. It’s fun and gratifying to bring the eggs inside for fostering.
Now’s the time of year you’ll find Monarch butterfly eggs on your milkweed. Just turn over the leaves, look on the underside and you’ll see them. Your helping hand could give those eggs a higher chance–from 10% to 90%–of completing their life cycle and becoming a butterfly.
Mother Nature can be brutal. Threats lurk everywhere for the tiny eggs, which serve as a protein pop for beetles, ants, and wasps–equivalent of a highly nutritious smoothie.
Once the eggs hatch and start munching on milkweed leaves, the holes and “chew marks” they leave in their wake signal to predators that a tasty morsel is near. While birds generally don’t find Monarchs tasty, they don’t know that until they have their first bite.
It’s not difficult to nurture an egg all the way through the life cycle–from teeny creamy yellow dot to chubby waddling caterpillar to jewel-like chrysalis to beautiful butterfly.
Chrysalises also make fantastic, unique gifts for life’s transitional occasions–weddings, funerals, graduations, a job or other life change.
If you’re up for fostering Monarch caterpillars, you must have ample, chemical-free milkweed which can serve as Monarchs’, Queens’ and other milkweed feeders solitary food source in the caterpillar stage.
Any type of Asclepias species will do. As much as I like native plants, I’m a big fan of Tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, for at-home butterfly gardens: it’s easy-to-grow, widely available and a reliable bloomer. Other butterflies adore nectaring on its orange and yellow flowers.
Once the eggs hatch, you’ll need to provide fresh milkweed regularly–and in later stages, daily–to these voracious eating machines, so make sure you’re well stocked.
You’ll also need a pot, container or “cage” in which to store the milkweed and sequester the caterpillars. They make quite a mess. Some people use tupperware boxes, others will put milkweed leaves in a vase and let the caterpillars crawl around, munching as they please.
I like to use a beverage bottle or a plastic iced coffee cup with a lid, which makes a simple “caterpillar condo.” Be sure to put some newspaper underneath to catch the enormous amount of caterpillar poop, also known as frass, that will result from the constant eating. Clipping the paper with a clothespin to create a catch for the frass will keep it from rolling onto your floor.
Another option, if you have chemical-free potted milkweed available, is to bring the plant inside the house or on a porch and let the caterpillars consume the plant. That’s one of the easiest methods.
Professional butterfly breeders often take this approach, devoting entire greenhouses to seeded milkweed pots.
Others will use cut milkweed supplied fresh daily after cleaning the containers.
Cages must be kept clean and free of frass. You can empty out the frass and wipe down the inside of the cup or container with a paper towel. Trapped frass can cause a germ problem, as the caterpillars waddle through the mess, track it onto leaves, then consume the nastiness, possibly getting sick.
Beyond fresh milkweed and a container, cage, or potted plant, you’ll need little else but time. The life cycle from egg to butterfly usually takes about a month. The egg stage lasts about four days. Then the caterpillar hatches and remains in its first instar, or stage, for several days. As it eats and outgrows its skin, it morphs to become a second instar caterpillar.
The process continues, to third, fourth and fifth instar “cats,” until finally, the caterpillar is almost as big as your ring finger and appears as if it will bust its stripes.
Usually the process from egg to fifth instar takes about 10 -14 days, depending on conditions. And, if there’s less milkweed available, the caterpillars will hurry up and form their chrysalises, eating less and forming more petite chrysalises.
When that time nears, the caterpillar typically wanders away from its host plant or attaches itself to the top of the cage if confined. It seeks a nice, quiet place, out of direct sunlight to form its chrysalis. We have found chrysalises in the most unusual places.
For that reason, many people prefer pop-up cages rather than cups or potted plants since you can put a potted plant inside, sit back and wait. Personally, I love watching the cats’ acrobatics as they go through the process and I don’t mind finding caterpillars on or under my furniture or curtains. My husband is also quite tolerant. But…I understand not everyone feels that way.
When the caterpillar is ready to go chrysalis, it sits quietly for a while, seeming to ponder the possibilities. But actually, it’s spinning a tough, sturdy silk button that will support its weight for the period in which it hangs upside down as a chrysalis for about a week.
When it’s ready, it hangs vertically and forms a j-shape. At some moment, when you see its tentacles hanging limply, it will begin its transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis with an exotic twisting dance that allows it to shed its skin for the fifth and final time.
It forms the most fantastic jade colored jewel, flecked with gold specks and rimmed with black. The chrysalis remains for 10 – 14 days, depending on the weather and humidity.
Finally, when it’s ready to become a butterfly, the green chrysalis will turn opaque, then dark, then black, then clear. You can see the gorgeous orange-and-black coloration of the Monarch butterfly waiting to be born through the shell.
To watch the butterfly eclose, or emerge, from this form warrants a toast of champagne or a sip of Bordeaux. It happens quickly, so don’t leave the scene if you’re hoping to catch the moment.
When the butterfly first hatches, its wings are soft and malleable. The butterfly needs to hang vertically so its wings can take shape and firm up. After about two hours, the butterfly’s wings have dropped completely and are fully formed, ready for first flight. When you see the butterfly start to beat its wings slowly, as if it’s revving up its engines, its time to take her outside and send her on her way.
For more information, check out the Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project page on raising Monarchs or Monarch Watch.
- Part II: More Tips on Raising Monarch Caterpillars and Butterflies at Home
- How to Raise Eastern Swallowtails at Home
- FOS Monarch Lays Eggs in San Antonio Urban Garden
- Tropical Milkweed: To Plant it or Not is No Simple Question
- Oh Those Crazy Chrysalises: Caterpillars in Surprising Places
- Butterfly FAQ: Is it OK to Move a Chrysalis? Yes, and here’s how to do it
- Should You Bring in a Late Season Caterpillar into Your Home?
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I am going to do this. My 92 year old mom will enjoy watching all this happen!
It’s a fantastic activity for seniors and senior citizen centers. The caterpillars become low-key pets whose progress is visible daily. They transform to the “next stage” over the course of a few weeks, then, one day, they morph into a new life form and fly away. Kind of reassuring at any stage of life. –MM
Monika, I love your pictures and descriptions. Thanks for all the great information.
Help My outside cats kept disappearing way too soon so I brought in some eggs and one small cat We call him the big boy. Anyway this afternoon I tried transferring him from his glass fishbowl to a larger apple juice container he stopped moving after an hour but he moves when I move his leaf. I put him back in his bowl fearing that he plastic was toxic to him. He is over an inch might he be shedding and I am freaking out over nothing?
There’s not much you can do. Let Nature takes it’s course. Cruel, I know. Impossible to say what the problem is without more info. Sorry. –MM
We have a monarch that I found on bottom of our tub hatchery we have set up. Found yesterday. It is having trouble spreading its wings. Can we help it somehow? I suspect another cat getting ready to J knocked it down! Please help!
These little guys are pretty resilient, Dana. I don’t think the container has anything to do with what you say seems to be happening. As long as it has air holes, it should be good. I have had caterpillars stay on the sides of my container for TWO DAYS. I’m pretty confident that soon your little charge will be up and eating you out of house and home.
Thanks for this lesson! Well done!
I had a ton of Oleander aphids on my butterfly weed last week, so I sprayed with a mixture of 1 qt of water to 1 T of Castille soap. Aphids are gone, but now I’m wondering if I killed any eggs. Heading out to check for eggs now…
I would love to be a Monarch momma!
Well, Sue? Did you find some eggs?
I didn’t. 🙁
Just lots of aphid carcasses.
The aphids won’t hurt the eggs or the caterpillars. Just find bunches of Ladybugs and they will enjoy snacking on these aphids! Sorry no eggs!!
Agree with 🐞 the ladybugs are great! For a while I thought that was all I was raising. But now I have hungry caterpillars and eaten milkweed. 🐛🐛More milkweed please!
*Always remember if you use something to kill an insect, butterfly is still an insect.
Even for mosquitoes It’s why I prefer a dragonfly over an insecticide.
I sprayed my aphids away, but they’re returning. Luckily I have milkweed in several beds and some have not been hit by aphids.
Hi Monika, your posts are great! Keep up the good work. We’re trying to share the word and knowledge here in Milam County too!! Thank you!
It’s really a great and useful piece of info. I’m happy that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.
Hi, Monica! I have so many questions but, will only ask one for the time being: I notice that the plastic containers in which you have your caterpillars have no holes for air? Do they need air? No holes in the top would certainly help with runaway “teensie-tinesies”. I use jars and have the smallest plastic screen I can find over the top of the babies’ jar. This morning, I found one on the outside of one of the other jars as I was cleaning and feeding. Thanks so much!
When the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis where should I release it for the best chance of survival? I live in San Antonio and could release it in my back yard, take it to the botanical garden, … I only have one so I want a successful release!
If anyone wants milkweed seeds please email me and I will send you as many as you want, I have red, orange, and showy.
Wow, do they strip the plants! I will send you postage for the seeds.
218 SW 43rd Lane
Cape Coral, FL 33914
If anyone has seeds to share I’d love some. I have Asclepias curassavica the red/orange variety, but would like to branch out and try the others.
I realize this is an old thread, but thought I would give it a try.
I can send some from Woodland CA
Would you like some of mine? red/orange?
And I have the larger wild variety too.
508 West Shore Drive
Richardson, TX 75080
970 222 4017
Hi where can I send some money to pay postage for the stamps??
My 9 year old daughter and I have been hatching (is that even the correct term?) monarchs for two years now and love it! What a fun time together. We have 4 right now in her butterfly habitat, two are emerging as I type this. Can’t wait for her to come home from school to see them. I would love to have some seeds from your other plants so that we could continue to enjoy this for years to come. How do I contact you to get them? I don’t see an email listed. Thanks.
My 3 worms have escaped!, I had them in a large flower pot with the butterfly plant and they must have crawled out. How do you keep them in? Tape the screening to the pot?
You can buy butterfly cage and cover the pot, that way , the caterpillar will decide to stick around and attach itself to the cage net, and you can monitor it and let it out when it emerges, good luck
Yu can use a clean pizza box, leaving the sides and bottom intact but cut off the top of the box. I found a net that fit comfortably. I taped the net to the pizza box and this kept the enclosed area secure. You will have to clean the box frequently from their waste. The caterpillars attached themselves to the top of the net when they were ready.
Where do you think you can get net?
Tulle at the fabric store. You can use any size box. You can also put plastic wrap over the box with a stick inside for them to rest on. Stand it up so you look into it. Put paper towels on the floor and water in a lid for humidity. Tape all the way around and open the side to add new food.
I bought a “food cover” at Big Lots a few years ago. It’s an umbrella type thing that keeps bugs off your food when outdoors. If your local stores don’t carry, you can Google “mesh outdoor food cover” and you’ll find plenty. These ready- made nets can be used for your caterpillars instead of your food!
I found food covers at 99c Store and Dollar Stores. That was during the winter so they might be sold out now. These two stores also sometimes sell foldable laundry baskets that are in the shape of a rectangle. You could use that and put it on a piece of newspaper covered with a soft cloth incase the chrysalis falls.
Need seeds ofr milkweed
I need seeds! How much?
would you please be able to send me some seeds I already have the milkweed I don’t have any of the nice colours you have mentioned
Seeds would be delightful! Thanks for the photos!
I would like some milkweek seeds. I can send you some money for postage if you like. How do I send you my address without it being posted to a public website?
Do you still have seeds available? Your fans would love to have some.
Would love to have seeds in all colors. Would send postage if you want.
Hi, I am just getting started on my Monarch butterfly adventure. I planted two milkweed plants two days ago. After hearing about the hungry, hungry caterpillars, I think I would like to plant some seeds. When I was a kid, I used to gather eggs and caterpillars on the milkweed that lined ditches and fields in Michigan and watched them turn into beautiful butterflies. I can’t believe I am now growing ‘weeds’ in my vegetable garden.
I would love to have some seeds please
I would love some… I just started my butterfly garden and do far I have helped raise ten monarchs.
I have just started “raising” monarchs and would love to have more milkweed.
Is your offer for milkweed seeds still available?
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d love to plant your different varieties of milkweed here in Ohio to help our Monarchs. Let me know what postage will be. Thanks,
Amy From northeast Ohio
The original comment from Rene offering seeds is a few years old and I don’t think she is active on this site. I wrote to her and never received a reply.
please email me
Please let me know if you can sendme, would love to have some in all colors 2
I could send you red/orange, and large wild version.
Please, I appreciate it, Elizabeth Craig, 1360 Prairie Dr, Lewisville, Texas, 75067…
If you have extra seeds would love to have some to start raising butterflies with grand kids. I will pay postage. 4180 S. Countyline rd. Ardmore OK 73401.
What does the newly emerged butterfly eat? Same milkweed as caterpillar?
Please would love seed !!! have planted for bees and other butterflies but now need to get milkweed started. Thanks Sandy Cook PO Box 1484 Priest River ,Idaho 83856 email@example.com will send $ for postage..
I’d like some milkweed seeds. Can they be planted in the fall in Ohio?
Are the red and orange not the tropical with both colors? If not, I’d like summer of all three!
508 West Shore
Richardson, TX 75080
My husband would love some of each color. Tell me how much to send for postage and where.
I know this is an old post, but if you still have milkweed seeds to share, I’d love some. com
Do you still have seeds? My address is Diane Godbout 41 Potter Hill Road Apt 208, Gilford,NH 03249 I can remiburse postage
I would like red and showy if you still have some.
508 West Shore Dr
Richardson TX 76080
Hi, if anyone has snowy and red butterfly seeds, please send me some, appreciate it, my address is. Elizabeth Craig, 1360 Prairie dr, Lewisville, Tx 75067….thanks
I know this is an old post but I’m in MA and I’m happy to send you some seeds when the time comes!
If you still do this, please let me know and I will be happy to pay the postage.
I’d love some milkweed seeds of any variety. We accidentally planted one this year and were graced with a late in the year monarch that layed eggs. We now have one catapillar and just 2 days ago two chrysalis hanging! We really want to try and do this again next season on purpose but need milkweed! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll provide my address!!
Hi Rene, if you still have Milk weed seeds I’d love to have some. I’m trying to start a butterfly garden. I have a few plants but would like to plant as many as I have room for to help
the monarchs. Email me and I’ll give you my address. Thanks, Diane Abele, California
I would love to have more seeds…I have a few plants but need more. Also some info on the best way to turn the seeds to plants. Thank you , Marie Duyvejonck.
Rene Mace May 23, 2013 at 11:08 am – Reply
If anyone wants milkweed seeds please email me and I will send you as many as you want, I have red, orange, and showy.
Hi, looking at a post of yours from 2013 about milkweed seeds. Do you still have access to the seeds? I would like to get some and plant the seeds spring 2023. Lou
Just found your website and love it, so informative. Got four milkweed in pots, left them outside on the lanai. I would sit out there having my morning coffee and watch them lay eggs. I purchased a net house, and brought a pot. In when the catapillars started eating. Somehow the egg laying got out of hand and had to being all four plants inside. What’s with the head bobbing?
NOt sure what the head bobbing of caterpillars means. Maybe they’re communicating with us and thanking us for supply the host plant?
My daughter and i have been doing this for three years going along the roads looking for milkweed and caterpillars they are so much fun to watch but having a hard time this year finding them haven’t found any yet don’t know if its to early or to late here in ohio. would love to have some seed and willing to pay for it.
We had a monarch come out of the chrysalis early this am. It is cold and rainy outside. Should we go ahead and
let her fly away or keep her inside til the weather clears up, probably tomorrow afternoon?
Best to wait for a nonrainy day if you can. They don’t really need to eat for the first day. MM
I have had to keep monarchs inside for a couple of rainy days in a row. I grow butterfly bushes, so I pick some of the flowers from them to feed the new monarchs.
Monarchs do not have to eat in the first 24 or so hours. If you have nectar plants and can bring some in they may or not use them. If longer times are required or if you just wish to offer food, the cap from a Gatorade bottle with a mixture of honey:water 1:9 can work well. I put a stone from stones for aquariums (after they were well washed) in mine, but it is not necessary. I also folded up paper towels and cut a hole to drop the cap in so my guy, Braveheart, could be level with the top of the cap as he ate. But that too is not usually necessary. My guy was older and not well in the end so he needed extra support. One other caveat, it’s easier to get them interested if there is no bright light around. If it’s too bright, all they can think about is getting outside.
I think mid 60’s is ok to release as long as its sunny. C(Ck experts for this). Late afternoon or evening is not the best time. In my limited experience, they like an early night with some rough sticks (1/2 ” diameter seemed preferred) or a plant to hang on overnight.
This is so exciting and very inspiring, helpful to me for
my ongoing major final project with Monarch Butterfly as subject. So beautiful and very interesting!
I took 4 larva inside just before the first frost. I have been feeding them
milkweed since then and 3 of them are now in the chrysalis form. I’m
Now trying to figure out how to foster the butterflies until flowers start to
Bloom. My question is where can I purchase a cage similar to the one in
your article? How long can you keep the adults in a cage and still successfully release them?
Thanks for you excellent website
Good for you, Stacey. That “cage” is actually a laundry hamper I got at my local Bed, Bath & Beyond. Our friend Todd Stout of Raising Butterflies sells proper butterfly cages. You can find him on Facebook and order from him. Good luck!
Thanks for the response. I found a suitable cage at Carolina Scientific . My concern now is
how long can I foster the adult butterflies, waiting for the flowers to start blooming here
In Houston? I’ve seen reports about people
keeping the adults for short periods but it will
Be a few months before flowers start blooming
here in Houston.
That’s your call to make, Stacey. I wait for a sunny day and let them fly. Here in San Antonio it’s been in the 70s this week. They’ll find the nectar. Did you read this post?
Thanks Monika. I’ve read all of your excellent articles. The thing I
don’t understand is how the adults
survive without flowers to provide
nectar? I really don’t want to take
on the task of feeding the adults but on the other hand I don’t want them to slowly starve. Will they survive until spring if I release them in January?
Have you had any issues with the chrysalises turning brown and dying? We raise Monarch caterpillars from MonarchWatch in our first grade classes each year and have had issues the last couple of years with OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha). Even though we make sure that our habitats are clean and are very careful with handling, we still have issues. From what I have read on Monarch Watch and other sources the spores of OE are mainly spread by adults and they contaminate the milkweed as they land on it. It seems that OE may be a natural cause for why the population is declining–along with all the manmade causes. Do you have any experience with OE and hints on how we can help eliminate it?
Yes, OE spores arepresent in the Monarch population–just like the strep bacteria is present in human beings. The problem is when it gets out of hand, which often happens in crowded environments or places frequented by many Monarchs. I subscribe to the notion of slashing Tropical Milkweed to the ground in the winter, thus limiting the build-up of OE in a Monarch habitat.
I don’t have personal experience with OE but I have read about it and have observed my breeder friends take precautions to eliminate and limit it in their breeding houses. Here’s a link that might be useful to you: http://monarchparasites.uga.edu/whatisOE/
I am currently in a biology class at a university in Oklahoma. I was curious as to why the monarch butterfly continues to flutter its wings while drinking nectar. Can anyone help me with this question? Thankyou!
I’m reading a novel – The Butterfly’s Daughter – by Mary Alice Monroe that some of you might enjoy. It has stirred my interest in the whole subject.
Hey. I had a friend who had abundant milkweed in her backyard, and so she took a few caterpillars, provided them with milkweed, and watched their transformation into butterflies. Pretty cool. I’m thinking of doing the same thing this summer.
I’ve had a lot of mortality from tachinid flies, but most disappointing was when a caterpillar destroyed a fellow ‘pillar who was in the process of forming a chrysalis. We returned to find the victim bloodied and at the bottom of the cage, dead, and the culprit at the scene of the crime (hanging out on the lid where it detached the victim). It was only the two caterpillars in the container and plenty of food for the one… my question is, WHY? Why did the caterpillar maul and detach its cagemate?
You are the first person to mention this that I have seen. I have had the same problem. A large caterpillar will definitely molest a newly formed or forming chrysalis. I watched a chrysalis forming on a lid and as it was happening another cat on the other side of the lid who had been stationary made his way over to the new chrysalis and started going under the lid to molest as I watched. I promptly removed him from the scene. Now I protect J’s that are about to turn from other large cats. Who knows why but very distressing.
So is it preferable to have a separate container for each one? My 2 cats ate leaves together in a cardboard box w. screen on top, then I put one in a separate container (plastic ice cream bucket) with air holes poked in the lid because I thought they preferred a solid surface to hang from when pupating. (They both developed into chrysalides.)
I think raising similar sizes together in the same container is fine but give them enough or large enough leaves to be separate. Since I have seen the molestation problem several times I definitely watch a J about to pupate to be sure no other cat is approaching ready to cuddle!
I also like to use clear plastic containers and then cut out a section of the lid and replace it with window screen with spots of hot glue.
The chrysalis can form well on the screen mesh but not so well if it soft netting. After a few days you can carefully detach the silk and move it to a safer place if necessary
Happy New Year to all! I am a first timer. Planted a bunch of milkweed but I had no caterpillars in the spring. I’m in Texas, and no matter what I tried, the wasps would get them. The good news is that I went outside on Christmas Day and counted 10+ caterpillars! I brought 7 of them inside and made little plastic container habitats. I feed them every day and clean their frass (correct word?) daily. They are thriving in their new habitats and I have 3 “J”-ing already. I did have to separate two of them because in a weird way, it looked like they were fighting. I’m so excited being a first time Monarch person.
Sounds very promising. Keep up the good work! They do have little spats and they do like their space. The time to really keep them separated is when they are full size and going into a J and chrysalis. While in the shedding-the-last-skin or early chrysalis stage (first 12-24 hours or so) I have found them extremely vulnerable to attack by another fat 5th instar to the point where they will die from the attack. Keep a close eye on them or separate them at that stage.
OK, so I am pleased to report that I have 10 in containers that have spun into their chrysalis stage!! Now, I need more help…what do I do now? Do I leave them alone and wait, or is there something else I need to do. I’m so excited!
So exciting! I’m jealous!
I did more research and found out that I need to leave them alone until the chrysalis is clear. Many have attached to the lids of the containers. Also, I have three more instars (is that the right word?) who I made more habitats for. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. Like I said, this is my first time.
Just leave them. They will take 10-15 days, depending on temperature. Make sure there is enough space, 3 inches or more, for them to drop down and inflate their wings when they eclose. Wait 2-4 hours and release them if the weather is good and still several hours of daylight.
OK! Thanks for the info. I work during the week and by the time I get home, it’s dark. If they hatch while I am work, do I wait for daylight to release? I’m so sorry to have so many questions, but I want to give them every chance to make it.
Is there a minimum outside temperature for release?
Most monarchs will “hatch” in the morning. It would be a shame to make them wait all the day until the next morning to be free if it’s a nice day. If you work at a desk, could you take the chrysalis to work with you if it’s about to “hatch”? Would there be somewhere you could tape it up by the silk where it would be undisturbed during the day? You would remove the silk carefully from where it’s attached, press scotch tape to the silk and then stick it under a shelf or ledge so it could drop down. They will hatch that day if they are completely black with the color of the wings showing through the chrysalis. It’s hard to think that this is happening in December/early January. I don’t expect to see any caterpillars in my area until June! I think it should be above 50 when you release them.
I have a similar predicament as it has been cold and windy in Los Angeles. I read on another website (see below) the temps should be in mid 60’s . Does anyone have experience with releasing in colder weather?
I do have a desk job!! I will talk to Human Resources about having a “bring your chrysalis to work day”. 🙂
There are a lot of coworkers who have become fascinated with this process. I think I may be able to pull it off. Thanks again for the info.
You have totally inspired me to do this next year! I’m doing a landscaping overhaul in Oct and planned to plant butterfly- and pollinator-friendly plants for my garden and to give a bit of a wildscape to my otherwise boring suburban landscaping 🙂 . I’ll be adding milkweed to the list.
I’ve raised them for two years, last week 4 went on their way. It is a rather emotional and well worth endeavor as one feels they are worth the effort and fun. Susie
I HAVE NOT HAD ANY MONARCHS FOR THE LAST 2 SEASONS SO I WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE EGGS, CATERPILLARS TO RAISE AND RELEASE IN MY YARD SO MAYBE SOME WILL COME BACK NEXT YEAR. I HAVE LOTS OF GIANT, DARK RED MILKWEED AND ANOTHER THAT GROWS ABOUT 4 FEET HIGH, IS MULTI BRANCHED, HAS SMALL CLUSTERS OF WHITE FLOWERS AND BEARS LONG, SLENDER PODS. DON’T KNOW IT;S NAME, BUT VICEROYS AND OTHERS THAT VISIT MILKWEED LIKE THEM.
Does anyone know when you can release butterflies in western Virginia?
I have had Monarch caterpillars in my yard three times this year. Only one out of probably 35-40 caterpillars made it and I had to save that one off the ground. A labor of love which ended with a beautiful butterfly. I had another nine caterpillars on my milkweed plant last week, this morning I had six and then this afternoon I only see two. what could be happening to them? Will birds eat them? Would love to learn how to protect them since they seem to enjoy my yard.
It’s a dangerous world for caterpillars. Birds, disease, accidents (getting stepped on, for example). That’s why I like to bring them inside, otherwise they seem to just disappear. Surely much of that is Nature’s Way. If the hundreds of eggs all made it to become butterflies (actually, only about 10% make it), we would have an overpopulation. When we help them out, the odds are reversed and they have about a 90% of completing the life cycle. Good luck.
I THINK I TOLD YOU, I BROUGHT THEM INSIDE AND RELEASED ALL THREE. THEY LOOKED HEALTHY AND STRONG BUT HAD TO KEEP THEM IN A BIRD CAGE TILL THEY DRIED OUT THEIR WINGS, THEN I TIPPED IT AND ONE BY ONE THEY FLEW OUT IN KALAMAZOO AND HOPEFULLY THE WORLD BEYOND. I FIND THE PROCESS EXHAUSTING AS I WORRY SO MUCH AS I RAISE THEM, BUT THEY RE GONE AND I TRIED. EMILY
I have one that just hatched this morning. I think he’s ready to be released, but it’s raining out and I don’t think it’ll be stopping soon. Any tips? How long can he stay in the jar? Would overnight hurt?
Gonna try this for the first time! wish me luck! Gretna, Louisiana!
This summer I notice milkweed growing where there was none last year. Along roads and fields.
I continue to give seeds to all interested.
Many people have mw in their yard who last year could not have cared less.
This is in Mid West, Kalamazoo, MI.
Hi, I have a newly hatched monarch and she did not hang from her chrysalis, she dropped to the bottom of the container and her wings are not unfolding all the way. Any suggestions? Shall I mist her a bit to keep her wings from hardening? I placed a stick in the container and made her crawl up, but it’s been about 2 hours and no real change.
I had this happen last year. I took her outside, set her on a flower to let nature take it’s course. Within no time she was gone and I prefer to assume she was dry enough to fly off. Dunno, I just couldn’t watch if I lost her.
It sounds like an OE infection. Not being strong enough to hand after eclosing and wings not expanding are tell tale signs.
Found caterpillar on butterfly weed this week and she barely ate or messed up the jar. She was truly ready because within 2 days she was clinging to the screen on top and yesterday I have a pretty green chrysalis.
The jar is on a shelf in a pantry where the light is rarely on. Last year I just left the jar on the stairs landing in the corner, out of bright light. Now I’m worried it’s too dark in the pantry. Any help with this stage appreciated. Worried Monarch mom.
Put the chrysalis near a bright window, but out of direct light. Good luck!
Madam Butterfly emerged this morning. Looking fine, just waiting for wings to dry then off she goes. Will let neighbor kids send her off. This late term butterfly is so big and beautiful, kinda hate to send her on her way but she needs to leave Michigan ASAP.
I just want to note that monarch experts advise against using tropical milkweed. In CA a monarch organization instructed the removal of tropical milkweed as it appears to trick monarchs into prematurely stopping their migration.
It’s not that simple. Please read this: https://texasbutterflyranch.com/2013/02/25/tropical-milkweed-to-plant-it-or-not-its-not-a-simple-question/
My monarch had a difficult time getting out of the chrysalis. It was stuck on one side for hours, so I held on to the twig it was attached to as she twisted to set herself free. She finally did as soon as I held onto the twig.But that wing is crumbled up to the outside and the other is extended. She’s fluttering her wings, but one looks damaged. Can I help her unfold it? Any suggestions?
Hi, my monarch probably had OE as she had crumpled wings and could not fly. Is this OE disease harmful to humans?
Thank you for your response. I have another question. Could lots of flash from picture taking cause the chrysalis stress, causing malformation? I took many, many pictures up close using a flash. I know this is not good for babies (within 3 feet of their faces), but didn’t think it might affect cats or chrysalises. Hoping for a reply. Thank you.
I think your guess of OE is correct. Those are classic symptoms.
Would love seeds for milkweed. Please let me know where to send SASE. Thanks!
i am near or Orlando FL it start to be cold and late for the monarch
My last 7 caterpillars hatched put them outside but have hard time to make them go did not went to leave my finger ??? Maybe because they where warm
I finally fund a place on the sun and it was ok after minutes, but one come back inside I do not know if I can keep it and feed it for it to survive ???
How they do on butterflies professional house ??
I have the larvae inside, but forgot to put the top cover touching the top of the milkweed. I have several now on the cover. I’m not sure if they are waiting to form the chrysalis or just lost. If the latter, I can put them back on the milkweed. They are large so maybe it’s time for them. How much time should I give them to move to the J before I put them back on the plants? Thanks for your help.
I have found that once the cats move away from the milkweed, they are very fragile. I would wait and see what they do. They might crawl back to the plant to do more munching, or they might make a J right there. Once the chrysalis is formed, they can be moved. I have found it takes up to three days to form a J.
i have a lot of caterpillars on my milkweed (outside). is there a recommend structure I could construct that would entice the caterpillars to go to to for the chrysalis stage?
I am not an expert, but I think the chrysalis prefers indirect light rather than direct sunlight. The larvae like to go up – and out of the wind I would think. I’ve had to bring mine in due to inclement weather. They are doing fine with fine mesh burlap and a cardboard cover. Some have formed the chrysalis on the burlap itself and some have used the cardboard. I think they have to be able to hang down to develop properly.
Hi, I have a question about a chrysalis that is about to hatch, but its turned see thru on New Years Eve and today it still hasn’t come out. I can see the orange and black monarch inside but it isn’t hatching, could the cold be slowing down the process or could something have happened to it? I’ve had them turn black and die before but never see thru- they always hatch if they make it to this point. Thanks for your input : )
Could be diseased or just slow. How long has it been clear? If they’re not healthy, they sometimes get stuck. I know. Brutal.
It was clear for three days and I couldn’t stand it anymore so I flushed him down the toilet : ( ive had them turn black before but never turn clear and then not come out. Oh well, i’m in So Cal and because of the Indian summer we had I still have caterpillars like mad on my bush- even after I pruned it back!!! so carzy : ) Thanks for your reply!
I live in San Diego and planted milkweed seeds about three weeks ago. None have germinated, although they’re inside, covered with plastic, and in a window. Do you find you need to “chill” the seeds in the frig and/or scrape the seeds to get them started? Thank you.
Has anyone ever used a bird cage for housing the caterpillars? I do have a number of plants but last year I noticed that my caterpillars were not surviving because of the birds. I only had 5 butterflies for the season. I thought the cage idea would help to protect them and with a drawer at the bottom, easy to keep clean. Any other ideas would be appreciated.
I live in Ohio. I am wondering what month the caterpillars come out of their chrysalis in Ohio. Thanks!
[…] Milkweed is the nursery of choice for the monarch butterfly. […]
Does anyone know what it is I see when a caterpillar is finished eating and crawling to the top of a cage to attach, there is a green gooey liquid coming from its backside, what is it? is it dying? please help me, thanks
It’s probably frass–butterfly poop.
Everyone looking for free milkweed seeds, please visit Live Monarch Foundation! They will send you free seeds (around 15), or 50 per each dollar you donate. They make sure to send the species that will do best in your area, too. <3
My butterfly “hatched” yesterday morning but doesn’t seem to be eating. It is sitting in the sugar water but not drinking. The proboscis is curled. I have a container with the water, probably 1/4 inch deep Should I take it out of the water?
Butterflies often don’t eat in the first 24 hr and that is ok. If a longer indoor time is required, the most effective way I found to feed them was: take the top of a Gatorade bottle (orange may be preferable) and fill it with a 1:10 mixture of honey and water or honey and Gatorade. I put a flat stone used for aquarium tanks in it for them to rest their feet on. However, others have not found the stone necessary. If the butterfly is enclosed, it may fly to the food itself. Otherwise, hold it gently in the proper manner (see internet monarch watch or other website) and set on edge of cap.
Unless the proboscis is stuck, when the butterfly is settled and hungry, it will unfurl the proboscis, insert it into the liquid and eat. If the proboscis is stuck, it can be gently unfurled with a toothpick, but I would watch a video if you’ve not done it before. Mona Miller has concise and informative videos on this and other subjects on Youtube. When it is done feeding, it recurls the proboscis.
Hope this helps
I have my own milk weed with 3 day old little caterpillar crawling all over it!! i have been recording it from egg and would love to share with people who are just in love and amazed as i am!! Pictures and videos!!
[…] information on rearing caterpillars: https://texasbutterflyranch.com/2013/04/05/how-to-raise-monarch-butterflies-at-home/ http://www.mymonarchguide.com/2007/05/raising-caterpillars.html […]
I am giving a lecture on raising Monarchs to the Izaak Walton League Dwight Lydell chapter next month. Is it okay that I put your article in their newsletter for those who can’t attend?
Please just link to the article rather than copy it. Thanks. Monika
The league is the oldest conservation league in the country. Most are pretty old fashioned and there are many older members who don’t use the internet.
I have one plant of Milkweed that has been very popular I have taken in at least 15 eggs and caterpillars inside and found another 6-10 caterpillars on the plant. The ones I have taken in have been doing well and growing and eating but I can’t keep my milk weed from drying out. I have tried putting leaves in wet paper towel wrapped in tin foil. Also cutting the stem of a plant and putting it in water. The leaves don’t last the day before they dry out and the stems last about two days. I feel bad cutting down milkweed that maybe another clutch of eggs could be laid on. So anyone have any tips to make a cut stem last when I put it in a cup of water?
Hi! Could you just bring the whole plant in so the “cats” could eat from the live plant? Maybe put a mesh expandable laundry basket over it?
You might try smashing the bottom inch or so of the plant, that seems to keep them fresher longer with wrapping with paper towel, hope today helps!!!
I use water vials from a local florist and put the stem in them.
My milkweeds kept drying out, too, until I transplanted them into bigger pots (5 gallons). These seem to work well.
Does anyone know which causes which: a difficult time eclosing causes a malformed butterfly, or an already-malformed butterfly inside the chrysalis causes the difficulty eclosing?
when my children were younger we would hunt for monarch caterpillars and bring them in to watch become the butterfly. We planted milkweed outside our back door and we have had butterflies every year. Found some eggs today.
You are so lucky. I planted 6 or 7 milkweed plants last year and all I have are aphids.
I had nothing but aphids two weeks ago…..today I went out and have full size caterpillars all over my milkweed!! Woo hoo! They are there and thriving despite the aphids.
I love everyone’s posts and questions but it would be so helpful to me if I knew what area they were coming from. I am in San Antonio, TX. Thanks!
I got rid of the aphids and noticed a monarch visiting several of my milkweed plants last week. Still looking for eggs or caterpillars. Woodland CA
I have had some disasters already with that tachinid fly! Awful! I am bringing them inside now as eggs. I had a newly hatched guy inside the popup cage and the little stinker got right through the holes. So now I am investigating the Tupperware idea. Question: You say to put the lid on, but what about air? Thanks!
I used a cup with a lid and unfortunately my caterpillar somehow got inside the cup and drowned. Not a really good idea.
[…] Anyone can set up a monarch incubator, Charette says, adding it’s a great project for kids. Ten Kortenaar urges anyone with an interest in the process to do some research on the Internet, where you’ll find several how-to instructions. […]
I just found 12 beautiful big larvae on my milkweed. I cut a large section of milkweed and brought them inside and stood them up in mason jars with water in them. I’ve covered the mason jars with saran wrap so hopefully the caterpillars will stay out of them. My question is: will the caterpillars stay on the milkweed? or will they wander off? It does not seem like they could wander off, because they would want to stay with their food source.
Also – some aphids came in on the milkweed. Will they also stay on the milkweed, or will I wake up tomorrow with aphids all over my house?! 🙂
This is a great site I love this sort of thing…
I planted common milkweed seeds in late fall so they wouldn’t sprout, then after a cold Minnesota winter, they came up in spring. The first year when still small the plants were eaten to the ground by monarch caterpillars, and they grew back in time for more egg-layings and more butterfly development — so exciting. But the “enemies” discovered my milkweed garden after a few years. It seems the first egg-laying every year is successful, but after that it’s as if the enemies have caught on — very heartbreaking. I was able to find 2 cats on the milkweed and raised them inside. They’re in their “J” stage right now. My question: Is the dying effect of air-conditioning bad for them?
I planted common milkweed seeds in late fall so they wouldn’t sprout, then after a cold Minnesota winter, they came up in spring. The first year when still small the plants were eaten to the ground by monarch caterpillars, and they grew back in time for more egg-layings and more butterfly development — so exciting. But the “enemies” discovered my milkweed garden after a few years. It seems the first egg-laying every year is successful, but after that it’s as if the enemies have caught on — very heartbreaking. I was able to find 2 cats on the milkweed and raised them inside. They’re in their “J” stage right now. My question: Is the drying effect of air-conditioning bad for them?
Hi, I tried a cutting in a cup of water like you did but mine wilted almost immediately and never perked up. Your cutting in the picture looks great….How did you do yours> Thanks
[…] are the web sites I used for monarch raising information: Part One: How to Raise Monarch Butterflies at Home | texasbutterflyranch Monarch Watch : Rearing Monarchs : Overview Reply With […]
Because the cats had pretty well devoured my milkweed, and I found probably stage 3 cats, I hit the neighborhood, cut milkweed and placed these cats and plants in a large plastic tote lined with newspaper. I have chrysalis on the leaves of the milkweed, on the screen over the top of the tote, and hanging from a broken off stalk of milkweed. How can I transfer them to a safe butterfly mesh cage I just borrowed? Is there a way to adhere something in the cage to transfer the chrysalis to? Since the cage is borrowed I certainly don’t want to cut holes to string something through. I have about a week to do this before their time to emerge will arrive.
My monarch butterflies just hatched and it was so very awesome to watched the very moment. For about 5 – 10 minutes it moved a bit, spinning slightly. It is hanging as described and pictured about yet seems lifeless!!! Is this normal while it takes the couple hours for its wings to fully form. I’m afraid it may have died. ?????
It sometimes hangs for a couple of hours without much movement before it climbs off its chrysalis shell and drops some rust coloured liquid when it has finished filling out its wings. If you just gently touch the tips of its wings after a couple of hours it will move. Shouldn’t be dead if it came out of the chrysalis OK. After 4 hours you should release it unless it’s late or bad weather.
My chrysalises opened beautifully….butterflies hung for 4-5 hours. Looked perfect and healthy. But when I took them outside, they could not fly. I have 5 of them that will flap their wings and fly 20 feet then down to the ground. Is this normal? Do I just put them on a branch and hope they figure it out? I brought a couple back inside as they seemed weak. But they did not make it inside either.
How do you “release it” if it does not fly?
Please respond as I will have several more opening over the next couple of days!
Will I affect the health of my antelope milkweed plants growing in my yard by breaking sections off to feed my caterpillars?
It will probably just reduce the probability of getting seeds. If you do have seeds, I would love some!
I have seeds for the red/orange variety if you’d like some. email@example.com
Question…….living in central PA…..this spring we have had an over abundance of rain and cooler temps. Should I be concerned about my milkweed that is coming up and the bacteria that can develop on it? Should I cut it back until it warms up. Usually the temps turn drastically in this area around Memorial Day. It is however this spring is cooler than usual.
Get thee some parsley!
Anyone else find that the caterpillars love parsley?
We planted milkweed in hopes of getting some monarch caterpillars.
We got caterpillars alright- but only on the parsley. This is the second batch. First time there were over a dozen. Right not there are no less than 30 monarch caterpillars on what’s left of the parsley.
I may have to move the smaller ones to the milkweed.
I also found two on my rue.
If they’re on parsley, the are Eastern Swallowtails. Read this:https://texasbutterflyranch.com/2013/07/07/caterpillar-quiz-how-to-tell-the-difference-between-monarchs-and-eastern-swallowtails/
Do you have seeds for the red? Please let me know if you can send me some, 1360 Prairie Dr, Lewisville TX 75067….will pay for the shipping…thanks…
I do have the red/orange seeds. Is that what you want?
Yes please, thanks
Definitely! To make sure that that you just point out!
I have one new Monarch still hanging onto its chrysalis, and another chrysalis almost ready. It is raining heavily here on the East coast, with rain in the forecast for the next few days. Will the Monarchs survive if I put them outside in a sheltered spot?
Quick question. We found a caterpillar late in the season and it just this week (Oct. 1) formed a chrysalis. we’re in southern Ohio and I’m afraid that if it hatches he may not survive this late in the season. Do you think he may be okay? This next week should hopefully be in the 70’s, which I’m guessing would be okay, but the past couple of days it has been in the 50’s.
I live in Northern California and have “hatched” over 10 Monarch butterflies Outside in my garden. I only would do this “naturally” and it is Not hard to due. There is only one thing that you must do: Plant milkweed and They will come!
I live in the U.P (Upper Michigan)and I found a monarch chrysalis under a dog kennel, recently. We’ve been having a lot of rain lately and it’s been chilly and damp. Just yesterday (Nov 2) the little butterfly hatched but I found it on the ground; it’s wings kind of shriveled up.It was nearing evening so I carefully brought it inside (to keep warm.) I’ve been surprised it has survived the fall and bumping around. Not sure how to help it. ~Melody
Probably should just put it out of its misery by moving it to the freezer for 15 minutes. Sorry, but she won’t make it and will just die a slow death. –MM
🙁 ok thanks
Keep it warm, at least 70 degrees, hope wings dry and straighten. Provide some cut flowers in a vase for nectar. Let it go when it is warm out.
Will they ever straighten enough to fly? I thought once bent and dried, they could not be straightened.
If they are completely dry they are done. If they didn’t straighten you have a pet butterfly. Research what you could do to feed it, but something would eat it in the wild.
The weather is horrible it’s cool and rainy plus windy yesterday two were hatched but I think the weather had them fall and the ants ate them 🙁 today two hatched and I moved them to my screened room them seem to have finally dried but it’s dark and late, should I still release them or wait for morning?
Morning when it is warmer certainly. Do you have nectar for them to eat?
First live B-fly found yesterday, late. Wings still wavy, left outside overnight,verycold in So Cal, about 40. Still perched on same limb this AM, but moving & fluttering wings when touched. What to do? ALL of my m-weed plants develope dark brown spots & yellow leaves. Nursery says too much water. Didn’t water for 5 wks, no improvement, plus even NEW plants have same spots. Doesn’t seem to bother cats, I have lots of them. HELP! Gloria
Cool Spring in New Zealand this year. Have a lot of caterpillars but haven’t seen a butterfly for ages. The new lot of butterflies are now hatching but it has taken two warm days (19 – 20°C) for this to happen. Can they delay hatching to coincide with warm weather?
Their metamorphosis would slow down in cooler weather.
My name is Becky Pate from South Texas, I just got started raising the Monarch Butterfly and love doing it, I released 7 last week one was dead, I have 12 more in green cocoon waiting to come out, the Monarch is still laying eggs and I want to keep then and set them free like the others but I’m running out of milkweed, I’am going to try and plant the seeds all over my yard to grow more, does anyone have any suggestions on what else they might eat besides the milkweed, I found 2 pretty good size ones on my dill weed I’m growing and I put them in a cage with dill, and they made it, but I have read they only eat milk weed, need some input.. thanks Becky
They ONLY eat milkweed. You have to buy some at a nursery or find out where it’s growing. I found some in a hedgerow 5 miles away and had to go get it but now I’m growing it, thank goodness.
I’ve found them on parlsey too.
Elizabeth in Lewisville did you find seeds?
You have to mail them in a padded envelope or the machine ruins them.
I’d still like red seed if anyone has any.
I have so many baby plants coming from last year’s….I can’t wait to see more butterflies…….all of have is yellow Flower one….
I would love to buy some seeds if they are available….I have so many cats and no more milkweed (: cucumbers work for now but need more milkweed!
13402 Lost Creek Rd.
Tomball, TX 77375
I have a bunch of established milkweed (yellow) and I am in the Sugar Land area. Maybe we could meet halfway if you’re interested. Very healthy plants.
How do cucumbers come in?
Oh, wow, that’d be lovely….right now i’m ordering seedlings off of ebay. But, my cats have gone through 20 seedlings in 4 days (: I might not be able to do anything until next week. As far as cucumbers, the cats will eat them! It works and I’ve seen the butterflies fed with cucumbers fly away from my porch. They just have to be in a certain stage (say 1/2 way through the growth cycle) You just slice a cucumber up and the cats go to it.
That’s amazing!!!! I had no idea. Cucumbers!!
After reading about the cucumbers, I gave some little instars a slice. They went right to it, sat on it, and ate. So cute! Also, I have 25 chrysalises right now, so my plants are almost depleted. It was great to see them eat it. Thanks for the wonderful tip!
You’re so welcome! I have a few chrysalis’ too and my milkweed is stripped! So I’ll be using cucumbers too soon ?
My last chrysalis “hatched” today. I brought in a huge cat and raised it in a wonton soup “to go” container. It’s like they have their own little caterpillar condo. It was only in there 2 days before it “spun”. I haven’t seen any more cats or eggs, so I think my season is over for now. I have plenty of milkweed. I wonder if I could ship it UPS to Tomball and it would still be good…I mean if I wrapped the roots in soil and saran wrap.
that would work…right now i’m getting some from ebay and he’s shipping them the same. i’ll be happy to pay your costs via paypal if you give me the email associated with your account and the fee. i think usps.com has a small box priority that might work too. if not, no big deal. i know that is a lot of trouble. i have a few outside still eating away but I do still have one bush and I can always use CUCUMBERS, lol, if the going gets rough!
Let me see what I can do. I may be able to use my brother’s UPS account at no charge. (He has a business and ships UPS and FedEx every day. Plus, my plants are at least a foot high, so I don’t want to crunch them into a small box. I’ll get back with you.
I have seen a couple postings regarding feeding cats cucumbers. Does this work? I have turned our vegetable bed into a milkweed bed, but last summer had to scour the countryside for milkweek. Please let me know…………
Yes! It absolutely works. I’ve been feeding mine cucumbers since last spring when I run out of milkweed. I buy organic cucumbers, wash them and cut them in half then I quarter the halves. Put enough in the area for two cats per piece.
That is awesome!!!!! thank you so much!
being in central Pennsylvania, our growing season this year is way behind, due to cooler temps. my milkweed beds are anywhere from an inch to 1 foot tall. I don’t know if they will be ready when the Monarchs arrive. But if not, and also in the fall when my plants are pretty well decimated, I will definately try that. That is so exciting! Won’t bother me at all……I eat alot of cucumbers myself! LOL!
I know I am sounding absolutely stupid in regards to this, but……cutting the cucumbers in half, I “assume” you do not mean lengthwise? Then cut the two halves in quarters……..are the quarters lengthwise or 4 thick round slices? Sorry…..I am a visual person….thanks for any assitance
I wish I had a photo….I’ve taken many but deleted from my phone. I usually bring in about 10 and put them in an aquarium with a reptile type lid and feed them cucumbers.
Cut in half (not length wise), and then quarter those halves. It really doesn’t matter. You can slice them just like you’re going to eat them and they will still go for it. Best of luck….it’s a game changer when the milkweed is gone 🙂
How thin do you slice the cucumbers?
I cut my slices 1/4-1/2 inch. They love it.
Thank you so much! I will definately keep cucumbers on hand!
You’re so welcome….. Just a note to all regarding the cucumbers: The cats “waste” will be more wet, now, and if you are keeping them in a container, raising inside, you’ll need to clean more often than with the milkweed which produces a more dry waste. As long as you clean more often, all should be good with the cucumbers. As I said, I’ve been doing it for over a year now and have had beautiful butterflies with it 🙂
Thank you so much for your advice, help and support!
Please let me know if you have red, thanks
Thanks for the milkweed seeds from Richardson Texas….I love them and will def put them to good use 🙂
You are welcome!
Hello monarch lovers! I am looking for asclepias tuberosa seeds. If anyone has some, would you please send to me? I teach “How to Raise Monarch Butterfly” classes in adult ed, and I love to get my students started by giving them free seeds. Would you like me to pay postage? Just tell me how much!
Please send to:
772 Jamacha Road
El Cajon, CA 92019
I will send you some.
When you find other varieties, please send me some!
I read ALL the comments and am anxious to give it a try. I’ll probably use cucumbers since I don’t have any milkweed. I live in Western PA, is this a good time to look for the eggs?
When you notice eggs on your milkweed, what do you do at that point? Do you leave the eggs alone on the plant, let them hatch, and then bring the caterpillar inside? Or do you clip the leave with the egg from the plant and bring it in as soon as you find them?
I clip the leaf and bring it in because we have many predators in our yard – primarily wasps.
I keep milkweed in cages in our house so I add it to one that has no active caterpillars because I’ve heard that the caterpillars will “accidentally” eat the eggs.
Then, I watch them hatch and grow!
Thanks Silvia. We are finding that the eggs are failing to hatch when we bring them in and those that do, the cats don’t feed on the leaves so we are losing them. Very disappointing because last year we would have 20+ cats at a time feeding on our plants.
I just had my first hatch today. I am so sad I missed it, but we were gone most of the day. My grandchildren enjoy the fun, but not nearly as much as this grandma does. I just found another cat tonight so that will make 12 more hatches to go! We planted red milkweed, but I would love to have some different varieties as well and would pay for postage. We use deli containers and drill holes in the lids. We put the milkweed and caterpillars inside. I keep a few so I can clean and refeed often. Then when they attach to the top I pin the lid (my husband makes a hole on the side of the lid too so it will hang) to our mesh butterfly house. Very primitive, but it works for us here in Wisconsin. I wish there was more information on what to do after they hatch. Do I need to feed them or after they dry off can I just put them outside? I usually sit them out on a flower. How long can I keep them before I release them?
I have read that if you keep them for more than a day you need to give them nectar. An orange slice or some people use gatorade in a small shallow dish. I do a tape test for oe to send to Project Monarch Health and then I release them, normally within 4 to 6 hours of the eclose (hatch).
It sounds like you’re doing a great job. I keep my butterflies at least 3 hours, usually four and then release them unless it’s late or the weather is bad. Make sure the butterflies can drop down with no interference when they come out of the chrysalides. It’s such fun raising caterpillars.
I have at least thirty holes where the eggs hatched and they ate through. Now I don’t see any caterpillars at all. We have had a lot of rain. Could that have knocked them all down in the ground? Or is something eating them? These are on new plants from the nursery, could they have had some pesticides on them?
What if one of the wings doesn’t fully open and all they can do is crawl around in butterfly cage? I had 7 chryalis’s and two hatched on same day this morning. I let one loose but the other one can’t fly?
I have a chrysalis outside, hanging on a guara branch. It’s been there 3.5 weeks, though. It turned dark about a week ago, and then started to get transparent a few days ago. This morning, it is even more transparent. I can see the wings folded in there. The weather here in coastal central CA has been weird– it got very hot about a week ago (& I shaded the chrysalis w/ an umbrella), and for the past several days looks like winter, with temps high 65, low 52. Please tell me it isn’t dead!
I also live in California and know the weather well.
3 – 5 weeks is a very long time for the chrysalis stage. Mine have always been around 2 weeks. They turn dark when they’re ready to emerge and I haven’t had one turn back to transparent. I’d advise snipping off the branch taking it in the house. If it smells, then sadly it has died. 🙁
But take heart.Where there is one, others will soon follow.
I live in the Houston, Texas area and NONE of my chrysalis were fortunate enough to have a butterfly emerge. We have been having strange weather with cold snaps. Soooo, Saturday I brought in 8 cats and gave them each their own “condo”. 🙂 Happy to report that three have spun their chrysalis and I noticed two that will probably “J” today. I even caught one spinning its’ chrysalis last night. Got an AWESOME video. Good luck to all!
Thank you so much for the pictures and description. You helped me identify the catepillars on my milkweed. Hope I can help them thrive.
Hi all — first timer, here! I just placed three LARGE Casin a butterfly netted enclosure. The one I found on Amazon is tall enough that I can have a small potted milkweed plant inside. Do I need to provide water in another form – other than the damp soil in the clay pot? Would a sponge be a good plan or perhaps if I try feeding cucumbers that will provide sufficient moisture? THANK YOU!
PS — I am a photographer and hoping to get neat pics!!
I am not sure what you mean by casin. Most monarchs should be in their overwintwering sites and not breeding. Depending on where you are there maybe breeding Monarchs. If you are out of milk. I have heard of successful feedings with cantaloupe and cucumber. Their grass will be runny so frequent chcanges are a must to keep your stock. Healthy
Congrats!!!! Welcome to the club. I put a damp paper towel in the bottom of my caterpillar habitat and have had good luck…but my caterpillar condos are small – made out of 32 oz. plastic containers, like large wonton soup containers. I put the damp paper towel in the bottom, a small stick slanted diagonally (so they can climb around) and feed them fresh milkweed leaves from my garden every day. Not sure if this helps. Good luck, and keep us posted!!!!
My wife and I just visited Pismo Beach for the migration. We would like to try and build a habitat for them and try and add to the population. We live in the CA foothills where it gets cold as well as quite warm in the summer.
Can we do it? We have seen few if any Monarchs in our area, so can we order eggs somewhere?
We can grow milkweed in pots so the habitat may not be a problem.
If we can do it can these butterflies migrate and return to us each year?
So many questions …
I’m in my fourth year growing milkweed in Yolo County. Last year was the first year I got eggs and caterpillars. If you grow it evemutually they will come.
Whereabouts in the California foothills, Bill? Email me separately if you’d like and I will try to help. I moved from Southern California to Nevada, near the California border years ago and got interested and involved in raising monarchs 4 years ago. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
You will get different butterflies since they have several generations as they migrate
It’s April 30th and I had planted a Milkweed plant about 2-3 weeks ago which is now starting to flower. The plant is only about 18″ tall so is it too small or am I too late to have butterflies this year? I hope not – I’ve just discovered your site and I’m so excited to find that you can raise butterflies!
research shows very clearly that monarchs breeding on tropical milkweed throughout the winter have higher levels of protozoan infection (caused by Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, OE)
Does the monarch caterpillars need to be in an air conditioned habitat?
I have had success raising the monarch caterpillars on my patio in San Antonio. I do keep them out of the direct sun. Have fun!
How do I find milkweed seed for Northern California. The temp in summer get to be 100 and in the winter down to freezing.
Is there also someplace that I can get caterpillars for a starter crop of Monarchs? When I was in grade school, 60 years ago, we would find them in the garden and bring them into science class.They would go through their cycle and hatch in our large aquariums.
email me at email@example.com I live in Woodland, CA
[…] How to Raise Butterflies Inside Raising Monarch Resources Part I: How to Raise Monarch Butterflies at Home How to Raise Monarch Butterflies at Home Yes, this is a different link but similar […]
I live in northern MN my last monarch caterpillar has been eating for 21 days & still hasn’t went into J is it too late in the season, will it transform? Should I mail the butterfly to a friend in CA to release or will it make the journey ok? should emerge about sept 5 to 10??
I have brought in 8 cats in the past 2 days here in Northern California. With temps scheduled for 111, I will be busy finding as many as I can so save them from the heat.
Superbusy week. As of today I have 49 caterpillars. 15 are in the 4th and 5th instar stage. I am not sure if the mother is headed for the coast but she dropped a load for me this week.
Where are you located? I’d love to know where all these caterpillars are.
I am up to 70 and counting. Just west of Woodland CA.
North of Sacramento, CA. It’s feeding time got to get to work. They have only laid eggs on tropical milkweed. Nothing on the native Showy or Narrowleaf milkweed.
Thanks. Not very close to me. Dang! I’m in San Antonio, TX
I am in Oakland, not too far from you and because you are fairly close to me, I am reaching out to you for advice.
I just this year became aware that Monarch Butterfly farming is a thing. I happened to see a caterpillar trying to feed on a near dead butterfly weed I had planted, that had gotten very dried out over summer. I remembered having another sprig of a plant in the backyard and took the cat there, where it thrived. It made it to the chrysalis stage, but then turned black and didn’t make it. I now have 5 caterpillars that I brought inside as little ones, as it’s so cold out now. They are getting pretty large and I am not sure how this is going to turn out. Can you offer any insight or advice for a novice?
I have a pupa hanging from a Home Depot bucket in my garage. It’s been 16 days. It’s turned from light green, to dark green and about 4 days ago started going dark brown/black at the top. I can see the shape of a wing but it doesn’t seem to be progressing. The temps in MA have been cool. Do you think it will still hatch or has it died?
Mine do that too! Leave it alone. I’ve found that if you can see the wing, it will probably hatch the next day or so. So exciting!!!!! Good luck.
I have been watching the cats on my milkweed. Today, I found a chrysalis on the ground, apparently knocked of a bush when using a hose. Does it have to hang? Can I hang it in some way?
It does not have to hang, but the butterfly needs to be able to climb up something and hang when it ecloses. A cheap mesh laundry hamper should do the trick. Even if they are on their backs, I have seen them breakout, get upright and climb up the side of my enclosure to hang and dry their wings.
We are battling the evil tachinid fly. It’s killing hundreds of our monarch caterpillars, either on the plant or during the chrysalis stage. Does anyone know the best way to kill this particular fly? I can’t find it on the internet. So far, sticky fly traps are helping but not completely and watching my poor caterpillars be eaten from the inside out has been like a scary alien movie. Poor things. I know it’s just nature but it’s depressing to see dead caterpillars or deformed chrysalis everywhere.
I used the Dynatrap 1/2 acre flying insect trap, plus the yellow sticky paper. Not 100% successful but it will reduce the problem. Over time it gets better. Be sure to clean every once in a while.
Bring the eggs inside. Most of my almost 700 releases were from eggs this year and not a sign of tachinid fly.
[…] Monarch’s Responsibly +How to Raise Monarch Butterflies Indoors: 21 Monarch Survival Tips +How to Raise Monarch Butterflies at Home Part I +How to Raise Monarch Butterflies at Home Part II +Tropical Milkweed: To Plant it or Not, it’s […]
[…] Raising butterflies is the most common and accessible type of insect rearing. You’ll want to choose a butterfly that is native to your region and is easy to raise. Many stores sell butterfly raising kits, which include the caterpillars, food, and a netted enclosure to raise them in. This is a great way to get your feet wet! […]
I am losing most of my caterpillars. I have taken in about 20 as eggs and they hatched. I also brought in about 15 as caterpillars of various lengths. They eat for a few days, then quit eating, get darker and shrivel up. I am feeding them common milkweed.
I raised many last year and the year before. I washed my cages at the end of last year with a weak bleach solution. Can anyone offer any ideas.
After cleaning your cage, if you use an aquarium or reuse something for your cage, make sure you rinse it THOROUGHLY! Boyfriend thought he was helpful and bleached it but didn’t rinse it properly. Too sad to go into details.
Last year we bought two new milkweed plants and within a day all our caterpillars died. I talked to the plant store and they were stymied and said I should have let them know immediately. I learn. It’s just awful when they die.
Far fewer Monarch butterflies and caterpillars seen this year in our Tampa, Florida area.
I usually raise a few Black Swallowtails each year but this year I got lucky and just found baby Monarch caterpillars on my milkweed! I already had a Habitat with Swallowtails in it, feeding off of Bronze fennel.
Is it okay to put these new Monarch with their milkweed in the same Habitat with the Swallowtails? I am ordering another Habitat but until it comes is this safe? I am excited about the Monarch babies. They are only about 1/2 inch long and I hope nothing has infected them.
Another question: What is the best way to keep fresh milkweed in the habitat?
With the fennel, I just put stems in wine bottles and secure the top so they can’t fall in. Right now they are in a glass bowl just eating on leaves that will have to be replaced when they wilt. ~Thanks
Same thing happened to me last year. I also washed my habitat and searched for an answer and got none so I have to believe they were just infected by something and I will never know what is was. Also, if any of them made it to the end, there was something deformed about most of them. Sad. Just brought in a couple dozen eggs and new Monarch caterpillars this week and I hope to have better luck! Good luck with your next try.
Outstanding info. provided. It is my introduction to witness the cycles of my favorite butterfly. I already have a few “cats” plus10 milkweed plants.
I just subscribed to your new posts
What is the secret if any to bringing the egg inside and having it hatch into a viable cat?
No big secret. You just have to protect the eggs and tiny caterpillars for a few days, supply fresh, tender host plant, and clean the frass out. Follow the directions in the post, and you should be good to go. Also, read Part 2.
Today I found a dozen cat’s feeding on the parsley plants that I have in an outdoor container. Is there anything that I should do to protect them, or should I assume that they knew what they were doing, and I should just let nature take its course?
You can leave them be, but if you want to bring them in to witness their transformation, it’s a lot of fun. Check out the How to Raise Eastern Swallowtails at Home post in the search section of the website. Good luck!
I have been raising Monarchs for quite a few years now, and the last few have been brutal; no monarch activity, no butterflies, no caterpillars, it was rather depressing. Last year was my first sign of hope; I went to a local nursery, in July, to take advantage of their 40% off sale. Found some huge Asclepias speciosa, with full grown caterpillars! Needless to say, I picked up that plant, and gathered whatever other caterpillars I could find on the other plants. Brought them home, built a 4′ enclosure out of pvc pipe and mosquito netting, and put the plant inside. Naturally the plant was too tall, so I dug a hole to sink the container into the ground. Was thrilled to finally have some butterflies eclose after the few dormant years. This year, not much monarch activity, but already found a few eggs that have hatched, and witnessed another leaving me a bunch of eggs yesterday. Happy to say, they’re back in NJ! Sorry for the rambling, lol.
BTW, I LOVE your picture of pinning the chrysalis to a stem. That’s a tip I will be using for sure.
Thanks for the kind words and good luck with the rearing! I often give a pinned chrysalis as a gift and include the host plant if it makes sense.
Starting out in the journey to farm monarchs and different types of butterfly species. Need help on creating a butterfly greenhouse to protect them from predators and provide a perfect breeding area. I plan on filling it with my milkweeds and nectar plants. Need help getting started. Unable to get monarch eggs or cats mailed to Texas/New Mexico. Also need help with making the greenhouse suitable. If anyone would be willing to mentor, I would be extremely grateful. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subject Heading: MONARCH MENTOR
Thank you thank you thank you!!!
You should check out the Association for Butterflies and the International Butterfly Breeders Association. Both organizations offer classes on rearing and conferences for breeders. Both have active websites and Facebook pages. Good luck. —MM
I have 5 small potted tropical milkweed plants, and in order to protect the infant cats from the tachinid fly, I am locating the leaves with the egg on the leaf and taking the leaf only, and putting it in the protective fabric screened cage, where the leaf will quickly dry out. I am not sure if this has been successful. Help, how would you do it? Jack
I am sorry I am replying so late, but if you remove a leaf from the stem and the leaf dries, that is no porlbme for the egg. The only issue is that you have to be SURE that a fresh leaf is available when she emerges. She will first eat her shell then go on to look for milkweed. Sometimes days can go by before they emerge so it’s hard to know when to put the leaf out. I have solved this problem be using a corsage vial with water in it. It keeps the leaf fresh for DAYS so it’s ready when she finally comes into the world.
I thought I had my operation pretty simplified, but the more our milkweed reproduces the more caterpillars we find. I found 13 today and already had ten in one of my houses besides the six my grandchildren already released. Thankfully I have a teacher friend who will take the 13 from today for her classroom. I have a couple of the butterfly houses, but it seems the cats are attracted to the area where the zipper is that I need to open for cleaning (and even with a liner in the bottom I find them hard to clean). Does anyone use an old aquarium and then some type of plexi glass lid? I need more options for easier cleaning. I need some better ideas for next year!
Hi. Mine are attracted to the zipper area as well. However, they are not right on it so if I am careful I can open the zipper. If they are up there in a J then just wait until they form their chrysalis and you should be able to open and close without a problem. I also found that it I turn the cage so that the opening is not facing out they don’t congregate on the zipper side as often.
Hi, Rita. I would avoid using a Plexiglas lid on an aquarium. It can significantly raise the internal temperature and hinder the flow of air necessary for all creatures. I take my ‘pillars inside and use large clear salad containers with the closing clamshell-type lids. I poke holes throughout, lots of them, to allow air flow. On the bottom I line it with napkins and above that I put a “stand” made of wire. On top of the wire I place the milkweed and the caterpillars eat on the wire. Their poop falls through onto the napkin keeping the caterpillars up above it and reducing their contact with bacteria, etc.. I’d like to show you what it looks like, but I don’t know how to post a photo on this site. Can anyone offer assistance in uploading photos?
I’m a beginner. Need to know ideal temperatures for raising butterflies in Arizona, where temps drop into the 40’s mid winter.
Hi, Ed. You shouldn’t be needing to raise caterpillars in the winter. In October you should cut back your milkweed by 60% (or put your potted plants in full enclosure) to discourage more egg laying. This will signal the Monarchs that they need to migrate. Feeding them over winter may begin the decline of their instincts to migrate. Good luck and thanks for caring about Monarchs. They are quite fabulous, aren’t they!
I have been raising monarchs for about 4 years and have never, until this year, had a horrible infestation of scale, not the crawlers, the actual encased scale, as in the past month. The stems are unusually enormous and the leaves have fallen off. They are RUINING my plants! How can I kill them and still not disturb my monarch eggs and caterpillars? HELP!!!
HI, I recently learned how important it is for the last instantar (the one that migrates to MX) to be raised outside. The last instantar does not develope its reproductive organs until it has migrated to MX. This is dictated by the weather when it developes. If you raise that generatin inside it will develope correctly andnot be able to make the tripto MX. If this isn;t in your instructions please research and add – thank you for the useful information!!
[…] Part One: How to Raise Monarch Butterflies at Home […]
I just purchased 14 larvae and set up a large netted butterfly enclosure. I placed a large swamp milkweed variety inside the enclosure and laid paper towels on the bottom. I picked several leaves and placed the larvae on them. Yesterday it seemed they were eating but today they look like they’re dying. What am I doing wrong? Do they need to be in a temperature controlled environment? It’s about 60-65 in the room they are in.
Are you sure your milkweed was never sprayed with pesticides?
Kim, the idea of perhaps your milkweed having been sprayed is a good possibility. Also, if you are not 100% sure of how your mail-order larvae were raised, it could also be possible that they have been parasitized before you got them. This sounds very gross, but if you do happen to lose them, you definitely need to squash them hard. There could be parasitic fly egg casings inside your poor baby. Simply dumping them in the trash or flushing them means that at some point another parasitic fly could emerge and prey on another unsuspecting little caterpillar.
I recall reading that some of them gorge themselves so quickly on so much milkweed that they glue their own mouths shut with the sticky sap, can’t eat anymore and die of starvation. Others become victim to a parasitic fly that lays it’s eggs in the caterpillar.
I have had a potted milkweed plant on my front porch for a couple months and just noticed three monarch caterpillars on it yesterday. I’m not sure what to do next. I don’t have a steady supply of milkweed to keep feeding them, and I’m not sure if my plant is enough for them (I’m willing to sacrifice the plant and let them eat it all if necessary). But will they form their chrysalises on this plant or should I help them find a more suitable place? I was going to bring them inside to raise but, as I said, I don’t have a supply of milkweed to provide them nor do I really have the time or resources to hunt one down. I guess I just found myself in this unexpected (yet probably inevitable!) situation simply by having a milkweed plant on my porch. I’d love to help the caterpillars continue their life cycle but just not sure if I should simply leave them alone and enjoy observing them or if they will need some assistance. I’m completely inexperienced with this type of thing. Thanks for any help.
Hi, Hannah. If you can manage it, bring them inside. You would be astonished at how many predators these poor guys have. If you live close to a nursery, buy some more milkweed plants. They will be heavy eaters when they are near their time to chrysalize. These are truly fascinating creatures!
Thanks for your website! It’s been really helpful!
This is my first (hopefully) successful year raising cats! It’s been such a joy watching them grow, especially since I’ve been stuck at home during the Covid pandemic. I have three large potted milkweed plants in my backyard that are enclosed in a large mesh pop up tent. I also have a small mesh tent in my kitchen that I’ve raised a few in from cuttings in floral tubes. They seem to grow at a faster rate inside. Also, they don’t seem to be as freaked out by me as the outside ones are when I clean out their cage or change out their milkweed. I’ve had a few mishaps along the way, most notably when I accidentally dropped a guy down my garbage disposal (it wasn’t on!) while I was changing his milkweed. Luckily he was fine and is now a chrysalis. 🙂
So far I have 5 chrysalides and about 6 more cats of varying instars. They are so fun to watch. I am obsessed with them and my family is getting so annoyed with me for constantly giving them updates on my babies. I am a total helicopter caterpillar parent! 🙂
My first chrysalis will hopefully eclose this weekend. I can’t wait for my firstborn to become a butterfly!
Hi! I just hatched a few eggs. I have been keeping them in a Tupperware container with a lid. But I am worried about air flow. My butterfly cages that I ordered haven’t arrived yet. Should they be ok for the next couple of days in the Tupperware with the lid on? Or should I find another way to store them until the cages come?
Hi! Air flow is very important. If you have some disposable plastic containers with lids you can pierce them all over with a pin (not too big because they can crawl through). Also make sure the bottom of the container has some paper toweling on it as you don’t want your pillars to come in contact with their frass. Keep the milkweed fresh for them. I use a corsage holder which has a rubber lid and a hole that covers the tube that I stick the milkweed through. Keeps it fresh for several days. When they are that small, it takes them forever to eat one leaf. Be VERY careful when opening the lid as they can be flung out if they are resting on the top.
Brought the chrysalisi in last week. 3/6 have hatched so far by today – 2 males and a female. Today’s baby is waiting out thunderstorms and chilly temps. Tomorrow will be sunny and bright. It’s such a blessing to be involved in this. Thanks for your information.
I didn’t have much milkweed left this late in the season but I just had to try and save a few of the Monarchs that have come by. I have one and some eggs in a small plastic container like you use for hamsters with plenty of ventilation. Will this be okay to keep them in through the whole transition or do I have to pull out the butterfly habitat? Since it’s only a few, I thought I could just let them do their thing in this plastic container.
Something usually gets my Monarch eggs and small Cats before they get a chance to grow. Can you tell me what the predators are that do this? I know some birds will get them but how they can eat a toxic caterpillar beats me. So what types of insects love to devour my cats? (BTW I saw an ugly red bug sitting on the milkweed.)
Hi Monica, thank you for posting all the questions and comments! It has been a great way for me to learn about these amazing creatures! I am in So. CA and this is my first season raising Monarchs. I thoroughly cleaned the milkweed plants I bought that were in 1-5 gallon containers and when I saw eggs, I put the whole plant in net enclosures. This worked very well to keep the bugs out and so far, we have released 48 gorgeous and healthy Monarchs 🙂 It is now the end of October 2022 and we still have 4 cats and one chrysalis to go! My question is: will these Monarch’s migrate to Northern CA or to Mexico or somewhere else? I can’t imagine they will be staying here to breed, or am I wrong? Thanks for your guidance, Michelle