Many of you have followed my journey of raising monarch butterflies over the last several years on my Instagram. And many of you have expressed interest in raising them yourself, and that’s why I’m writing today.
I learned everything about how to care for monarch butterflies from egg-to-butterfly from helpful blogs/videos. I’m putting together a list of resources that I feel will help you learn as well. But before that, I must mention that raising butterflies in habitats does end up feeling like a part-time job. It is a lot of work and requires daily care. If you are not up for the task, then perhaps plant pollinator-friendly flowers and milkweed in your garden instead. Though, be sure to find out if the flowers are indeed safe for pollinators. You’d be surprised at how many nurseries receive pre-treated plants, that ultimately do more harm than good.
Also, when I talk about raising butterflies indoors, it is raising the eggs that are laid on milkweed, found outside my front door. I do not get shipped eggs/caterpillars to release into the wild. I am purely caring for the caterpillars to increase their odds of survival. In nature, less than 1 in 10 eggs laid will successfully transform into a butterfly. The caterpillars surprisingly have a lot of predators, such as bees, spiders and flies. And humans tend to poison or mow down their habitats. I’ve been raising butterflies for 5 years now and last year we successfully raised and released over 100 butterflies, which would have only been maybe 10 if left outside.
I’ve compiled a list of supplies needed:
- Milkweed. We grow common in our yard but there are many varieties. Try to pick a variety that is native to your area. You can order seeds here.
- Butterfly habitat. I have owned 5 habitats in my 5 years of raising monarchs and this one is my favorite. I like it because one side unzips, which makes it easy to clean and another side is clear, which is fun for better viewing. The only con of this is that it is lightweight and therefore a little unstable. I fix the issue by putting a few clean rocks on the bottom of the enclosure so that it does not easily tip over. I do not support using jars or glass tanks for butterfly raising – I see people doing it all the time. The reason I don’t like it is because once the butterfly encloses, it needs to hang to dry their wings. They cannot climb on glass. If they fall before their wings are dry, it could cause them to never be able to fly properly. So, I stick to the netted enclosures and have had amazing success with them.
- More milkweed. You will not believe how much milkweed the caterpillars go through as they grow. Each day, I clean up the butterfly habitats and clip off fresh milkweed leaves from the garden to feed the caterpillars. Be sure not to rub the milkweed milk in your eyes – it’s poison. If I leave town for a couple days, I create a vase-like set up where I can poke milkweed stems through a mason jar lid and screw the lid onto a water-filled mason jar. This allows the milkweed to stay fresh while I’m away, without the risk of the caterpillars falling into the water and drowning. The con to doing this on a daily basis is that if you are cutting away an entire stem (or many stems), you are removing that plant from the garden. I like to leave the stems outside so that more butterflies can lay eggs. If you don’t want to make a vase as I described, you can buy these.
Here is a list of helpful resources to get you started:
- Watch this video to learn how to find monarch eggs.
- How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-step Guide for Kids book.
- The Joyful Butterfly blog has a wealth of information about the topic.
- Deanna at Homestead and Chill has a very in depth post here with additional resources linked.
- MrLundScience on YouTube has detailed videos, just search the topic “raising monarchs” on his channel.
The entire process is pure magic. If you aren’t interested in raising butterflies at a large scale like we do, then caring for a couple is simple.
Children will be in awe of the transformation process. If you have specific questions, feel free to comment on this post or DM me on Instagram.
If you have other helpful resources, please leave a link in the comments.
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