RAISING MONARCH CATERPILLARS

With the increased awareness of the importance of butterflies in ecosystems, there is now an industry of commercial butterfly breeding operations, which includes the Monarch butterfly among them.
This is in addition to the popularity of raising Monarchs in homes or as school projects, for example.
One issue that can arise from ‘mass rearing’ (more than 100 caterpillars in a setting) is the potential spreading of diseases and parasites, which can then contaminate wild populations. Another one is the potential decrease of the adult butterfly capacity to migrate successfully.

There are many ways Monarch populations can be increased. An important one would be to restore, increase and protect their natural habitats and creating new ones, for example by planting Milkweed, the Monarch caterpillar exclusive food source.

HOW I DID IT: Below are some photos of the very simple arrangement I had to raise 17 Monarch caterpillars. I used an old plastic bucket and put glasses of water in the middle, but not too close. Then I was changing the Milkweed flowers every 2-3 days.
I started with Butterfly Milkweed flowers because this is where I found the first generation of caterpillars in my garden.

Then I added Swamp Milkweed blooms as I was finding more caterpillars in those plants. The water was changed every day and the bucket also cleaned every day, as these caterpillars are voracious eaters, meaning that they make LOTS of droppings.
As soon as a caterpillar was turning into a chrysalis, I was cutting the leaf where it was attached, and pasting it in a place where they would not be disturbed. Most caterpillars easily picked their location to pupate among the flowers.
However I had two that were very difficult, wandering around for several hours together (like a pair) until I had to place them in an enclosed space with a screen on top. Even though they pupated at around the same time, they emerged as butterflies (a male and a female) one day apart, with the female earlier.
LABELS: The labels above the chrysalises indicate the day and time that they turned into a chrysalis.

Glasses of water in a plastic bucket
Digital CameraGlasses of water in a plastic bucket
Monarch caterpillars searching spot to pupate - © Denise Motard
Two restless Monarch caterpillars searching a spot to pupate – © Denise Motard
 Changing the water every day - © Denise Motard
Changing the water every day – © Denise Motard
First chrysalis line up - © Denise Motard
First chrysalis line up – © Denise Motard
Monarch caterpillar and chrysalises - © Denise Motard
Monarch caterpillar and chrysalises – © Denise Motard
Monarch chrysalises lined up - © Denise Motard
Monarch chrysalises lined up – © Denise Motard

BACK TO THE TOP

A site about Gardens and Monarch Butterflies