Tools You Need to Raise and Release Monarchs
You can’t raise Monarchs without milkweed. Buy it locally through participating stores (see list on bottom of this page.). Look for it growing wild too – in your garden and in your neighborhood along roadways or in fields.
Where Do I Get Monarch Eggs or Caterpillars?
You find them on your milkweed! Female Monarchs will smell your garden, and especially the milkweed in it and will come and lay their eggs on the milkweed leaves. Check your milkweed and see what surprises you find!
FAQ: Can’t I just buy some caterpillars online? You could, but please don’t. Not only does this miss the point of what we’re working to accomplish, Bringing Back the Monarch, but you could also be bringing in disease. The most important thing we can do to help Monarchs is to plant milkweed and nectar plants so that the wild population of Monarchs have food into the future. Simply buying caterpillars is fast and easy but doesn’t make the connection to habitat and, once you release those adult Monarchs, it will be the end of the line for them if they don’t have milkweed and nectar plants. Sure, we may not get that many Monarchs this year because the population is so low but by helping the Monarchs that are flying through our neighborhoods you will make a difference for the future.
I just found some Monarch eggs! Now what? You do have to keep an eye on the eggs but it’s not hard. Here are some tips.
Your Milkweed Stash
Monarchs are big eaters! So in addition to the milkweed in your garden, draw a 1-mile radius around your home (or the place where you’ll be raising your Monarchs) and find a milkweed patch. This could be a roadside, an empty lot, a wild field area. Make sure that no pesticides were sprayed in the area (residue on the milkweed will kill your caterpillars). Ask permission to visit that spot to get milkweed as you need it.
Gathering Milkweed to Feed Your Caterpillars: If you are collecting leaves, you can put them into a ziplock bag with wet paper towels and put them in a cooler. If you are collecting stems, you can put them into a bucket with water. Your milkweed will not wilt if you keep it cool and hydrated. You can also pick extra leaves and wash them and place those into a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Check for small caterpillars and eggs before you wash and place the milkweed into the refrigerator.
Still having a hard time finding pesticide-free native milkweed? Visit the Monarch Watch Milkweed Market.
Raising and releasing Monarchs is a daily commitment. Each day you need to clean the cage of frass and old milkweed stems and put fresh milkweed in. Here’s a one-pager on The Daily Drill for raising Monarch butterflies.
Before you get started, find a friend who will care for your caterpillars or chrysalids in the event that you go away on vacation during the rearing period.
Ask the Experts
Monarch Watch Forum [this site has archives that you can search as well as experts who will answer your questions]
Monarch Teachers Network Facebook Page
Monarch Joint Venture – Rearing Tips
Note: If a caterpillar shows signs of sickness or disease, remove the sick caterpillar to another container. Remember though that caterpillars will remain still for up to a day when they molt between instars. This is normal, not to be confused with being sick.
There are a variety of ways to set up the milkweed for your caterpillars in the rearing house. Between broods, clean your rearing house and containers well.