Monarch Butterfly – egg to adult
For those who love the Monarch butterfly, the loss of winter habitat and the drought along their migratory path has caused concern and alarm. We have raised many caterpillars in the past, for we let milkweed grow just to have a food source for them, but last year we saw no butterflies or eggs – at all. We were disheartened.
This year, hope revived! My daughter was out checking the plants for eggs or caterpillars and she found one! In fact, we now have 7, but this is the story of that one.
My teenage daughter came inside all excited because she found a monarch caterpillar egg on a milkweed plant, and I was equally thrilled! If you have never looked for caterpillar eggs you may not realize what an accomplishment that is, even on years when we do have butterflies. I don’t have a picture of a monarch egg of my own (camera can’t focus close enough for you to see such a tiny thing) but here is one I found:
We pulled up the entire plant (it was a tiny plant) end put it in a tiny vase on our windowsill.
The egg has darkened, which means it will be hatching soon. If my camera could zoom that close it would look like this.
JULY 12 – day 1
It’s out! I had to look very closely on a very tiny plant, but I found it. Problem is, my camera can only focus so close, so here is the progression of my pictures on that first photo shoot.JULY 14 – day 3
Looked for the baby this morning and couldn’t find it! I finally found it hiding inside the two top leaves where it would be safest place to sleep without discovery and being eaten, then moving out during the day.
JULY 16 – day 5
Even this morning the little one was hiding between the two top leaves, but now is eating them.
A friend commented on the mess and difficulty of raising them. Hmm. Let me share our method.
RAISING YOUR OWN MONARCH CATERPILLARS
1. Pull up a whole plant when you need one (younger ones are better).
2.Check it thoroughly for spiders (who will easily kill and eat the little caterpillars). Look in the very top leaves and remove the flowers and and pods that are growing because those are common areas where they lurk.
3. IMMEDIATELY put it in a vase of water. At first they wilt but usually recover in about 12 hours, so don’t panic. (I may have stumbled into a way to prevent the initial wilting, but not saying anything until I am sure.) This way you can go for quite a long time before having to move them.
4. Have a dedicated table with a table cloth to catch the pebbles (and sweep the floor every day when they get bigger). When they are larger transferring them between plants is not too bad and you can have several on one plant.
5. When they get big and ready to pupate watch them very carefully because they get restless and WILL wander off to all kinds of odd places (we have found them under tables) and then you don’t know when they come out and they can get stuck in the house without you knowing.
BTW, we DON”T put them in a cage, but just leave the vases with the plants and the little ones on a table.
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Having said all that, I better find a table to clear for putting the vases and a table I can dedicate to the growing number of vases – and an old white sheet to catch the ever larger caterpillar “pebbles.” We have used our basement in the past, but our guest room got cleaned up so I am thinking of putting them in there this year. It could also (hopefully) protect them from a curious cat…
July 17 – Day 6
Monarch butterflies are why we permit milkweed to invade our garden and flower beds (BTW, did you know how wonderful the flowers smell? Oh…!). One year we raised between 30 and 40 butterflies – we kind of lost track. We were really ambitious that year. As desperate as the situation is for the butterflies, and the very high mortality rate for caterpillars in the wild, we will probably not limit ourselves.
July 22 – Day 11
July 24 – Day 13