How to Raise a Monarch Butterfly

Thursday, September 17, 2020

How to Raise a Monarch Butterfly

This summer I've been sharing stories on Instagram about this little adventure of ours and I thought I'd write a blog post on how to raise a Monarch butterfly. If you assume it would be a task you just don't have time for, I encourage you to read this post! I didn't think I wanted to do it at first, but now that I know how easy it is to do, I'd definitely do it again!

How to Raise a Monarch Butterfly

It all started when the girls came home from a visit to their grandparents' house. They got their caterpillars while out on a nature walk there. Their grandma helped them to get jars, mesh, and leaves to get them started.

How to Raise a Monarch Butterfly

Where to Find a Monarch Caterpillar

You can find Monarch caterpillars or eggs on Milkweed. Milkweed leaves are soft with a milky sap that leaks out of it. You can confirm that you've found the right thing by tearing a leaf- if it's milkweed, it'll have milky sap coming from the tear! Our girls found caterpillars.

Supplies Needed to Raise a Monarch

Our girls put their caterpillars in jars with mesh covering the top, with milkweed in the bottom for them to eat. You can also put a stick in the jar or across the top for when they're ready to become cocoons but ours ended up just hanging from the mesh itself!

Food for a Monarch Caterpillar

You can gather Milkweed plants and store them in the fridge in a plastic bag for 4-5 days. Then replace the leaves in the jar with fresh ones as needed. 

What is J Hanging?

When your Monarch Caterpillar is ready, it will hang upside down in a "J" shape. This is called a J Hang. It will stay like this for around 24 hours while it prepares to create its cocoon. 

We thought they needed to hang from a stick or something sturdy so we were nervous when ours did this from the mesh itself! It turns out that they were just fine that way though- the silk they spin to hang from must be pretty sturdy!

Monarch Chrysalis

The next stage is for it to become a chrysalis. It's a beautiful colour- it matched the backsplash in our kitchen! ;)  They'll stay in this stage for a week or two (ours was a week and a half) before they're ready to hatch.

You'll know your butterfly is almost ready to emerge when the chrysalis turns dark and you can see through it- it's so cool to see the Monarch butterfly wing pattern through the chrysalis at this stage!

They usually emerge in the morning, so be sure to keep an eye on yours in the morning when it starts to look like this!  We were raising two butterflies and one of them hatched in the morning when we weren't looking, the other emerged in the afternoon and we were able to watch! 

Monarchs Need to Hang After Eclosing

After the butterfly emerges (this is called eclosing), it needs to hang upside down to let its crumpled wings straighten and dry.  Both of ours hung from the empty chrysalis casing to hang (even though we gave them a twig to hang from), so I guess they're fine with that!

We just barely caught Talia's butterfly hatching on video! It happens pretty quickly, so it's easy to miss!  Here's a little video I made, showing the butterfly hatching and then its release:

Releasing Katrina's butterfly was a totally different experience! It was able to fly, but it didn't fly away. It stayed on her finger and then it stayed for a long time on the flower she placed it on. Maybe its wings weren't as dry as Talia's were when we released it, but it did fly away eventually (& we appreciated the photo opps that came from it hanging around!).

I hope sharing our experience and what we learned along the way helps you to see that it's not too difficult to raise a Monarch- maybe you'll decide to give it a try too!

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  1. Super cool! We have a family friend who also raises them and tracks their whereabouts. Always fascinated by the process.

    1. That's so cool that they're able to track their whereabouts! I wonder how they do it- that would be interesting to read about!

  2. We did this with Sofia when she was younger. I want to do it again! They can learn SO MUCH and appreciate nature on a different level watching this.

  3. This would be such a fun and educational project to take on! Not sure where I'd find the caterpillar or egg, but it's a start.

    1. Yeah, you'd have to know where some Milkweed is growing. But I wasn't there for that part, so I'm not sure how easy it is to find them!

  4. This is literally the coolest thing ever!! I had no idea you could do this at home!

  5. Watching a lifecycle is often inspiring. Plenty of lessons to transfer to other things too.

  6. Wow!! That so fun and cool. I remember doing something like this when I was in school ! Such a cool experience and memory :)

    1. That's so cool! Yes, I don't think any of us will forget it!


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment- I love reading them! :)
~Heather Lynne

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