After our little adventure raising butterflies for the first time, I wrote a blog post on how to raise a Monarch butterfly and everything we learned about it. 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
When Can You Find Monarch Caterpillars and Monarch Eggs?
According to worldwildlife.org, Monarchs travel 1200-2800 miles from the Northeast U.S. and Southeast Canada to Central Mexico to hibernate from November to mid-March. You should be able to find Monarch Eggs and Monarch Caterpillars in Southern Ontario, Canada in mid-May and June.
Where to Find Monarch Caterpillars
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!
What to Feed 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!
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!