Be Prepared for Raising Monarch Butterflies

If you're thinking about raising monarch butterflies, you're in for an awe-inspiring experience...and the good news is that it's simply simple once you've got the basics down.

Before getting started, you'll need to be prepared for your new role as caregiver. It doesn't take much prep work, but here are a couple things to consider:

First, you'll need a milkweed source. The good news is that, for many of you, there is probably one close by.

If you can't find a local source, create your own! Milkweed is very easy to care for and it grows fast... kinda like a weed:)

Here are the two types of milkweed I have planted in my garden:

common milkweed with flowers blooming
Common Milkweed/Asclepias Syriaca-
We've had this growing on the side of our house for years. It is a hearty perennial and the monarchs fill our plants with eggs every summer...even the cold midwest summer of '09 when the monarch numbers were way down!
tropical milkweed with flowers in bloom
Tropical Milkweed/Asclepias Curassavica- This will be the first year we have grown this. We are adding this to the garden because it's a "showier" milkweed plant and is also widely reported to be one of the monarchs' favorites. The butterflies also suck nectar from it's flowers. I have not found this to be the case with common milkweed flowers.

In colder weather climates, tropical milkweed should be grown indoors 2 months before the last frost
and then planted outside .

How much milkweed will you need? The cats have voracious appetites and for two weeks they are on a constant milkweed binge. One caterpillar will devour close to one entire plant during this two week span.

monarch caterpillar cage
The second accessory you'll need is a secure caterpillar cage. The last two seasons I have used the cage pictured to the left. While I have been satisfied with it for raising larger caterpillars, the baby caterpillars(less than 3 days old) can escape through the tiny mesh holes on the side. I have lost a few caterpillars this way!

The good news is, there are plenty of other cage options whether you want to buy one or create your own caterpillar cage.

I'm posting this page in frigid January so you'll be "ready to raise" when the females start laying their eggs in March. They may start later depending on your location. If you're in Australia or New apologies for posting this in the midst of your monarch season!

Later this spring 2010, I will be adding Hi-Def videos showing tips and techniques for raising monarch butterflies. Sign up for our free site updates on the top right so you'll know right away when these videos are posted. I hope this gets you off to a flying start raising monarch butterflies.

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