We found our first monarch caterpillar of the season today, and we love to raise monarch butterflies every year. It doesn’t require a lot of supplies or even a lot of work from you, but it’s such a fun activity to do in the summer. For parents and kids! I’m going to share all the supplies you’ll need and just what to do to raise your own monarch butterflies.
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Monarchs haven’t officially been declared endangered yet, but they are on the way. So when you help to raise monarch caterpillars into butterflies, it helps maintain the population!
How to raise Monarch butterflies
Supplies you need to raise monarch butterflies:
You can buy a full butterfly kit – with everything you need, including larvae/eggs. But you can find monarch eggs or caterpillars anywhere you find milkweed!
Monarch eggs/caterpillars – monarch eggs or caterpillars can be found on milkweed leaves. Monarch eggs just look like small white dots on the leaf (often on the underside of the leaf) and the caterpillars are very small and can be found on the leaves.
Milkweed – monarch caterpillars eat milkweed (if you’re raising another kind of caterpillar, you’ll have to find out what they eat). If you don’t have any growing on your own property, you can usually find some in a nearby natural area. You can also buy/find seeds and plant them! It’s best planted in the fall so that it can pop up on its own in the spring.
Habitat – you can use a large jar with air holes at the top, but the best option is a bug catcher or a pop-up habitat cage.
We started with a simple bug catcher, but we’ve since purchased a larger pop-up habitat that has a lot more space.
Stick – Put a stick or two into the habitat so that your caterpillar can climb around
What to do:
- Put the eggs or caterpillars into your habitat/bug catcher.
- You will want to put fresh milkweed (or other food) into the habitat daily once the eggs hatch.
- Clean out the frass (caterpillar waste!) daily if you can, especially as the caterpillar gets bigger.
- Once the caterpillar begins to make its chrysalis, try not to disturb the habitat. The caterpillar will usually climb to the top of the habitat and make a “button” where it attaches to the top of the habitat. It will then hang in a J formation for usually around 18 hours before it begins to make its chrysalis.
- The chrysalis process is so fun to watch if you catch it!
- Monarchs are usually in a chrysalis for 10-14 days. Emerging from the chrysalis can happen so quickly, so don’t be surprised if you miss it! Shortly before the butterfly emerges, the chrysalis changes from green to kind of opaque and you’ll start to see the butterfly inside the chrysalis.
- We usually keep the butterfly until it begins to fly around the habitat – this means its wings are dry and it’s ready to fly. Sometimes you can hood it on your finger, but if it’s really ready, it will fly away immediately. Try not to release the butterfly on a rainy day though!
Books to read while you raise monarch butterflies:
If you’re going to raise butterflies with your kiddos, you definitely need to read some books about them!
My absolute favorite book:
Other butterfly books:
My friend Kristen at Arrows and Applesauce makes amazing hand-drawn printables, and when I asked her if she had one about the Butterfly Life Cycle… she just made one!!