First we’ll hunt, then we’ll gather, and finally we’ll find a safe place for your monarch eggs to rest until hatching…
Hunt For Eggs
Where should you look for monarch eggs? Here’s a list of places where many monarch raisers are finding their migration eggs:
- Small milkweed seedlings that have popped up over the summer
- Rabbit-ravaged plants (with fresh growth) hanging on for dear life
- Lone milkweed plants located away from large patches that are chocked full of predators
- Late season fresh-leaved milkweed varieties including tropical milkweed, balloon plant, swamp milkweed
- First year perennial milkweed with fresh leaves including common, swamp, butterfly weed
- Milkweed in shady locations. Monarchs are trying to protect their babies from the sultry late-summer sizzle
- Buds of milkweed including tropical and giant
- Seed pods
- Nearby non-milkweed plant leaves or blades of grass…accidents happen! 🙃
Of course, monarch females are the queens of egg-hiding, so leave no milkweed leaf unturned!
A big thanks to community member Robert W. for reminding me that monarchs aren’t the only mamas that lay eggs on milkweed. Here are some close-up monarch egg photos for those who aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for. Notice that monarch eggs have distinct ridges:
If you have a hard time seeing small monarch eggs, try using a magnifying glass to confirm your findings.
Gather Your Eggs
- Use a bowl, bucket, or even your kritter keeper to place any eggs you collect
- If you find an egg on a leaf, gently pull down where the leaf petiole attaches to the milkweed stalk to remove the entire leaf.
- If the egg is on the stalk or flower bud, use your pruning snips to cut off a small piece of the plant
- Put a dry paper towel in the bottom of a food container (too much moisture can cause monarch-killing mold)
- Use snips or a scissors to cut off a leaf piece that contains the egg
- Take each leaf piece, and spray both sides with a spray bottle, then place egg-side up on the paper towel
- Space out the eggs across the paper towel so that no baby caterpillar will accidentally eat its unhatched neighbor. In our 25 oz containers, we put about 6-10 eggs per container.
note: while some poke small air holes in the lid, I have found this is not necessary. There will be more than enough oxygen in the container from your daily checks. 🔍
Use milkweed leaf cuttings of swamp/common/tropical/giant in florist tubes. Keep in mind, leaf petioles are short so the tubes will need to be refilled daily to prevent the leaf from drying out. If you’re not checking on your monarchs daily, floral tubes are not recommended for single leaves.
But if you are, a single milkweed leaf can get you all the way from egg to 5 day old caterpillar, depending on leaf size.
Tip: Cut leaf away from both sides of the midrib to submerge the leaf further inside the tube for less refilling. In the photo above, I was able to submerge the leaf stem half way down the floral tube by cutting away the leaf.
When cutting around the midrib, it’s easiest to do this from the back where the midrib sticks out. This egg was located toward the bottom of the leaf so I wasn’t able to submerge the stem as deep:
Why Not Bring in Eggs on Stem Cuttings or Plants?
- Hard to Keep Track of Small Caterpillars
- If any eggs have been parasitized by wasps, you might not notice them after they turn dark
- It’s hard to clean cuttings/plants properly while avoiding monarch eggs
If you find the perfect cutting and want to skip the container step, thats definitely an option too:
However, food containers will be the easiest way to keep track of your newborn caterpillars 🐛 🐛 🐛 🔍
Protect Your Eggs
Seal the lid of your food container. Check on the eggs daily and lightly spray above the open container 1-2 times to give the leaves a little bit of moisture so they don’t curl up…that is all the moisture they need in a sealed food container.
You can keep these mini-greenhouse hatcheries almost anywhere, but don’t place them in direct sun. 🌞 🍳 😱
note: If you received eggs from a vendor, you can use the container method too. If vendor eggs are on a host plant, you also have the option to place that in your butterfly cage and lightly mist from above (daily) with your spray bottle.
Now we wait for your cream-colored eggs to darken, signaling the impending birth of your baby monarch caterpillars…
Please read through the comments below for more info. Then scroll to the bottom of the page to post Unanswered Questions or Comments about Hunting, Gathering, & Protecting Monarch Eggs.