Are You Ready To Raise Monarch Butterflies for the Monarch Migration?

Supply List For Raising Monarchs

Supply List for Raising Monarch Butterflies
Welcome to Raise the Migration 2, where you’ll be raising magnificent monarch butterflies to help increase the number of monarchs that will be overwintering in the mountains of Mexico and southern California.

My name is Tony Gomez, and I’ve raised thousands of monarchs over the past 30 years. My goal is to help you learn how to raise more monarchs with less effort, while helping the struggling monarch population.

Here are more details about Raise the Migration, including my suggested supply list for raising monarch butterflies:

Who is Raise the Migration for?

  • Those concerned with saving the monarch migration
  • Those who want to raise healthier monarch butterflies
  • Those looking for a more efficient process to raise monarchs
  • School teachers and kids looking for an exciting (and educational!) way to start the school year
  • Those interested in joining a community of Monarch Enthusiasts

Feel free to share this post with others you think would be interested in participating!

How Many Monarchs Will You Raise?

This challenge was created for anyone raising between 1-20 monarchs at one time. If you want to raise more, I recommend using additional cages to avoid potential disease. I raised 53 between 2 cages last September using this system and only lost one monarch (due to an unfortunate ‘smooshing’ accident)

Do You Have To Start On An Exact Date?

It’s unlikely that we would all have new monarch eggs on exactly the same date. Therefore, I will start sending tips during the earliest part of the migration, so you can refer to them when you have monarch eggs secured.

My tentative start date is Saturday, August 16th, 2014. This should allow most northerners to still participate and get their monarchs headed south before the weather becomes an issue. My start date might be a few days later depending on how cooperative the ELF’s (egg laying females) are. I will send out an announcement as soon as Raise The Migration begins.

When Will The Monarch Migration Be In Your Region?

Check out this monarch migration chart from Monarch Watch. I would recommend releasing your butterflies no more than 2 weeks after the last date of your peak migration. My latitude in Minneapolis is 45° N so my last peak date is September 10. This means I will try to release my last butterflies by September 24th.

You do not need to follow along in real-time to participate! Refer to the raise emails you will be receiving and start at a time that makes sense for your your region.

 

Does It Matter Where You Raise Them?

Keep in mind, cool nights below 55° F will slow down the metamorphic process. It’s very possible to have cooler nights in late summer (especially north) so bring your cage indoors on these nights, if your raising cage is outside.

Before we get started, you will need to get set up with a few basic supplies. These supplies will help you raise monarchs for years to come, and they should fit most budgets. Some of you might not need to spend anything if you’ve already got the supplies at home.

Here are the butterfly raising tools I use to make raising migration butterflies easier, less time-consuming, and ultimately more enjoyable.

Caterpillar Cages

To raise migration butterflies “the easy way” requires a cage that can hold a potted milkweed plant or cuttings, at the least.

1a. Caterpillar Terrarium

At 48″ tall, this cage can hold 1 or more mature potted milkweed plants of the tropical variety. It can also easily hold cuttings from all milkweed varieties.

1b. Raising Cage Alternatives

You can also use smaller cages if you don’t raise on potted plants. If you plan to use cuttings to feed caterpillars, I would suggest a cage at least two feet (24″) high.

1c.

These hard, plastic containers are perfect for raising caterpillars if you place pantyhose over the lid of the cage. This prevents small caterpillars from escaping, and you can still secure the lid. The XL cage is still a foot high and can fit small cuttings.

 

I own a kritter keeper and a pop-up but if I had to choose, I would get the pop-up for raising versatility.

 

Why Pop-up Cages?

I prefer them for several reasons when raising migration monarchs:

  • well made
  • no nooks and crannies that cause caterpillar injuries
  • fine mesh prevents caterpillar escapes
  • fold up for easy storage
  • one side is clear plastic for easy viewing
  •  the caterpillar terrarium can fit potted plants
  • light weight
  • easier to clean than a large stationary cage
If you haven’t signed up to participate in Raise the Migration 2, sign up here to receive free raising tips delivered to your email inbox.

Milkweed Plants

If you want to raise monarch butterflies with the least amount of effort, you will need at least one mature potted milkweed plant that has healthy leaves.

The best place to find mature plants is in your garden or from a local nursery that doesn’t spray with harmful pesticides.

2a. Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)- this seems to be the preferred egg laying milkweed late in the season. If you have tropical mw in your garden, transfer one to a pot now and you’ll be good to go.

2b. Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)- first and second year plants are usually the best options since many still have fresh leaves late in the season.

2c. Goose Plant (Asclepias physocarpa)- this milkweed always has viable, healthy leaves late in the season. It’s also easy to pot if you have some in your garden.

2d. Giant Milkweed (Calotropis gigantea)- this is not widely available but could be an option in places like Florida. Calotropis procera is a similar option, but it’s not commonly sold in North America.

Popular native species like butterfly weed and common milkweed are usually past their prime by late summer. However, you can try them if the leaves still look edible.

One monarch caterpillar can devour an entire milkweed plant. Keep this in mind when deciding how many monarchs you want to raise.

If you can’t find milkweed plants locally, some of the stores on my resource page might have plants in stock:
Order Milkweed Plants Online

Monarch Eggs

During the past decade, it has become increasingly difficult to find monarch eggs. If you don’t want to wait for your milkweed to work its magic, check out these sources to buy eggs and caterpillars.

3a. Monarch Eggs from Butterfly Lady

3b. Monarch Eggs from Rose Franklin

 

Monarch Caterpillars

If you want more of a ‘sure thing’ when ordering monarchs, caterpillars are probably your best option since a % of eggs won’t hatch.

3c. Caterpillars from Rose Franklin

3d. Caterpillars and Chrysalises from Shady Oak

 

Grocery List

The uses for these supplies will be explained (in detail) during Raise the Migration:

4. Empty plastic bottle, empty jar, or vase to place stem cuttings cuttings

5. Small plastic food storage containers for leaf cuttings

6. Pruning shears to take cuttings

7. Plastic wrap to cover empty bottle/vase

8. Rubber bands to secure plastic wrap

9. Scissors

10. Duct Tape

11. Cotton Balls

12. Aluminum Foil

13. Oranges or Watermelon- in case you need to keep monarchs overnight due to inclement weather

14. Gatorade can also be used to feed adult butterflies. Melon flavored gatorade has been suggested by universities.

15. Bleach for cage cleaning (optional)

16. Small hand held vacuum for frass (optional)

Sixteen items might sound like a lot, but some of these items are optional (depending on your raising set up) and some of these items will already be in your home. Being prepared in advance will give you more time to enjoy this amazing experience…

If you have any questions or comments about raising supplies please post below. I look forward to raising the migration with you!
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Comments

  1. Sheri DeLoach says

    Interesting article & info. I would like to part update in ‘The Flight.”
    Probably need to order eggs.
    And will need a BF castle.
    Are these things you sell?
    I live in Central Texas, Waco/Hewitt.
    Very hot now & will be end of Aug
    I have Butterfly Milkweed plants I can pot up.
    Thanks
    Sheri DeLoach
    Sheri DeLoach@gmail.com

    • says

      Hi Sheri,

      I’m happy to hear you are participating in the Amazing Raise! I don’t currently sell anything on the list, but these are products I use myself and the vendors are all reputable. In Texas, you will be at the tail end of the migration so you might want to start at the end of September or early October. I’m starting ‘early’ so everyone has a chance to participate.

      • says

        thank you for the reply,Tony. I am encouraged to go with your program as the Monarchs are beginning to migrate through our Cen-Texas area. Zone 8. I would like to buy the least expensive, most effective products for raising them inside a laundry hamper. I saw a large female Monarch depositing her eggs on the undersides of the common milkweed plant about 10 days ago. I can still see the ‘white dots eggs.’ Should I leave them on these outside plants until I can set up a laundry hamper? Also, is it too late to order eggs?
        Thank you,
        Sheri

        • says

          Hi Sheri,

          because there are so many egg-eating predators my suggestion is to take the eggs inside as you see them. I would check the egg suppliers on the resource list to see if they are still offering eggs. If yes, you should still be able to turn out one last Texas batch…

  2. marcy says

    I just released 4 Monarchs today. I have 2 chrysalis left to mature. Hopefully I will find more cats on my Milkweeds to raise!
    I have not been seeing as many Monarchs lately.

      • marcy says

        Tony I am in Central Florida. This is the first time I have raised Butterflies. In the past few days I have found 5 cats on plants in varying instars. I have them in containers in the house since I have had several go missing if left on the plants outside. I have a medium size foldable butterfly tent just a little too small for my potted plant. though.
        Up till today I have raised about 10 Monarchs. I am so happy to contribute a small part in raising these beautiful natural jewels. I am amazed at their beauty and grace.

        • says

          Hi Marcy, don’t worry if your potted plant won’t fit in your cage. I will also be discussing using “cuttings” instead. Happy to hear you’re having a successful season and I look forward to helping you raise more monarchs.

          • Marcy Isherwood says

            Hello Again Tony,
            Update on my last post. I now have 7 monarch chrysalis’. I have not seen a Monarch in 1 1/2 weeks. No cats on my Milkweeds.
            Are they migrating north for their migration to Mexico?- Or should I look for other reasons, such as lizards , wasps and ants and other nefarious bad guys?
            Thanks
            Marcy :-)

            -

          • says

            Hi Marcy, the migration has begun in Canada. Usually, this is the time I start seeing migrators come through in Minneapolis. However, we’re having record heat all week…not sure if that might delay southward movement. I’ll be sure to post when I see them come through!

            I just read a new statistic that said only 1% of monarchs survive outdoors. That seems a bit low, but it’s probably not too far off.

  3. Monique says

    Hi there! I live in Central Florida and I have raised (from egg) over 70 Monarchs so far this year and I have 35 in chrysalis, about to emerge in the next few days. My husband converted an old ferret cage, added some screen, lattice and put a lock on it. My beauties have their own condo! :)

    • says

      excellent news Monique….many Floridians are having fantastic monarch seasons! It sounds like your monarchs are living the high-life in their beach front condo :)

  4. Cathie Nunez says

    Three days ago I had my first monarch, I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana. No eggs but am excited to finally see one this season!

  5. Donna says

    Hi Tony,
    very informative!
    In the Houston area, I’m just sarting to see daily visits from monarch and other yet to be identified butterflies. There has been plenty of egg laying by the mamas, but after a day or 2, I don’t see them anymore, and have not seen the tiny cats. I’ve inadvertently diverted the wasps by filling my hummingbird feeder, but I have quite the family of lizards. Could they be the culprit?

    Anyway, I have HUGE milkweed plants, so I’m going to do like last year with your suggestion and take cuttings.
    Wish me luck! : )

    • says

      Hi Donna,

      cuttings work well for raising and they save you a lot of time too. Yes, lizards have been reported to eat monarch caterpillars so they could be your culprits. Good luck and keep us posted!

      PS…if you haven’t signed up for Amazing Raise 1, there’s still time to sign up. I just sent out an email about taking cuttings today.

  6. says

    Tony,
    Greetings from Ft Wayne IN have released two adult Monarchs and have 8 more instar on the ready. I was just wondering if you had found a good site for the non aggressive Asclepias purpurascens or Asclepias viridis. Have you ever used hardyplants.com as a source for milkweed seeds. I live in a rurual area and want to grow the less aggressive milkweeds as I want to incorporate them into gardens. I have also ordered a plant of Prairie Milkweed A. sullivanti can you think of any other less aggressive milkweed types? Thanks

    • says

      Hi Brian,

      Incarnata is non-invasive if you cut off the seed pods before the burst open. I put together a butterfly plant page with links and you should be able to find what you’re looking for there.

      http://www.monarchbutterflygarden.net/butterfly-plants/

      I have 8 different milkweed species and I’m planting some viridis seeds this fall. You also have the option of planting ‘annual’ milkweed species for your area like curassavica or physocarpa. I use both in Minnesota and they are popular late season plants for the monarchs…especially tropical (curassavica) since it also serves as a nectar source.

  7. judith ross says

    It appears the eggs, cats that i have collected off of the outdoor plants (and then transferred to my lanai onto 2 potted tropical milkweeds) have possibly oe or something else. They are growing well, eating and then all of a sudden seem to be unable to move their rear section forward. The upper segment moves. Have you ever seen this? I have 4 cats almost ready to cocoon in this sad state. Any advice? Do i need to do something to the plants if i stat with ordered eggs? I am hesitant to use anymore “wild” eggs. Help! and thank you.

    • says

      Hi Judith, one of the reasons I’m doing “Raise the Migration” is to teach people the system I use for raising healthy butterflies. My survival rate with wild eggs is over 95% and I hope I am able to boost yours too. I will be covering the entire process when we get started in August. I’m glad you are joining us!

      As for your current caterpillars, I would see what happens. If they aren’t able to successfully pupate I would euthanize them by placing them inside a plastic bag in the freezer and then discarding. It’s hard to say what the issue is without seeing them. It could be disease. If the plants are new, could they have been treated with pesticides?

  8. Lynne Jenkins says

    I raised about 10monarch last summer and winter. This year I have none. I saw some but then they were gone. I’m thinking the wasps ate them .How do I get rid of the wasp and not hurt the caterpillars?

    • says

      Lynne, there are lots of monarch predators out there. The best ways to defeat them are 1. milkweed diversification…grow several types of milkweed and have several patches around your yard/garden 2. Raising indoors (or an outdoor enclosure)

      …and even though wasps kill caterpillars, they are also beneficial pollinators.

  9. Vicki Wallace says

    Hi Tony, I am in South Florida – am I right in my thinking that monarchs from this area don’t migrate? Since early spring we have had a steady stream of caterpillars and butterfly visitors in to our butterfly garden. At one point we had so many caterpillars I had to take 40 to my local butterfly sanctuary. Yesterday I released 5, today I released 6 and I still have 6 in chrysalis stage. I have noticed that the frogs like to eat the caterpillars so we are working on that right now!!

    • says

      Hi Vicki, central and south Florida both have overwintering monarch populations that won’t make the journey to Mexico. However, most of the information in Raise the Migration should apply to Florida monarchs too. In areas where monarchs live year round there are some disease/parasite issues (like OE) that are more prevalent because of the reuse of milkweed plants. We will discuss how to avoid (or at least reduce) these issues.

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