Supply List For Raising Monarchs
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.
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.
To raise migration butterflies “the easy way” requires a cage that can hold a potted milkweed plant or cuttings, at the least.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
If you want more of a ‘sure thing’ when ordering monarchs, caterpillars are probably your best option since a % of eggs won’t hatch.
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
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…