Since monarchs only dine on milkweed, you’d think presenting them with monarch caterpillar food would be simple…
Discover the simple solution we use for keeping milkweed fresh for days, while keeping caterpillars from crawling around in potentially disease-causing frass. (poop)
Milkweed stem cuttings can be taken in a variety of sizes, and placed in a variety of containers filled with water. Here are four options we regularly use to help raise our monarchs with a consistent 95% survival rate.
If you’re still having wilting issues, try taking smaller cuttings…
Find the proceeding tools for serving monarch caterpillar food and other suggested raising supplies on our Top Raising Tools & Resources Page
1. Floral Tubes or Picks w/ Milkweed Stem Cuttings + Rack Holder
Space out 6-8 stem cuttings inside our new floral tube rack holder. The rack keeps both floral picks and floral tubes elevated and secure. It also makes adding water easier since you can move 8 floral tubes picking up 1 rack. When removing from the cage, I set the rack on a boot tray in case any caterpillars fall from their cuttings. This should not happen if you are careful, but at some point, having a tray will save you from losing a caterpillar.
A. Floral Picks w/ Stem Cuttings, Egg Carton, Rocks
You could easily place 6-8 stem cuttings across an egg carton. Since the cartons are so light, place a couple rocks inside the empty carton to hold it in place. Space out the picks across the carton.
B. Floral Picks w/ Stem Cuttings, Food Storage Containers, Marbles/Vase Fillers
Pierce the middle of the storage container lid with a sharp knife, than stick a phillips head screwdriver through the hole. Put marbles or vase fillers inside the container and put on the lid. The marbles/vase fillers will hold each pick in place and keep the cutting upright.
C. Floral Picks, Styrofoam Cooler lid, Rock
Use a raised styrofoam lid so the floral picks won’t pierce the cage floor. Place a flat rock in the middle of the lid to keep it in place.
D. Food Storage Containers, Marbles/Vase Fillers
Use the same food storage container as B, but this time put the cuttings directly through each lid hole. If there are any small holes the caterpillar could crawl through, cover them with small strips of duct tape after the cutting has been inserted into the water.
If you want a container that holds more water use a wider container (ie food container, short jar) instead of a taller container (ie gatorade bottle, water bottle) because tall containers are more likely to tip over. 😱
note: a jar opening would need to be covered with plastic wrap with stems stuck through to avoid accidental drownings.
E. Floral Picks, Food Storage Containers, Marbles/Vase Fillers
Leaf cuttings can be effective for keeping single common or swamp milkweed leaves fresh to hatch eggs or feed small caterpillars.
Don’t use the food storage container lid so you can angle the floral pick in the container. This allows the common milkweed leaf to sit in a horizontal position, which is convenient for placing monarch eggs or caterpillars:
You could also try putting in 2-3 leaves of other varieties with smaller petioles. This will keep them from coming out of the floral tube.
REMEMBER: leaf petioles are short, so you’ll have to refill the floral picks daily to keep them submerged in water. Your ravenous cage guests will wander away from dried out monarch caterpillar food! Hydrated milkweed cuttings keep your caterpillars fat and happy…
F. Floral Tubes or Picks w/ stem cuttings + Cup
Use a cup or glass that allows the top of the floral pick to come just above the rim of the glass and it will stay securely in place.