Supply List For Raising Monarchs
Welcome to Raise the Migration 5, 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 coastal California.
My name is Tony Gomez, and I’ve raised thousands of monarchs over the past 35 years. My goal is to help you learn how to raise more monarchs with less effort, while helping the struggling monarch population recover so that one day it can thrive again across North America.
Who is Raise the Migration for?
- Those concerned with saving the monarch migration for future generations
- 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 passionate 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 1-30 monarchs at one time. If you want to raise more, I recommend using additional cages to avoid potential diseases caused by overcrowding.
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 or caterpillars secured.
My tentative start date is Saturday, August 12th, 2017. 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. We raise ours inside a 3-season porch, and close windows at night, if necessary.
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 stem cuttings:
Food containers are an excellent starting place to keep track of monarch eggs and small caterpillars without the leaves drying out. Checking on eggs once a day allows more than sufficient oxygen levels in a sealed container.
Side-opening mesh cages for raising monarch caterpillars. This is an excellent option for raising on milkweed stem cuttings and small plants. At the end of the season, the cage folds flat for easy storage.
If you want to raise fewer caterpillars and plan to raise exclusively on smaller cuttings or individual leaves, the small pop up cage should suit your needs perfectly .
1d. If you’re purchasing the baby cube listed above, check out our poo poo platter for easier cage cleaning 💩
1e. NEW Tall Baby Butterfly Cage
1f. NEW Monarch Tower Butterfly Cage
1g. Kritter Keepers on Amazon (in a L or XL size container)
These hard, plastic containers are a good option for raising caterpillars if you place pantyhose over the cage lid. This prevents small caterpillars from escaping, and you can still secure the lid. The Large keeper (9.5″ high) and the XL keeper (12.5″ high) can accommodate small to medium sized cuttings.
If you want to raise monarch butterflies on milkweed with the least amount of effort, you have two options:
- milkweed stem cuttings from potted or garden plants (my recommendation)
- large potted milkweed plants with healthy leaves
The best place to find milkweed plants is in your garden or from a local nursery that doesn’t spray with harmful pesticides. Remember, systemic pesticides can not be rinsed off and remain inside the milkweed leaves.
2a. Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)– this seems to be the preferred egg laying milkweed late in the season.
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. Balloon Plant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)– 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. This season, we’re growing giant milkweed as an annual in our Minnesota garden. These plants would be a viable option for feeding caterpillars if we needed them.
2e. Popular native species like Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) are often past their prime by late summer. However, you can use any milkweed species if the leaves are still green and appear healthy.
If you can’t find pesticide-free milkweed plants locally, some of the stores on my resource page might have plants in stock:
Order Milkweed Plants Online
note: The sap from milkweed is toxic and can cause corneal damaged if rubbed into your eyes. Always wash your hands after handling milkweed…
During the past decade, it has become increasingly difficult to find monarch eggs. That also includes finding eggs from vendors. This season, it appears that one vendor is currently offering eggs:
If you want more of a ‘sure thing’ when ordering monarchs, caterpillars are probably your best option since a % of monarch eggs won’t hatch.
note: USDA prohibits these vendors from shipping west of the continental divide. I am not aware of any vendors that ship caterpillars to western states. If you know of any reliable western options, please post a comment below.
More Raising Supplies + Grocery List
The uses for these supplies will be explained (in detail) during Raise the Migration:
Choose one of the following 3 options:
4. Empty plastic bottle, empty jar, or vase to place large stem cuttings cuttings
5. Small plastic food storage containers for shorter stem cuttings
6a. Large 15ml floral picks for stem cuttings or individual leaves
6b. Super Tubes 30ml floral tubes for less refilling
6c. NEW Floral Tube/Pick Holder Rack
Even if you start raising on potted plants, there’s a chance you could be using milkweed stem/leaf cuttings by the end of the feeding frenzy.
7. No Needle Syringe for refilling floral tubes/picks. These are optional, but allow you to refill tubes without bothering the caterpillars as much. I don’t use them, but have spoken to a few raisers who really like them. I prefer to use…
8. Boot Trays to carry cuttings containers (with caterpillars) to a sink to refill floral tubes or containers with water and rinse off any 💩.
9. Magnifying glass– many have reported difficulties finding eggs or locating baby caterpillars because they are so tiny. Check them out with a magnifying glass and finally see what you’ve been missing!
10. Pruning snips to take cuttings (I prefer the mini or micro pruners for working with milkweed.)
11. Plastic wrap to cover empty bottle/vase (only for large 2 ft+ cuttings)
12. Rubber bands to secure plastic wrap (only for large 2 ft+ cuttings)
14. Duct Tape
15. Cotton Balls
Choose one of the following 3 options:
16a. Oranges or Watermelon- in case you need to keep monarchs overnight due to inclement weather
16b. Gatorade can also be used to feed adult butterflies. Melon flavored gatorade has been suggested by universities.
16c. Sugar or granulated hummingbird food can be mixed with water and fed to butterflies with soaked cotton balls.
18. Small handheld vacuum with low suction for cleaning up caterpillar frass (poop) in big cages…this is the exact model we use and love it for this purpose.
Why a vacuum with low suction and bad reviews? You don’t want a handheld with high suction or it will suck up the cage floor. If you opt for another vacuum, make sure it isn’t a high powered model! Here are some more options to consider:
19. Monarch Watch Tagging Program for Migration Monarchs- Get Tagging Info Here
19b. Tagging info for Western Monarchs (There are several tagging programs for the western monarchs so research to see which one makes the most sense for your region.)
20. If you like butterfly t-shirts, check out our official Raise the Migration T-shirts to celebrate monarchs and spread the message of raising monarch butterflies to others…for individuals or fun group t-shirts.
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…