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

Supply List For Raising Monarchs

Supply List Suggestions for Raising Monarchs to Release for the Great Fall Migration- Raise the Migration
Welcome to Raise the Migration 3, 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 recover.

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 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 1-20 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 15th, 2015. 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.

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 stem cuttings:

1a. Buy a Square Pop-Up Cage, 27″ x 27″ x 48″ high to Raise up to 40 Monarch Caterpillars

Fantastic side-opening mesh cages for raising monarch caterpillars. This 4 foot high cage can also fit potted plants. At the end of the season, the cage folds flat for easy storage.

1b. Buy a Square Pop-Up Cage 16.5″ x 16.5″ x 30″ high to Raise up to 20 Monarch Caterpillars

If you want to raise fewer caterpillars and plan to raise exclusively on cuttings, the 2.5 foot high cage is a good option. You could also use this exclusively as a cage to sun dry butterflies before releasing them.


1d. Kritter Keepers on Amazon

These hard, plastic containers are perfect 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 XL cage is still a foot high and can fit small cuttings.

If you haven’t signed up to participate in Raise the Migration 3, sign up here to receive free raising tips delivered to your email inbox.

Milkweed Plants

If you want to raise monarch butterflies on milkweed with the least amount of effort, you have two options:

  • large potted milkweed plants with healthy leaves
  • milkweed stem cuttings from potted or garden plants

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. 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.

2e. Popular native species like Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) are usually past their prime by late summer. However, you can use them if the leaves are still green and appear healthy.

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 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.

3b. Caterpillars from Rose Franklin

3c. Caterpillars and Chrysalises from Shady Oak


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 stem cuttings cuttings

5. Small plastic food storage containers for shorter stem cuttings

6. Floral tubes for stem cuttings or individual leaves

Even if you are attempting to raise on potted plants, if you run out of milkweed you will have to use stem cuttings or even individual leaves

7. Pruning shears to take cuttings

8. Plastic wrap to cover empty bottle/vase

9. Rubber bands to secure plastic wrap

10. Scissors

11. Duct Tape

12. Cotton Balls

13. Aluminum Foil

Choose one of the following 3 options:

14a. Oranges or Watermelon- in case you need to keep monarchs overnight due to inclement weather

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

14c. Sugar or granulated hummingbird food can be mixed with water and fed to butterflies with soaked cotton balls.

15. Bleach for Cage Cleaning

16. Small handheld vacuum for cleaning up frass (caterpillar poop)

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!


  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.
    Sheri DeLoach

    • 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,

        • 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?
            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

    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 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.

      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.

      • Vicki Wallace says

        Thanks for the info Tony – will be looking forward to learning about that. We have a few issues with our plants right now so we have just sprayed and washed them all. Taking off the eggs and cats first! I just released 5 more butterflies today :)

  10. Lynn says

    Tony – when you start posting more info, would you please explain about how to use the Gatorade / watermelon to sustain a monarch before release? Do you pour some in a dish, or ???

    Love your newsletter! Thanks for taking the time to educate the rest of us!

    • says

      Hi Lynn, I will definitely be sharing more details about feeding adult monarchs with fruit and/or gatorade. You won’t need to feed them if you release them within 24 hours, but it’s good to have some on hand just in case!

  11. Dawn Leon says

    How do I become part of this great adventure, The Amazing Raise? It sounds great!! I live in Maquoketa, Iowa and have raised and released just four monarchs thus far, but the exciting news it that they are all coming from my milkweed I planted in my own yard. I used to have to go walking in ditches, etc, to find my caterpillars, but now I just have to go to my backyard to find them. I LOVE it :) So do my kiddos.

    Thanks, Dawn

  12. jeri says

    Hi! I just took cuttings of a milkweed plant and put them in my house. I noticed, today that there are very small caterpillars on them (about 3-5).
    I am so excited. Do I now leave them in the house? And get started with the cage and equipment you suggested?
    I LOVE this site! -Jeri

    • says

      Hi Jeri, congratulations! I would definitely raise your new babies inside. I leave ours in a 3-season porch with the windows open, but you can also raise them indoors. They will typically develop a little slower indoors…especially if you have the A/C on.

      I would order a cage if you don’t have one. You can put them in a plastic food storage container until it arrives. Wherever you put them, make sure there aren’t any openings a tiny caterpillar can crawl out of…

  13. Kathy Welte says

    I raised a few monarchs 2 years ago from cats I collected on the side of the road. I planted milkweed in a new garden that is devoted to butterflies that year. Last year I did not find an egg or a cat. This year I am happy to say I am addicted. I am currently raising 22 eggs, 33 cats & 5 chrysalis. I also have 2 Monarchs which would have been released today but it has been rainy and cool. I added nectar on a sponge and a vase of zinnia & black eyed susan for them. I will probably have to go back to the roadside for milkweed to feed them all but I really don’t mind. Watching their life cycle is so enjoyable. Thank you for all the information you have on this site. I am so glad I found it.

  14. Poppy says

    Brand new to “helping save the Monarchs”.. Ordered some tropical milkweed seeds, now I have about 8 plants 25 in. tall in an area behind my regular flower garden. Have been watching all summer plants haven’t bloomed. Monarchs have been visiting my regular flower garden for several days. Today I’ve found 2 large cats on two separate milkweed plants and several very small cats. I think I’ve identified the eggs that you’ve shown how to find. I want to order a cage but most sites are sold out. I may have to try and make a homemade one in the meantime. I really enjoy your instructions and hope to get successful in raising these beautiful creatures. I’ve been stopping on roadsides and looking at the common milkweeds but haven’t seen any monarchs on them. The common plants are starting to dry up this time of year, here in St. Louis area, but I intend to keep looking. Thanks again, Tony.

    • says

      Hi Poppy, I hope you are enjoying your first season of gardening and raising. Tropical milkweed is an excellent variety for those in the central and northern US if you start with plants or cuttings. I’m in Minnesota and our tropical has been blooming for 2 months. Seeds start too slow in colder regions…especially if you have a cool spring! You might want to consider fall planting swamp milkweed too…that usually stays viable longer than common milkweed and is less invasive:

      Swamp Milkweed

      As for cages, did you check out the options on my supply list?

  15. Terrie Eshleman says

    I have one of the large pop up cages. I have used it for the last several weeks raising Black Swallowtails on fennel. My first time ever doing this.
    Now I have brought in a common milkweed with three cats and added two more on leaves today of the Monarch’s. Do I need to provide any
    sticks or other vertical support for the cats when they will be developing into chrysalises, or will they hang on the sides as the black swallowtails did?

    Also, I ordered some eggs/cats from the butterfly lady, and they have not been sent yet, August 21. Will they have enough time to develop if they are not here soon. We here in SE Pennsylvania have been having a much cooler summer than normal. Thanks for your efforts. I feel better trying to help with all your suggestions and education.

    • says

      Hi Terri, monarchs will pupate on the roof of your cage…no sticks necessary. You still have time to raise one final batch, but in your region you will want to release your monarchs by the first week of October…at the latest! It would be best if you could start raising next week. Good luck…

  16. Alice Snyder says

    I had a Monarch lay about 8 eggs on 2 potted plants outside on 8/30. I moved the plants into a screened in porch to protect from predators. I have now cut off the leaves the eggs were on and put them into a plastic pet cage, with a vented lid. 3 eggs hatched this morning. My question is should i move the cats when they are a little bigger, back onto the plants in the screened in porch and let me eat the rest of the leaves there? There are plenty leaves on the plants, or should I leave the cats in the cage and let them pupate there?

    • says

      Hi Alice, congrats on your new babies. I’m not sure what kind of cage you have, but if they can slip through the vents at the top of your cage, they will. If they are on potted plants, they might also crawl away from them before they are ready to pupate. You will want to raise them, where you can keep them the most secure. Here is a recent post about recommended cages:

      Monarch Caterpillar Cages

      • Alice Snyder says

        thanks, i ordered a pop up large container with a zip side door. I will keep them in the critter keeper until i get it and them move them to the potted plants inside this pop up container. Thanks! i now have 7 cats. I found some more today on the potted plants.!

  17. Debra Stallings says

    Hi, Tony,
    I wrote you once before. I am a Master Gardener in Montgomery County, TX (about 45 miles north of Houston). I believe we are now zone 8b. We grow A. curassavica like weeds! But we want to offer natives as alternatives, especially in our plant sales to butterfly enthusiasts. We started A. tuberosa with some success (some look great and some, not so much). We also have a healthy crop of A. physocarpa that look very good along with our A. curassavica. Our next sale is September 19, 2015.
    My question is, when do we start the seed of A. asperula and A. viridis. We mail ordered the seed which suggested we start the seed in the “fall”. So when is THAT?? Our next sale is March of next year, and we would love to offer them then. Is that possible?. When should we start them? Is it too early now (or too late?) We have a greenhouse if they need to stay indoors for the winter. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I’m trying get all of us who have the Mexican/tropical milkweed to cut it back about mid to late October, because of the Oe parasite, right?

    Thanks for your help and your wonderful passion!!

    • says

      Hi Debra, the info you’re getting about planting in fall is probably meant for gardeners who want their seeds to sprout outside in spring. When you plant for your greenhouse should depend on the size of plant you want to offer at your spring sale. I would suggest doing a test to see how long it takes viridis/asperula seeds to germinate after cold moist stratification…then see how long it takes the seedlings to get to the size that you want for your plant sale.

      Any milkweed in your region that grows continuously should be cut back, so that would probably include physocarpa too. Hope this helps, Tony

  18. bill weaver says

    I live in southern ca to be exact the San Fernando valley. It gets quite hot here in the summer and sometimes very cold in the winter. I have a 13ft x
    4ft veg garden I want to turn into a butterfly garden. Will you give me a list of plants I can use
    Thank you for your time.

  19. JUDY KARCHER says

    Tony ,
    I released four Monarchs this morning ,3 Male and Female ( second generation ) .

    Hope they me some third generations .
    Cages are all cleaned and just waiting for the eggs to be laded.


  20. Judy Schafer says

    It’s 100 degrees here in Texas. However a friend in Navasota has Monarch in her yard. Today was the annual butterfly release ( painted ladies) for our jr. science museum. There were 500 plus attended. Our garden club for the 3rd year did an educational booth and showed pictures of local butterflies in the TV viewing room. We gave out seed, mixed nectar and host, plus pks. of tropical butterfly milkweed seed. We also provided lists of suggested butterfly plants for our area. We have been invited back for next year.
    President Obama has announced Interstate 35 from Mexico to Minn. as ‘pollinator corridor’ The U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will help rehabilitate butterfly habitat along the federal highway.

    • says

      I have heard more reports of people seeing monarchs down south. I think the abundant milkweed supply (from all the rain) enticed more to stay! It sounds like your booth was a huge hit…congrats Judy!

  21. Patricia says

    I haven’t seen a single Monarch all year. I had 20 cats on my milkweed in 2011 and haven’t seen any since, just migrating monarchs nectaring. Butterflies in general have been very sparse here all year. I have all kinds of nectar and host plants and have only seen 3 butterflies. Very strange.

    • says

      Sorry to hear this Patricia…and another reason it’s important to raise migration generation monarchs if you are able. I hope you start seeing more butterflies soon!

  22. Poppy says

    This is my second year “Monarching”. I live about 20 West of St. Louis, Mo. Last year being new at it, I didn’t get any releases until late August, and had limited milkweed. This year I have about 35 milkweed plants, mostly tropical. I started observing eggs about the first week of July. As of today I have released 13 about 8 males, 5 females. Last year I had one cage, bought 2 more for this year, and put them on my screened in porch. Most of my milkweed are in pots, so I can bring them into the cages, out of harms way. Since several plants get eggs, I pick one and place it in a cage. I observe the other plants and wait until I see the new hatching muching away. I carefully force them onto my finger and bring them into the cage and transfer them to the waiting milkweed. Egg laying took place for about a week, and I haven’t observed any more eggs, here it is July 25th.
    I have about 17 more chrysalis’ in various stages waiting for the new Monarchs to emerge. So far, they have all emerged healthy and ready to head out. I think getting the newly hatched cats inside is the secret, getting them away from the outside predators. I do see Monarchs fluttering around my flowering plants, especially the Mexican sunflowers, but no egg laying as of yet. Since I didn’t have eggs this early last year, I wondering if this lapsed time is normal, I guess time will tell.

    • says

      Hi Poppy, once your garden is more established, you will probably get more eggs over the summer, but the monarchs can be unpredictable…a late start to the season doesn’t help either! Congrats on your early batch, and hope you get more soon…

  23. Sharon says

    I live in North East Texas and raise Monarchs with my Kindergarten class in the spring (for over 20 years now). I find the eggs on milkweed plants on my land. I learn more and more each year. My question is do the Monarchs lay eggs here in Texas in the fall on their flight back to Mexico for the winter or do they just pass through on their journey to Mexico for the winter?

    • says

      Hi Sharon, the monarchs that have entered sexual diapause will move through to Mexico, but there will definitely be some that are still mating and will leave eggs in your region. A September/October raising project for your class would probably work well…good luck!

  24. Shari says

    This my first year and I am so amazed, what an incredible miracle. I have released 11 butterflies so far, have two chrysalis, and one big one ready to “J” out. I am sorry to say I have lost three caterpillars and two chrysalis to that parasitic fly, that was terrible.

    I am curious how you know male from female butterflies? I seem to always call them, she.

    Thanks for all your info.

    PS I am in SoCal, is there a time I should cut all of the milkweed back?

    • says

      Hi Shari, I’m glad you are enjoying your first season raising monarchs! Here is a post that illustrates the differences between the sexes:

      Monarch Female VS Monarch Male Photos

      As for cutting back, I would do it once at the end of the season and then another time during the season when activity is low. You can always stagger the cuttings so there will be some milkweed available if a monarch female stops in for a visit. Hope this helps!

  25. Gabrielle Laney-Andrews says

    Greetings from Santa Cruz, one of those spots where Monarchs migrate to in the winter. I have released seven this spring, right now I have 12 in chrysalis that should emerge in a couple weeks. I have about seven small caterpillars and five more eggs. So some of the Monarchs stay around here all year. Hopefully in Oct. we will get more butterflies this year, last year the numbers were quite small.

    I find most of the eggs on the tropical milkweed flowers and the swamp milkweed leaves. I am trying to grow heart shaped milkweed, as it is a California native, but it is not really growing very well, only one seed sprouted and the plant has remained very small. I looked at your pdf for California native milkweeds, and the growing area for Heart shaped milkweed is more north and inland from where I live. So tropical is the best for us by the ocean. This year the local nursery has three colors of tropical milkweeds, yellow, red and orange. Last time I was there, a week ago, people were flocking to buy the milkweeds. More and more folks here are interested in butterfly gardens and specifically Monarchs. I have many nectar flowers now and I see not only Monarchs, but Gulf Fritillaries, Painted Ladies, Swallowtails, Skippers and of course Cabbage whites. It is such a wonder to see them all flying around, doing their mating dances, sipping on the zinnias.

    I think that growing a butterfly garden is healing on so many levels, it certainly reduces my stress and I feel like a child again, free and in wonder with the world when the butterflies come to visit. And baby Monarchs are so incredibly cute!!!

    • says

      Hi Gabrielle, I know exactly how you feel when the butterflies flutter in for a visit. Sorry you are having problems with your California natives, but from what I hear, you aren’t the only one! Besides tropical, you might also want to look at the Calotropis and Gomphocarpus milkweed varieties, that would probably be perennials in your region. They aren’t native, but grow well in warm climates:

      25+ Milkweed Varieties for Butterfly Gardens

      • Gabrielle Laney-Andrews says

        Hi Tony, my zinnias are getting tall and so many butterflies are around, I saw a California hairstreak for the first time. I released four Monarchs today and two more are ready to pop out. I looked at the milkweeds you suggested, the Calotropis is really, really pretty! Today I also tried to move the heart shaped milkweed, it isn’t doing too good the zinnias are blocking the sun, but when I went to transplant it the stem snapped off from the roots with barely a touch. The leaves are nice and green and it was finally getting a few sub leaves at the nodes. I was not too happy, sometimes I can’t leave well enough alone. I dipped the stem in growing hormone, I am hoping to save it that way (I watched your videos for starting from cuttings). Last year I was really having trouble with swamp milkweed and this year all the plants are doing well and the seeds are sprouting easily, so perhaps it does take practice (or I got a better batch of seeds this year). I just love the idea of heart shaped leaves and purple flowers, so I just bought some more seeds. I will look into the ones you suggested too, I like having several varieties, the Monarchs like it too. Thank you for all of the support and information!!

  26. Skip pringle says

    First…thank you for all of the info. I just wound up my second season. I’m very pleased how everything worked out. I would guess that I released nearly 100 beautiful Monarchs.
    I have had no luck with growing new plants from seed so I have started rooting cuttings. I have lots of cuttings with roots. I would like to know when do I plant these in soil? Also, how far back do you cut the existing plants. I have 30 plants that are quite big. I think they need to be cut back. I just don’t know how far and when is the best time.
    I live in Orlando. It seems that we have Monarchs year around. I have just found the first caterpillers of season three. I raise mine outdoors in an enclosure. They do quit well.

    • says

      Hi Skip, I would try cutting back to about a foot with no foliage on the plant…so it’s unusable to them until so new growth occurs. I raise indoors too skip…it’s much easier to raise healthy monarchs that way. Congrats on a successful season!

  27. Chris Tupper says

    In Houston there are so many enemies of the Monarch that I have been keeping plants in my bathroom. “I grew” 6 Monarchs from eggs and released them as butterflies two weeks ago. Right now I have 4 chrysalis in there. I keep the bathroom lights on when it is daytime. is it necessary for the chrysalis to have light during the 10 days or so they are becoming butterflies or would they do well in darkness? Thanks for any info you can provide.

    • says

      Hi Chris, when monarchs are kept in darkness, it slows down metamorphosis. If your bathroom gets any natural light, that should probably be enough though. good luck!

  28. Vandana Bajikar says

    Hello, I’m from Midwest. I’m already one of the monarch enthusiast, and do my best to create habitat for them the thrive. But I do not put the caterpillars in cage or other place. All the caterpillars are on the milkweed plant, and I keep checking them their progress. They disappear one day, after some time beautiful monarch start flocking on my plants. Do I have to put them in cage? Appreciate your feedback. Thank you, Vandana

    • says

      Hi Vandana, monarchs have a lot of predators in the garden so bringing a few inside to raise can help increase the population. It’s estimated that 1-5% survive outdoors while bringing them inside can boost survival rate to over 90%. If you sign up to receive emails for raise the migration you will learn more about they stem I use to raise them indoors:

      Raise The Migration Sign-Up

  29. Melissa says

    I didn’t think I was going to get any Monarch eggs this year in my garden. I was wrong. They were late getting here because I didn’t see my first Monarch adult and eggs on July 11. I live in Sandusky, Ohio and usually we see the Spring Monarchs the last week of June. I now have more eggs, cats and chrysalises (89 total) than any other year (6 years raising them). I am happy to say that there was only one fatality which was a 1st instar and it was my fault. I am using a mix of mesh cages and Kritter Keepers and it is working out great. I am concerned about 4 of my cats that are forming chrysalises because they are so close together. I just checked on them and two of them are forming their chrysalises almost at the same time. The first one is not dry and the one next to it is wiggling around, finishing up. I’m afraid that they are going to stick together! I have never had this happen before, and there are two more next to them that are creating their silk pad. I have no idea if there is anything I can do. I just hope it will be ok. I make sure not to overcrowd them and only put up to 6 cats in a large Kritter Keeper. I tried putting 10 in the mesh cage but split them up after some starting headbutting. Also, either I don’t know how to count or one of my cats gotten eaten by his friends. I had 5 cats in a large cage and the next day I had 4. They were 3rd instar cats so it’s not like I couldn’t see them to count. I don’t know what happened. Maybe I’m just old. I just hope that the cats that are pupating now are going to be ok.

    • says

      Hi Melissa, unless the butterflies eclose (hatch) on the same day and would potentially be touching each other, they should be OK. Otherwise you can rehang chrysalises. Spray the area above the chrysalis with water and then use a needlenose tweezers or pin to pull down the chrysalis by the silk. Then attach scotch tape to the silk above the chrysalis and rehang. This is easiest to do with the kritter keeper, but you can also turn the mesh cage upside down so it’s easier to access the chrysalides. good luck!

  30. Lindsey says

    Hi! I live in Michigan. I am on here because my son picked me some milkweed plants. Well now I have 4 very hungry caterpillars. How many can I keep in 1 cage? At the moment my “cage” is a big coffee that ok? This is all very new territory for me.

    • says

      Hi Lindsey, you can raise 4 in a cage. If you plan to raise again, I would suggest one of the options listed on the supply list page as they are easy to clean, have good ventilation, and are escape-proof for small caterpillars. If you need more info before the raise begins August 15th, check out my raising guide for more detailed info. Good luck!

      Monarch Raising Guide

    • says

      Thanks for sharing Matt…interesting article but can’t imagine there wouldn’t be major issues with predation and disease. I look forward to hearing how they are going to confront these issues.

  31. Melissa says

    Unfortunately one of the chrysalises did not make it. It was still very soft and another cat crawled on it and it fell. I am thankful that the chrysalis butted up against it wasn’t destroyed too. So now I have 2 fatalities. It’s sad, but out of the 100 or so I have, that’s pretty good. This year I have grown all of my own milkweed and all of my eggs are from that milkweed versus years past when I had to go out looking for food and eggs. I have had nothing but healthy cats and my first butterfly eclosed today (male) and was perfect! I have 12 more ready to eclose at any minute!

    My concern now is my milkweed situation. I am out there everyday rubbing and watering off aphids, trying to keep it fresh as long as possible for the migrating Monarchs. I live in an area where nurseries do not sell any kind of milkweed, which is frustrating. I did buy 7 swamp and 5 butterfly milkweed plants from a nursery (no pesticides) on a trip to Maryland back in July. It is growing fast but since it’s the first year, not fast enough. Any suggestions on helping my common milkweed last a little longer? I’m concerned about not having enough for the migrating Monarchs and don’t want to have to go looking for it out in town.

    • says

      Hi Melissa, congrats on a successful season. Your survival rate is fantastic and you should be proud of all you are doing to help boost the monarch population.

      If you want to attract and support migrating monarchs, common milkweed is not the milkweed to accomplish that. After it’s done blooming you can cut back the plants so that healthy new grow emerges. Still, the majority of our late summer activity is on tropical milkweed and swamp during rainy seasons.

      There are many milkweed options to choose from and having a variety entices more monarchs to visit the garden throughout the season:

      25+ Milkweed Ideas for North American Butterfly Gardens

  32. Steve Kenaga says

    I thought it was just me, but reading the posts of others here I’m not alone in seeing monarch activity start late in the season. I didn’t get any activity here in central Indiana until July too…and then I got blasted with eggs. Have only released 7 adults, but have 24 chrysalides, 25 eggs, and 66 cats of various instars, and one ELF still laying eggs. I attribute the surge to planting Meadow Blazing Star like you recommended last Fall. I was only able to get 4 plants, but they have bloomed sequentially for the past 5 or 6 weeks and prompted various males to claim my garden as their territory. I’ve been fighting the goldfinches for the seed; I definitely want to plant more.

    • Tony Gomez says

      congrats on your late season success Steve…If you can get more liatris, fall is a great time for planting. Good luck with all your raising and thanks for helping raise the migration!

  33. Jose Fresco says

    Tony, I am new at this. We planted milkweed last year and I don’t think anything happened. This year there are about 8 plants and a few weeks I checked and I found two caterpillars. Then we went on vacation and when we came back they were gone. Now, we have six caterpillars and two of them are huge. We have no idea what to do with them. We want to help them but we don’t know how. My wife says that nature will take its course. But reading that their success is less than 5% outside, I would like to help.

    I have a box that somebody gave me. It is wood, about 4 x 4 and about 12 inches tall with 3 slots in the front about 8 inches long. Each slot is about half inch wide. Reading your blog I am not sure if this box will help. What can I do to help these caterpillars? My plants are outside and I can’t bring them inside. Do I still have time to order cages? If I order cages, how do I know when to bring the caterpillars inside? Can I cut some of the plant and bring it inside the cage? Thanks for your time and for doing this.

    I forgot to mention that I am in Minneapolis also. Today I started cleaning the aphids, and I saw some type of lady bug with a small caterpillar in its mouth or claws. The caterpillar was already dead. However, I still have 5 cats and 2 of them aver very big now, and I would like to give them the best chance of survival. Thanks again.

    • says

      Hi Jose, congrats on getting monarchs to your new patch. Before you start bringing them indoors I would get your set up in place first. You can still order any of the cages that are on the list.

      Typically it’s best to bring in eggs and small caterpillars. Large caterpillars have more issues with disease and parasitism, but it never hurts to try. Here’s some info about preventing common diseases:

      6 Common Monarch diseases

      Monarchs also have a lot of predators in the garden. Even some of the beneficial insects (like ladybugs) sometimes eat eggs and small caterpillars.

      Please join along in the raise start August 15 and good luck with your monarchs…

  34. Pam Bernhard says

    I started bringing in eggs/cats last summer, perhaps 8 total. Had no luck as all died in small cat stage. I emailed a lady on a monarch website and discussed issues. She asked me if I had any pets and did any of them wear a flea/tick spot-on treatment. I said yes that I had two dogs that were sometimes in same area as where I kept the eggs/cats. She said that that was probably what killed the cats. This year I emailed a question on the website and they said my dogs spot-on treatment should not cause any problems unless it was a spray that was sprayed on them in the same area (which is wasn’t). What do you think?

    This year I’ve brought in eggs/cats and having been reading the info on your website. This year I put the nursery in a spare bedroom (where the dogs have never been in), leave the door closed and closed off the heating/AC vent. Still have lost some small cats but do have two cats that yesterday went into the J shape. Now one is hanging from nylon netting that covers container still in J form and the other has made a chrysalis and is hanging from the milkweed leaf that’s on a stem cutting in water. To me the chrysalis looks lot smaller than what I see in pictures and hopefully the milkweed won’t wilt before it emerges. These two cats were brought in from outside when they were good sized so I hope no parasites have gotten to them beforehand. How long should I wait for the second one to turn into chrysalis (the one that ‘s been in J form for almost 24 hours?

    • says

      Hi Pam, some people seem to think the monarchs are ultra sensitive if having second-hand exposure to flea treatments. Unless its somehow directly applied to the caterpillars, I don’t think it’s an issue. Our dog has had flea treatments before and she is often in with the monarchs when I am cleaning their cage.

      We raise our caterpillars in a 3-season porch so they’re exposed to heat humidity but not extreme elements like rain, wind, sun. I’ve also raise inside and had no problems. Any time you bring in a caterpillar from outside there is a risk or parasitism, but if the caterpillar dies simply clean up the parasites from the cage floor and discard. It’s disappointing, but it won’t harm your other caterpillars.

      As for waiting, I know it’s hard, but it’s all up to the caterpillar now so let it do it’s thing…good luck!

      • Pam Bernhard says

        Thanks for your response. Right after I emailed you, I went and checked the cat and he was already turned into a chrysalis!! That was fast.
        Regarding the smaller containers (ones you put eggs in and the larger Kritter Keeper type for cats), do they need much ventilation? I notice you said some people poke holes in the tops of the small containers and with the pantyhose over the lid of the KK, can they get enough air circulation? Thanks.

        • says

          when they are eggs or tiny cats the food storage containers are fine. I think the extra humidity combined with frass can spread disease as the caterpillars get bigger. I prefer the mesh cages for larger cats, but the kritter keeper will work too.


    Hi Tony,
    I’m confused on the Migration time I have released 40 healthy monarchs since February up until July. I live in central Florida. Two weeks ago, when I thought the monarchs were done, I watched a female lay her eggs on many of my plants. I have at least 15 eggs (inside of course, in cages) for safe keeping. After I release these is that it for this year (here in Florida) I have yet to determine the migrating monarch from the Florida monarch.
    I was told after August to start cutting down my milkweed so not to confuse the butterflies and especially not to promote the OE. Can you help me with these questions. My husband and I really enjoy this but want to do right by the butterflies. Keep going if they lay eggs or start cutting them down.
    We really are upset however, a lot of the plants just keep getting those darn aphids. We’ve done the soap, we’ve done the alcohol and water rinse, we’ve even had rain for the last 3 weeks, and those darn things just KEEP showing up. This part is the depressing part, because it’s a lot of work trying to keep up with them. We have done like you suggested to me in another post, and put the plants in all different parts of our yard but they still find the plants.
    Any help would be most appreciated.
    Thanking you in advance,
    Sherrie T. Satterfield

    • says

      Hi Sherrie, congrats on your successful season. Central and South Florida have a year round population of monarchs so there’s a chance you could see monarchs all year. If you don’t want to cut back all your plants at once, just stagger the cuttings. Cut back half and in a month or so, cut back the other half so there’s always some milkweed for visiting monarchs.

      You have probably seen my aphid post, but just in case:

      How to control aphids on milkweed

      Unfortunately, aphids seem to be a bigger problem in warm regions. Hopefully some of the post ideas will help to control them…

  36. José Fresco says

    Hi Tony. Thanks for you advice. I followed your advice and bought a small cage for the big and small caterpillars. The medium size cats I have put them back in the plant and they seem to be doing good. However, I have the same problem than Sherrie. I found 6 eggs a few days ago and I brought 5 of them inside (last one is attached to a soon to flower flower). Not sure if there is going to be enough time for them to hatch, grow and become a monarch. By the way, I put two caterpillars in the wooden cage (with some leaves for them to eat) and one of them was gone in no time. The other one remained and for the last couple of days was not doing anything on the cage’s ceiling. Yesterday it went into the J form and today, while I went to a meeting, within 3 hours it become a chrysalis. I am very excited to see what happens. I still have 5 more caterpillars. They are getting big and I think they will be ready very soon. It appears that when they are ready to form the cocoon, they go to the base of a leaf and chew until the leaf bends down. Once it bends down, it seems to protect the caterpillar and stay there to get ready to form the cocoon. At least that is what I have observed them doing when they get very big. Also, I have a microscope, and today I saw an egg in the plant, I brought it inside and I saw a little tiny orange creature coming out of the egg. It appeared that it got inside the egg and ate it. The eggs I have inside seem to be doing great. One of them is very black now and you can see the caterpillar inside. The rest are turning color also.

    Again, thanks for your advice.

  37. says

    Hi José,

    not sure what you mean by this: “Not sure if there is going to be enough time for them to hatch, grow and become a monarch”

    I don’t know where you’re located, but I’m in Minnesota and we can release monarchs without issue through the end of September. Unless you’re north of me, you have plenty of time…

    • José Fresco says

      I am in NE Minneapolis. Today an egg hatched and I have a millimeter long caterpillar. But, if you can release them until September, I think there is plenty of time. This morning I had the pleasure to see a caterpillar transform into a chrysalis. What an honor. It only took a couple of minutes. WOW!!! I have three cocoons now, one caterpillar is about to start the process any moment (is looking for a place to hang from), and two more caterpillars in the plants. Very excited to see them grow.

      Two questions: How can I help the little caterpillar to grow safely (feed him???)? I don’t want to put him outside since I saw one of them being eaten by a bug. And, How long for the butterfly to come out?

  38. Bino Herrera says

    Hi T
    We have released 12 Monarchs to date and have two more to go. We just had five Monarchs in our backyard at the same time, that’s a first. Many eggs being laid, but have a spider problem,any suggestions in California.

    • says

      Hi Bino, spiders are just one of the many potential monarch predators. Instead of fighting them, your best options are to diversify your milkweed, and spread several patches around the yard, if possible. Raising a few indoors can also boost their survival rate from under 5% to over 90%…

  39. Penelope says

    Last year was my first year raising monarchs. I started collecting cats on August 5 and raised about 50. This year I started on June 28 and have already released 113. I’ve numbered chrysalises up to 134 and am still collecting. This is so addictive! Full time job; husband and chores neglected!

    • says

      Hi Penelope, welcome to the wonderful world of raising monarchs! Perhaps your husband will develop an interest in htis exciting hobby too? If not, you can make up for the neglect in the off-season :)

  40. Pam Bernhard says

    I have a cat that went into J form night before last. Late last night it started making its chrysalis and only formed halfway. The top half is still dark colored cat and the bottom half is green chrysalis but that part is skinny and about 1 ” or longer. It’s still that way since late last night. Is it a goner? Do you know what would cause that? Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Pam, dying during pupation can be a sign of tachinid fly parasites or exposure to pesticides. If it’s tachinid flies, you will eventually see tachinid maggots or red tachinid pupae on the cage floor.

  41. Kathy says

    Just found your site today! I am in east central Indiana and have an abundance of eggs and larva this year. I’ve collected over 150 eggs and or larva for rearing. I grow common milkweed in various parts of my yard and gardens which attracts adults. I’ve been raising monarchs since 1999. I am a retired school teacher and did an in depth butterfly unit with my students. Many years I supplied my entire grade level with specimens to raise. Students and their families became very involved and invested in the project. I look forward each year to raising these beautiful creatures. I tag them and send them to Mexico to keep the migration cycle going. Hoping to have a record year in 2015!

    • says

      Hi Kathy, happy to hear the monarchs are in abundance in your region! Hopefully, as a community, we can help the population rebound so teachers across North America can continue the great work that you did with your students! Good luck with the rest of your season…

  42. Amy K says

    Hello Tony!
    This is my second year raising monarchs. Last year I had 2 releases. There were 8 butterflies the first and 17 the second. I raised them from eggs that I brought indoors from milkweed that just popped up in my landscaping. I had 100% success.
    This year I let seeds over winter and had 14 plants pop up. My first set of eggs/cats numbered 15. I also started a second set of 18 a short time later. When my first set started to go into hanging J, I noticed one did not look ok. It started to drip black goo without going into chrysalis. I found some very useful information on your site. I believe I have Black Death. I ended up losing 4 cats from the first batch. I am keeping a close eye on them for any signs of early darkening.
    It’s very sad news for my second set of cats. One by one they started to die. They would turn dark, have runny poo, and start to smell funny. I had to freeze them all.
    I attempted to save these cats by being very diligent. I sanitized every container. (bleach water on every surface, gloves, washed each new leaf made sure there was good air flow, no moister) I started using milkweed from the ditch down the street. It did not work.
    I did change my system a bit this year. I think it was my down fall. 1, I used the same dishtowel for all the leaves I washed and dried. (I had a lot of aphids) 2. I did not wash the containers every time. I just dumped to frass.
    I now have 27 eggs that I brought in 4 days ago. (Before I knew my second batch was sick) They are just hatching today. My questions are “How to I know if I have gotten rid of the Black Death?”, “How do I know exactly where it came from?” “Is it my milkweed or was it a caterpillar?” This year I brought in eggs plus caterpillars that I found. “Is my year toast or can I continue to try and raise cats?”” I brought the new eggs in on cut pieces of leaves, how do I know if my leaves are contaminated? “, “Do I just freeze this last batch as well and call it a day?”
    Your advice is greatly appreciated.
    Thanks Amy

    • says

      Hi Amy, about your horrible experience with NPV…unfortunately, you won’t know if it’s gone until you try raising again. Before you do, make sure to thoroughly clean your cage with a 10-20% bleach solution. Some take the added precaution of rinsing milkweed with a 5% bleach solution. In our northern region, we only rinse milkweed with water…

      Also, we don’t dry leaves. just shake them off. As long as there is no standing water and you have a breathable cage, caterpillars like the extra water!

      If your cage is disinfected, you can try raising your 27 eggs. If you get a chance, please follow along with Raise the migration 3…it might give you some new ideas to improve your process. Good luck!

  43. James says

    A question. I have access to a couple of small tents. What I am wondering about is the colors. One is pink and the other is orange, yellow and red. One is 4 ft. tall, the other is 4 1/2 ft. tall. They both allow for air circulation. Does the color of the tent have any affect on the Monarch’s? Would I be better off buying a small clear one?

  44. Pam Bernhard says

    I was wondering what you do with small cats (probably 2nd instar age) that climb up on sides of container? Do you leave them alone figuring they can find their way back down to the milkweed or do you nudge them onto a mw leaf and put back on bottom of container? I never know if they are molting and that is why they are on sides of container or if you should leave them alone. Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Pam, I typically leave them. Sometimes they are up there for 24 hours but they usually molt and then head back to milkweed. If you raise on potted plants or stem cuttings, they typically molt on the milkweed…I’ll be discussing this in the Raise the Migration posts.

  45. José Fresco says

    Tony, I am raising one caterpillar from about 2 millimeters (at the beginning a few days ago) to about 15 millimeters now. It was growing about an millimeter a day but between yesterday and today it grew about 6 millimeters. Amazing. Unfortunately of the six eggs that I brought inside, I had only one success. Three eggs turned dark and nothing happened, two hatched, but they escaped. I don’t know how. However, even at a 1 millimeter or so long, they can move fast. I found the little one on top of the container once. Now I have to have it covered. On the other hand, I raised 5 cats inside and I now have 5 chrysalises. I was able to watch 3 of them going from caterpillar to chrysalises and it is unbelievable how fast it happens.

    But, the best thing happened yesterday. I was looking for a caterpillar that was ready to be brought inside, but I couldn’t find it. I was too late. It had already left to find a place where to form the chrysalis. While I was feeling a little sad about the one that left, everything changed when I saw a monarch butterfly flapping its wings, drying them, getting ready to fly. I have snow of the mountains plants near the milkweed, and there it was. It tried to fly the first time, but it couldn’t and landed back on the snow of the mountains. Kept flapping its wings for about a minute or so, and it tried again. This time it flew erratically, it hit the house, but it kept going until it began to fly better. It landed on a tree and rested there for a while until it took off again for good. I am assuming that this was one of the 4 caterpillars that disappeared while I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago. It was amazing to see this butterfly. Its orange color was much brighter than the ones that visit the plant and it also look bigger. It was a very encouraging to see it. It reassured me that maybe there is hope that they will survive and make a come back after all (if we all help a little bit).

    Thanks for all the help.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing your story José…glad it had a happy ending!

      P.S. When eggs turn completely dark and don’t hatch, it’s often because they have been parasitized by wasps.

  46. Val Dunn says

    Hi Tony,
    I have 3 Chrysalis in my yard. One hanging on the fence, one on the milkweed plant and one on the overhang of the deck rail. There are at least a dozen caterpillars on the 3 plants I have and many moth caterpillars. I believe several of the caterpillars are ready to form a chrysalis. I am worried that between the aphids and the moth caterpillars, that there won’t be enough plant leafs to feed the remaining caterpillars. Do I look for a monarch house here to take the remaining caterpillars to, or just hope nature takes care of them? I am very new to this and planted my butterfly garden this spring in the hopes that I would have a monarch even pay me a visit. I believe I can call this a success! I totally missed the egg portion of the process. What do you suggest I do? I trimmed the dead branches of the milkweed today and threw them away. They were stripped and brown. I cleaned my shears with alcohol.

    • says

      Hi Val, congratulations on your first year success! One thing you will learn early on is that you can’t save them all. Only bring in what you are able to raise, so you can raise healthy monarch butterflies. Leave the rest outside and let nature take its course. Each monarch female can lay more than 400 eggs. Can you imagine the milkweed shortage if their were no predators and they all survived. While monarchs need our help to increase their numbers, saving 100% of the population isn’t feasible.

  47. says

    I have 2 plus acres of gardens and have bought seed to fill all the empty spaces on the property with milkweed and plants to encourage Monarchs. I bough a pound of recommended Zinnia seeds to help feed them after they have hatched. I am in Oregon City and Swallowtails are the ones that seem to like our place. Again I need to provide them with the perfect food to attract them. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated. On our 2 aches I have all varieties of areas for them to grow. Will plant all over to see what grows the best in different locations. I don’t see that suppliers ship to Oregon. Is there a reason for that?

  48. Tracey says

    I have 5 of 15 caterpillars left on my swamp milkweed that is infested with aphids. There is a heat wave here now and one chrysalis I found had not shed it’s skin completely and it shriveling up. Another caterpillar was dead and dehydrated looking on the ground. I have a small kritter keeper and wonder if I should try to raise the rest indoors. They look close to going into a chrysalis this point. Any advise? If I trap them what temp and humidity is best? Thanks

    • says

      Hi Tracey, temps between 75 and 85 are optimal for raising monarchs. They might not survive if you bring them in, but they even have less of a chance if you leave them. In the future, bringing in eggs or small caterpillars will increase the survival rate…good luck!

  49. José Fresco says

    Tony, thanks for your website and for you very helpful answers to all of our questions. I raised 9 caterpillars inside and I was able to release all 9 of them. Eight of them as caterpillars and one from an egg. That was amazing. To see the egg and then the caterpillar grow from about one millimeter to a beautiful butterfly was unreal. It was a great feeling and it wasn’t as hard as I thought. My kids and my wife got involved also and they help as much as they could. My neighbors came to check my plants (it is a Swamp Milkweed which you can buy in garden stores and monarchs seem to prefer more than the regular milkweed) and they went to buy plants themselves and they already planted them. Swamp Milkweed has a tubular seed pod instead of the round pods and the Swamp Milkweed has flowers the entire summer which monarchs love to feed on the entire summer. My friend Carlos came to collect seeds and he is going to plant them in his house and in some fields around the city. This thing is exploding like crazy and it feels great. I am looking forward to next year and I plan to plant more plants. I have never seen so many monarchs around my yard ever before. Every summer I was lucky to see 2 or 3 monarchs throughout the summer. This summer I saw at least 30 or 40 and my neighbors said the same. It is encouraging and I hope that more and more neighbors plant more plants. I feel that I am an expert now, but I know that I still have a lot to learn. Again, thanks for all your help. Without you we couldn’t have done it. Have a great fall, winter and spring and see you next summer.

    • says

      Hi Jose, congrats on a very successful season. I’m glad you were able to find some swamp milkweed…they love it up north too. Good luck with your expanding garden and I wish you more success next season…

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