Where Have All The Monarch Butterflies Gone? I’m Here to Tell You…
8 Likely Reasons You’re not seeing Monarch Caterpillars or Butterflies in your Butterfly Garden
From late June into early August, I am often contacted by anxious blog readers and newsletter subscribers wondering why their milkweed and nectar flowers are being passed over and why they’re not seeing any monarch butterflies, caterpillars, or eggs…what is going on?! ?
1. Monarch Population is down
A noticeable increase in early season monarchs is not going to happen until we have consecutive seasons with positive population growth in the US and Canada, without any catastrophic events to halt that momentum in Mexico. (i.e. winter storms, illegal logging)
2. Pesticide use is up
Two major concerns of the past few seasons are disease carrying mosquitoes and gypsy moth caterpillars. Monarchs and other wildlife are considered by many to be acceptable collateral damage in these wars. There are many home gardeners that still use harmful pesticides as a first resort.
3. Biological Pest Control
While this sounds like a ‘safe’ pest control option, do thousands of ladybugs, mantids, and parasitic wasps only attack or parasitize our intended victims? Make no mistake, they will go after monarch butterflies, caterpillars and more to satisfy their hunger…did I mention there were thousands?
4. Native Only or Non-attracting Plants
While natives are the cornerstone of a successful garden, a native-only garden will not attract as many monarchs (a migratory species) as a garden with a healthy mix of favored native plants and favorite annuals.
Verify plant choices by using google images
5. Raising Monarchs?
We use a two-pronged approach which has allowed us to attract and support a bounty of butterflies season after season. While we continually improve the garden with a variety of milkweed and nectar plants, we also raise monarchs to release back to nature. Many of the monarch females return to the garden to start the next generation in their childhood garden. ?
Less than 5% of monarchs survive until butterhood when left unprotected outdoors. Our consistent survival rate indoors is 95%+. We raise between 50-100 each season. It doesn’t sound like much, but imagine how long it would take for that that many to naturally survive in our garden?! 100 is 5% of 2000!
If you’d like to help raise monarch butterflies and give the monarch migration a boost, please join us for the annual Raise the Migration event that starts each August.
6. Weather ?
Are you experiencing extreme heat or drought in your region? These are not conditions that favor monarch butterfly activity. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do in this instance except be vigilant about watering and wait for Mother Nature to rain down on you…
In the southern US, it’s normal to have fewer monarchs during hot, dry summers. This is the time the monarch population is concentrated in more temperate northern regions. But as northern temps cool and the fall migration begins, southern butterfly gardens will host masses of monarchs on their way to Mexico…
7. Losing the Race?
I guarantee that some of you are attracting more monarch activity than you think. In our northern region, females often drop by between 9am-11am (before it gets too hot) to quickly drop off their kids and grab a few sips of nectar nourishment. If you’re not at home during this time, you might be missing the majority of your monarch females.
If there’s a healthy ecosystem in the garden and you’re not checking regularly for eggs/caterpillars, it’s possible that a growing list of potential predators is getting to them first.
8. Distribution Shift
From season to season, weather patterns and other environmental factors will influence where more monarchs end up during the summer months. In 2017, monarch enthusiasts in Ontario, Canada reported more monarchs than they’d seen in years…how does this affect the monarch population in the northeastern United States? ?
I know of an additional reason which hikes the population of predators & parasites and that is the commercial pecan growers who purchase them to control webworms. In 2016 I saw an ample population of monarchs, but there was also a baby boom in webworms. In 2017 the population of parasitoids was remarkably high plus an introduction of the egg wasp, which was NEVER in this location in years prior. The only conclusion I could come to is that they were commercially introduced.
Thanks for sharing Diane…biological pest control often has unintended consequences. Hopefully, the parasitoid numbers will be down for you this season….
Maybe the nursery used neonicitinoids and you didn’t know it.
This is my first year with a Monarch garden. The plants have grown well and starting mostly from 1″ to 2″ plants, they are now a very good size. The milkweeds are about 2 feet tall or a bit more.
My first question is, I have 8 red milkweed and I haven’t seen you mention this variety. Did I get the wrong kind? I also have a couple of butterfly weed plants in the garden, and a butterfly bush next to the garden.
I live in Tennessee, the southeastern corner. Question 2: Would the milkweed be perennial? Do I have to buy new ones each year.
We’ve been here almost 13 years and have never seen a Monarch. Question 3: How do they find my garden?
Question 4: I see a lovely Black and pale yellow butterfly that’s about 3″ across the front wingtips, with a small, about 1/2″ extension from the back ends of the wings, and a little row of iridescent blue dots just above the back edge. Any idea what kind of butterfly it is?
Tony, thank you for your help. There is so much to learn. I’m an experienced gardener, but the butterflies are all new to me.
Hi Lauren, there are many species of milkweed you can plant in a butterfly garden, so learning the botanical names is essential to avoid confusion, especially when purchasing milkweed. You can get info about different milkweed varieties here:
25+ Milkweed Species for Butterfly Gardens
monarchs can find you by scent and sight, so as your garden offerings multiply, the more likely they are to discover you.
For butterfly ID’s, I would looks at facebook groups like this:
I live in central Indiana, just north of Indianapolis in the country and have always had several acres of benignly neglected field with lots of common milkweed and a flower garden full of nectar rich blooms. Any idea why I never see any monarchs at all until very late July and really don’t get eggs and cats until mid August? I always thought that was just the Monarch “season” until I started learning that others around Indy have had them since May. When my son was little our “back to school” routine always included searching for cats while we waited for the bus because they reliably appear during the first weeks of school. This week I have found 6+ cats and an egg that are munching away safely on the porch. But why always so late? The milkweed has been ready and waiting all season. Last year I was racing against the first frost to get them hatched and on their way.
Hi Susan, it’s hard to say without being familiar with your region. Is it possible there is local pesticide spraying going on earlier in the season? Anyhow, congrats on your caterpillars and I hope you find more soon…
Dealing With Tachinid Flies in a Small Garden
I have discovered a few ways to minimize the devastation Tachinid flies can bring to a small garden habitat, and at least one positive way you can take action that will help others. I currently have four newly-hatched babies, five 2nd and 3rd Instars, two 4th Instars, one 5th Instar, and eight apparently healthy chrysalides hanging in a dedicated butterfly cage; and best of all, currently, no Tachinid flies in my habitat. Keeping my fingers crossed!
The problem: We know that in the natural world, an estimated 95 – 98% of Monarch eggs fail to eventually metamorphose into healthy butterflies. The reason that there are as many Monarch butterflies as there are is that one female can lay hundreds of eggs, so that in a large plot of milkweed, some cats are going to be overlooked by predators such as the Tachinid. However, in a small garden, the concentration of caterpillars will attract a concentration of predators.
Here is what I did to turn things around, here in North San Diego county:
1) Signed up for the University of Minnesota Monarch Larva Monitoring Project: https://app.mlmp.org/
2) Bought a large mesh caterpillar cage, a small “cube” mesh caterpillar cage, an inexpensive plastic terrarium, and a “Glad” sandwich container with a snap-on lid for incubating eggs.
3) Separated my milkweed plants/planters as far as possible from one another.
4) Collected ALL 5th instar caterpillars and placed them in the large cage, with CAREFULLY RINSED fresh milkweed cuttings in small weighted containers of water. I cover the tops of small jars with aluminum foil, then carefully poke holes in the top to insert the cutting stems through. I keep the cage clean of frass, removing it at least once every day.
5) When the caterpillars are ready to transform into chrysalides, they will climb to the top or sides of the cage, make their little silk pads, and hang in a “J” shape. If they are healthy, they will transform to a healthy green chrysalis, and eventually go on to become butterflies (YAY!); if not, and they have been parisitized by a Tachinid fly, they will die somewhere along the way, when the Tachinid larvae emerge, either from the caterpillar or the chrysalis, and drop to the floor of the cage. If this happens, I collect the larvae, and place them in a container with a lid. They will transform into a hard-shelled chrysalis after a day or so. Eventually the adult Tachinids will emerge. When they do, I will put the container in the freezer, and follow the instructions on the University of Minnesota site, and send the dead flies to them for study. Eventually, we may learn that there are natural plants or organic substances that we can use in our micro-habitats that repel Tachinid flies without harming or interfering with the Monarch life cycle. (We can only hope!) Either way, this process removes all Tachinid larvae from my garden, interrupting their reproductive cycle before they can parisitize your healthy caterpillars. It’s now been 2 weeks since I’ve seen a Tachinid fly in my garden, and about that same length of time since I’ve had a cat die.
6) In the cool of the morning, I observe my garden milkweed plants, checking for Tachinid flies sitting on leaves. They are very sluggish early in the morning, and easily killed by flicking them forcefully between thumb and middle finger. Since each adult Tachinid produces 2 – 6 larvae, it’s worth doing this in a small habitat.
7) I collect eggs as soon as I see a female laying them, and hatch them in a tightly closed, moist container. I started another clean cage for the hatchlings to develop in. These will never be parisitized by Tachinids.
I have found several monarch eggs on milkweed leaves that are yellow & dying. I don’t know how to transfer them to a good leaf where they might have a chance to survive.
I tried cutting out around the egg and laying the tiny leaf piece with the egg on a good leaf. No success. I also must the eggs everyday.
This is my second year to raise monarchs in central FL. It breaks my heart to see things go wrong.
Hi Annie, are they in a sealed food container? This keeps in humidity…good hatcheries!
HELP!!!! I am running out of food for my caterpillars. I have 4 butterfly’s to release tomorrow and 11 chrysalis ready to emerge. Will have 18 more chrysalis to emerge in 8-9 days and 17 caterpillars hanging in J in big cube 2. (I have 2 of these). then there are the youngsters. 14 instar 5’s; 23 instar 4-5 ; 11 instar 3-4; and 3 instar 1-2 stages.
I have 6 milkweed plants and thought that would be enough in the spring. Never dreamed I would have so many Monarch’s Oh I released 3 female and 4 males July 16, 2017.
Now I NEED HELP with food for these little babies. What besides milkweed can I give them?
Anyone near Louisville, Ky. that can help me out with this?
Hi Nancy, check out this post for some milkweed emergency options:
Running Out of Milkweed?
I have several habitats for my monarchs. I have (19) 4ft butterfly weed plants and 3 giant milkweed plants that I use for egg laying. Once the cats hatch I move them to their own host plants which were on my patio but now in the house. Wasps are killing my cats at an alarming rate. I watched one come and kill ALL of my cats on one plant until it took one away. Needless to say I was mad. They are also doing this to the other plants. What if anything can I do to stop this?
Hi Laura, wasps can be relentless. There’s more info about dealing with them on this page:
Monarch Predators- Wasps
I live in rural Nova Scotia, Canada. I have lots of garden and plan everything for the birds, butterflies and bees. My largest bed is specifically a butterfly garden, although all beds have butterfly attracting plants. I have had milkweed plants for a few years and so far no monarchs. Our house is well off the road and we are surrounded by trees. Will this stop monarchs from finding us? We have had a great year for many other types of butterflies though!
Hi Christine, this sounds like a beautiful habitat! As long as you have some sun, I think butterflies in your region should be able to find you. I’m not sure how large the population is in your region…that could have something to do with it. If you want to raise a couple to get the ball rolling, you could order from a company like this:
Monarch Butterflies CA
Oh My! One female monarch has found my milkweed! She is so big and very beautiful!
Thank you for the link, I will hold off for now!
The monarchs here in my yard in Southern WI are busy at work! Before leaving on a week long vacation, I had to find “pillar sitters” for over 50 eggs and cats after releasing a few butterflies ahead of time. I came home Tuesday evening and since then have found over 100 more cats and eggs just in my 1/2 acre yard. I lost count after 110. A pair of monarchs looked to be working on another brood today. Every year, the milkweed (red, poke, and common in particular)are spreading and the native plants are doing well except for the pesty earwigs and Japanese beetles taking bites out of them. Right now, I have a nice healthy crop of various milkweed in a few areas in the yard. I also have tropical which were from cuttings overwintered in my living room. At first it was a concern with all the rains we had here. The zinnias aren’t doing well and are covered in mildew, but the other flowers are doing well. Tithonias got off to a late start, but are getting flower buds now. After years of poor luck with purple coneflowers, this year is great for the first time. The entire neighborhood sprays their yards except for us, so I’ve had to plan on shrubs blocking any possible overspray. Having the flower gardens away from the perimeter is a safety measure that’s working well. This summer I’m seeing more butterflies in general.
I saw my first monarch butterfly today in our front yard it was eating from some kind of prickly plant
Saw my first Monarch yesterday. I was so excited. My butterfly and bee garden is twice as big as last year, but my resident birds had twice as many babies this year.
Hope this didn’t upset the egg and caterpillar population.
Last year I had so many monarch catapillars that I lost count. Of course not many made it all the way to adult butterflies. They consumed all the milkweed I had. It was the first year with plants started from seed. We had just moved from southeast Kansas to southwestern Missouri. This spring we had about 15-20 catapillars, some pupated but didn’t survive. We had a little chipmunk problem. Caught one and released it in the wood a few miles away. The other 2 left. Have seen monarchs rarely, but non have left eggs. I have a ton of milkweed as I planted more to be better prepared. We do, however have a lot of black swalllowtail butterflies that have left eggs on the bronze fennel which they prefer to the dill and regular fennel. The flat leaf parsley isn’t big enough. I ordered the kit, rounded up the cats and now have a number of them preparing to pupate. One is already pupated on a rebar by my shed. It did that before I got the kit. I hope to get some monarchs as they migrate south in august. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
I live in Honolulu, Hawai’i. While milkweed isn’t grown here, Monarchs lay their eggs on crown flower, Calotropis gigantea, which are shrubs or trees. I am fairly new at raising Monarchs, and was delighted to find eggs and caterpillars on my crown flowers. One day, I went out to my garden, and all the caterpillars and eggs were GONE! I suspect they were eaten by brown anoles. I use Mylar bird repellant strips, which are very effective, so I’m quite certain it wasn’t birds. Brown anoles are everywhere. I’ll have to bring the caterpillars and eggs indoors in order to keep them away from predators.
Hi Carol, I’ve gotten many reports from warmer regions about lizards eating monarchs. While we can’t save them all, even bringing a few indoors to raise can make a difference. good luck!
I have some good news from Ann Arbor – which is in southeastern Michigan. Last year, I didn’t see Monarchs until the first week in September. This year, I have seen single Monarchs in my gardens on five different days, since July 9. I’m excited about this! They seem to be nectaring but not laying eggs so far. They seem to come to my gardens in the afternoons with the sunshine, but I’ll start looking in the morning, too.
I think the changes I made this spring in my gardens may be attracting more Monarchs and more butterflies in general. I still feature around 45 each of Purple Coneflowers and Swamp Milkweed in the main garden – but I have added Purple Coneflowers, Butterfly Bushes and red Zinnias in a new garden at the southern entrance to the yard AND Butterflyweed and Swamp Milkweed in a new meadow strip at the northwestern entrance AND yellow and orange Cosmos with Mexican Sunflowers on the deck facing northeast. I’ll be thrilled if I can find some eggs or caterpillars to bring in and raise!
This is the best season I have ever had! I have been raising monarch butterfly since 2000 and for the first time every time I check my milkweed I find new eggs and Catapillar’s. It has become a full-time job! I will easily release over 100 Monarchs this summer
In Orlando, I see eggs but no cats. I have a lot of the red and black bugs. Do they eat the cats or plants? I’ve seen the lizards do.
I too live in Orlando (Winter Springs to be exact) and the bugs you are describing are Red Bugs and they are worse then aphids. They will not only destroy your milkweed but eat the eggs. They also bite! Google them (I live near a Red Bug Lake Road). Get rid of them ASAP, the same way Tony recommends to get rid of aphids.
Please repeat how Tony rids em…
Hi Tom, I think the long-term strategies to stop aphids are more effective. We haven’t removed one aphid from our plants this season and no infestations:
How to Stop Aphids from taking Over Milkweed
I’m in Tampa FL and the red bugs are thick here too.
I wanted to mention that lizzards brown or green eat any eggs and cats that thet can fit in there greedy little mouths. They are everywhere here on our little farm and they’re relentless. So much so we screen the plants overnight to keep the little buggers from eating every last one.
Ive been rasing cats to fly(s) for years and in my opinion the pests and diseases are getting worse. The wasps aphids red bugs and black spot are decimating huge patches of our pasture mw. We are literally surrounded by commercial farms and that awful RoundUp and whatever else Dow is killing everything with these days. I feel like monarchs are loosing the battle here, slowly but surely.
We saw very few butterflies until mid-July, but we were finding eggs in our yard in June. If we didn’t collect the eggs twice a day, most of them disappeared (I assume ants and wasps got them) The mama butterflies like tropical and swamp milkweeds better than common milkweed if those are available. I haven’t found a single egg on the orange butterflyweed (haven’t really expected any there)
Wife raises caterpillars indoors. I keep her supplied with eggs and milkweed 🙂
I pulled up all the honeyvine shoots coming up in my neighbor’s lawn last weekend, and every one had an egg on it. Surprised the heck out of me! They seldom lay eggs on the mature honeyvines.
I’ve had great luck with honeyvine sprigs, but have only found 1 egg so far this summer. Usually I find eggs on them more towards the end of August. But everything grew earlier this year, so who knows…….
I’m in midcoast Maine, and this was my first year having a serious butterfly garden. So far I have collected about 60 eggs and tiny cats, but have never seen more than 2 adult butterflies at the same time. It makes me wonder if all my babies are siblings, and whether it would be good to mix up the gene pool by releasing them in different places where I know there is milkweed.
Also wondering how old butterflies are before they become sexually mature and start reproducing.
Finally, how do I know when the butterflies in the big cage are ready to fly away? I have a nice bouquet of flowers in the cage, and right now have 5 butterflies that hatched out today and seem perfectly content to hang out on the flowers. How will they let me know when they want to go out into the big world? Or should I just release them after a number of hours? (It’s a very warm, sunny day in Maine.)
Thank-you for sharing so much information!
I release the monarchs a few hours after they eclose, but never in bad weather or at night.
I think they become sexually mature quite quickly, except for the ones that migrate to Mexico for the winter….they don’t mature until they head back north.
Hello! I’m no expert, but I have a few observations in my little butterfly world. The Butterflies don’t eat for the first day, so you can wait to release in good weather. I have found that the males are VERY impatient and almost to the minute, they are ready to fly out on new adventures in 2 hour.s. They will start flying around, against the mesh/cage to escape. Within minutes of release, they are chasing some pretty girls. “Dancing in mid air” isn’t quite as romantic as kids think. ha ha The females tend to relax, chill and enjoy a spa afternoon before they take on the next two weeks of their duties. I also have observed that if you let them fly and they aren’t quite ready, they will need you to put them back in the habitat for another hour or so. Hope this helps from my little world. Best of luck! dawn
Hi Dottie, I would not worry about the butterflies being released in the same area…the majority will venture away from the garden to surrounding areas. It takes the males about 4 days before they are sexually mature, while the females are ready from Day 1. Here’s how we release butterflies:
Releasing Monarch Butterflies
Every morning I walk our dog around eight acres. We have over 100 milkweed plants. Yesterday, nothing. This morning two large Monarch cats on a Whorled Milkweed plant. Sneaky! The cats are now in my cage and eating well. Saw one Monarch butterfly yesterday.
Hello, I live in Australia so it is not unusual to not see Monarchs at this time of year (Winter here). However, on sunny days (we get them reasonably often) they appear and gladden our lives. I find that as long as you have good supplies of healthy milkweeds you are going to get Monarchs in the garden. My major problem is aphids on my milkweeds. Not much works to get rid of them here (that will not also kill/ the caterpillars). What do you use to get rid of or control aphids up there in the Northern Hemisphere? I want to maintain healthy milkweeds!
Hi Ann, aphids are a serious issue across continents! This is a list of long and short term strategies to keep them from taking over your swan milkweed patch in Australia:
Stop Aphids for Taking Over Milkweed
I planted catnip around my milkweed and have not seen even one aphid this season. It does work!
I want to try this. Could then use the catnip for my cats!
Hi, I live in Gilbert AZ. I planted four native milkweed plants in my back yard this year. I have not seen even one butterfly in my yard, but this morning I found 3 monarch caterpillars in yard. I placed them on the milkweed. I think they came up from the landscape rocks, can this be? I want to leave them outside. Anything you think I need to know or do, please post! Thanks.
Hi Tammy, could always give them some outdoor protection by putting mosquito netting over the plants. Otherwise, there are a lot of predators out there…I’m not sure which are the worst predators in your region. Check out this page for resources in your region:
Western Monarch Resources
I squish them whenever I see them 🙂
Hello! I was STRUGGLING with aphids for a long time. I had been rinsing, brushing, squishing, etc. One day I found an odd looking mini beast of a bug crawling around the plant. Once I found the eggs, it confirmed that I now had some resident Lacewings. The eggs are very unusual and can’t mistake them. The hatched ones patrol for aphids and throw their carcasses on their backs? They look like a mini barge of debris traveling around on the milkweed. These guys do eat newly hatched caterpillars every now and then, but they annihilate aphids! I also talked to a pro and he said one gallon water, I tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of Dawn dish washing detergent. Pop into a spray bottle. Safe for caterpillars, kills aphids. Hope this helps! dawn
I followed Tony’s advice on getting rid of aphids and now I rarely see one. When I do see one, I kill it immediately & look carefully for others as they multiply overnight. I haven’t seen one in weeks – thank you Tony!
Lack of milkweed due to the local insect pests. Here in Omaha Nebraska we are having an outbreak of Japanese Beatles. Also the aphids are harming the plants. Here it has been close to 100 and I still see the monarchs. Migration path has a lot to do with the monarchs location. I like the sight the journey north and encourage others to post their pictures and comments on the site.
Mysterious death of one of our caterpillars last night. I checked on my outdoor “brood” last night before turning in, and they were all actively munching away on the butterfly weed. Several are large, plump and healthy-looking 5th Instars. When I woke up this morning and checked on them, I found that one of the large cats had died during the night. No sign of any illness or tachinid larvae – just dead, but otherwise healthy-looking. Any thoughts?
I live in Oceanside. My second year raising Monarchs. Last year, I released 240 healthy ones, This year at 129, I’m taking it a bit slower.
Sometimes there are no outward signs to a healthy looking cat. I’m sure just like with every species they may not be born ‘perfect’. Surprisingly , sometimes a fall may do it. Sometimes an unseen bacteria. Are they in a cube, etc, or outside, non-enclosed? If in cube, I’d just keep an eye out for the others to see if it’s isolated or something more. If outside, non-enclosed, I might consider enclosing them. That way you can keep tabs on the ‘comings and goings’ of a host of the Monarchs enemies, seen or unseen. Good luck.
Last year we only saw a few Monarch Butterflies. 🙁 This year we are seeing them almost daily. 🙂 I constantly search for cats, not well versed on identifying eggs enough to bring them in from garden. Son and I have had a debate over the pros/cons of indoor temperatures vs. outdoor temperatures while raising cats. Is the “normal” temperature ranges more natural for cats than the AC world of indoors in the town of Davenport, Iowa? Do the high to low range of heat and cool while outdoors best support their natural growth? What’s the info on this subject? Thanks again for the help you give use trying to provide for these amazing creatures.
Hi Dale, we raise ours in a 3-season porch where they get natural heat humidity without the extremes. That being said, there are people that raise successfully indoors. Our house is never cooler than 75° F, but if you like to keep it cool, this can slow down metamorphosis. As far as I’m aware, there is no official research data on this.
I live in the Great Lakes. There are a lot of friends in the surrounding area (2 hours away) that have seen zero to just a few eggs this year. For me it has been one of the busiest seasons. I usually don’t see eggs on my milkweed until the first week in July but this year I had eggs on June 5. I have released over 150 so far and have at least that many still in various life stages right now. I belong to a fb group of monarch maniacs and am sharing eggs with these who haven’t seen any this year. Mixing up the gene pool. Unfortunately I have seen more deaths this year. I had to euthanize a 4th instar and a pupating cat that appeared to have a bacterial infection. I also sadly found a couple of brown dead 2nd instars. Sanitation, especially when raising so many is crucial but sometimes they still die.
I live in southern spain and this year have noticed few Monarchs. I spring they started laying but I think the wasps ate the eggs, ants etc. Now very few and not laying anyway. I am hoping that later into the summer we shall see an increase in activity, lasy year i raised over 70, but have not had the time to repeat all the hard work, and not had the inclination to have a dozen jars and net covers all over my dining room table! Maybe next year…
Hi Mary, I use a 10 gallon fish aquarium with a fitted wire cover. Not so easy to date them but much more convenient.
Could you share with us what nectar and host plants are recommended for attracting Monarchs, and other butterflies as well, in southern Spain? I’ve read about the great beauty of meadows in the Andalusia area. I’ve also read about a wonderful group of retirees who take a lot of outings to see butterflies and birds in Andalusia. I’d retire there in my dreams!
Kathy in Michigan
Last year I raised over 70
My first year giving this a try did not go too well. But you have given me a lot of information to help make next year more successful. I have 12 native milkweeds but will definitely a larger variety in more places around our yard next year. Was glad to see your note about bees and monarchs above. We must have a hive nearby because our yard is full of them. We do all we can to encourage them. We live in humid, very hot so Ga. Any tips specific to this area?
A little humor-we started trying to attract butterflies for out mini-doxie. She loves to chase their shadows on the ground. Sometimes we have to bring her in or she will she chase shadows until she falls out.
Thank you and all the people who post here for the knowledge you share!
Hi Beth, sorry to hear the first year was slow, but happy you are planning on making improvements…it will be worth it when you start seeing success. If you want info specific to your region, I would try a facebook group where it will be easy to network with others in your region:
The Beautiful Monarch
I have released 34 monarchs so far; 1 emerging today, 3 more chrysalis’, and if I counted right-I think I had 15 eggs. They have started to hatch and I’m not sure how many eggs actually hatched because they’re small. I see so many monarchs this year. My neighbors comment on how many they see. I have been raising them indoors for 9 years. My garden is a mix of MN Natives and annuals, and probably 100 common milkweeds. I also have purple and poke milkweed, and butterfly bushes. The monarchs prefer the common milkweed over everything. Be patient and keep planting natives that are common to your area. Monarchs will come <3
Wow! You are amazing! Keep up the good work!
I have not seen any Monarch butterflies. Here in Northeast Florida it has been hotter than usual and raining almost every day. The insects are every bad at night and perhaps that is a reason for the extreme decline . Last year I was able to raise 20 and had food left for the ones that migrate. Other species are doing fine.
We had a late cold snap in Southern Oregon/Northern California at the Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge. We have been seeing the Monarchs finally and last week we found our first 2 caterpillars. Momma Butterfly has been flying around all week, so we’re on the look out this week for eggs or larvae.
Hopefully we can be as active this summer as we were last summer, we have both Narrowleaf and Showy Milkweed and we have three different spots for them to grow.
I raised 29 monarch eggs to butterflies inside our house. It was crazy but very exciting to watch the process! We have two different beds/kinds of milkweed in our garden. After those were released, our milkweed plants had over 100 caterpillars eating away at all the plants! It was really kind of creepy looking at all of them haha.
Last week my husband/I were in the backyard as they all started opening. It was like an Easter Egg Hunt! My husband would yell, here’s one! I would yell, here’s another one!
Our plants have not leaves on them but there are about 20 new caterpillars. Not sure really what to do. Buy more plants?
Hi Barb, congrats on your raising success! If your milkweed supply is low, I would focus on growing more plants before raising. I know, easier said than done but it will help you support more caterpillars, with much less stress in the future. good luck!
Thank you Tony! You are exactly right about growing more plants. It is a catch 22. The poor caterpillars are just eating the plants all the way down. I have not bought any seeds or plants online/elsewhere to keep up with the demand. I really was caught off guard with how many caterpillars appeared after releasing the butterflies.
I just released at least 50 monarchs that are healthy, I lost only three of the sixty that went into chrysalis (I have few still to emerge) I was very concerned that should they all mate and lay eggs that my milkweed won’t sustain the babies. But I found only maybe eight or so eggs in the last week, none this week. I have monarchs flying in my garden daily. Maybe they are branching out, my best friend lives five miles up the coast from me in Davenport (I am in Santa Cruz, we have monarchs year round here as well as the migration that comes to the west coast) she is growing milkweed but hasn’t had any monarchs yet, so strange, but perhaps they found her garden.
I released three beautiful girls today, several males last week, I am sure there will be another wave of eggs soon. Maybe my garden needed to recover a bit from the last round of caterpillars. It has and we are ready for the next wave. I have just added another milkweed, the lovely balloon milkweed. I have five types now. Swamp milkweed, supposedly not a native to the west coast but it grows very well in Santa Cruz, it is the first to emerge after winter and the first to die back, but it is going strong right now, Tropical milkweed, the evil one is finally gaining strength in the hot summer, I have three variations of Tropical, yellow, red and orange. It always dies back in my yard in the winter and remains dead, I have to re-grow from seed (or cuttings), unlike the perennial milkweeds. I have also Narrow leaf Milkweed & Showy Milkweed, they are doing very well. The only milkweed that I cannot grow (so far) is supposedly a California native, that is heart leaf milkweed, I would love to have it but by the coast it dies, just dies, no matter what I do. I think it grows more north of me and in more mountainous areas, but here I cannot grow it to save my life. So, native is relative for sure!!
I am thinking there is a pause of Monarch activity this year as it was in early Spring, I was wondering what I was doing wrong, then boom, I had Monarch eggs and cats everywhere!
Hi Gabrielle, thanks for sharing your experience and congrats on your success. Yes, most regions across the US/Canada go through a pause in the season at some point. Many times a little patience is required, but waiting can be frustrating!
Hi, I’m in Lacombe Louisiana just 30 minutes north of New Orleans. I have been raising Monarchs for four years. I have plenty of milkweed but have not seen one Monarch all year. I am very sad. I have however raised and released two Black Swallowtails. Have not seen any Gaint swallowtails either.
I live in New Orleans, and we’ve had beaucoup monarchs in our garden since spring, They usually appear during the day when I’m at work, but on weekends I get to see them feeding and mating.
I haven’t seen any giant swallowtails in over a month, but new eggs keep appearing on our citrus trees. I need to think about raising those cats out of harm’s way, on rue maybe, to increase their survival rate.
I have only raised Monarchs. Do Swallowtails go through the same process? They are so beautiful!
Hi Barb, the process takes longer for swallowtails and late season swallowtails will overwinter as chrysalises. Here’s our recent experience with black swallowtails:
Raising Black Swallowtails
Here in SE PA, in past years, I found Black Swallowtails on my Anise Hyssop or maybe it’s Bronze Fennel, thinking it was a Monarch cat, then when it went into chrysalis, I realized it wasn’t a Monarch……I thought it was dead, but I kept it in the house all winter……it finally hatched and 1 morning in the Spring I found a beautiful Black Swallowtail hanging off my house plant where I hung the chrysalis.
I am getting many Monarch eggs on my milkweed now and working on keeping them safe and trying to make sure they all hatch, although I saw an ant nibbling on an egg yesterday…..I need to get them off the plant and into some protection.
My grandkids and I started raising Monarchs 2 years ago; this year has been such a disappointment. We’ve only released one and have one almost ready. The weather has been beastly with high temps (95+) and little rain. But, I’m wondering if the bigger problem isn’t due to lots of ants and flies. Both have swarmed the milkweeds…Oh, we live in Iowa and Tony’s emails are great!
Hi Shirley, ants are a serious issue in many butterfly gardens. The parasitic flies are a problem too, but there are many other species of flies that are not harmful to monarchs, and are pollinators. I hope you get some rain and monarchs soon!
Hi Shirley, I also live in Iowa. I have quite a bit of beautiful, healthy milkweed. No pests. I use catnip to keep away aphids, traps for paper wasps. Past years I have gotten quite a few monarchs and then their children. This year I have not seen even one monarch or any caterpillars yet. Not sure what is going on.
I appreciate all the comments and advice. I am so glad i joined the group to help the Monarch’ s and other butterfly’s survive modern development and all the hazards
they face. We released five in the Spring and have seen a few on the flowers, but not
as many as there were in years past. Took a picture of one on a Zenia today in Gallatin
north of Nashville, TN
from New Orleans: Please everyone, post your location with your comments. Want to add another thank-you to Tony for all his excellent encouragement and advice, we should all be grateful to have such a treasure of a person helping us!
The advice to get between wasps & eggs/cats is spot on here. I am in the third wave of eggs and first wave of tropical self-seeded plants popping up. I am cutting the oldest tropical stems back to 6″ on an as-needed basis to help curb OE. No shortages.
Thanks to the person who posted about Ace Hardware getting actively involved. Great sponsorship, Ace probably reaches a different group of people than those of us who rely on locally owned nurseries.
Anyone who is in a position to do so, please support groups like the Xerces Society that work on a national political level to advocate for pollinators. We have a lot of allies in this effort to Raise the Migration.
I suspect there are things we need to learn and to practice in locating pollinator gardens. It strikes me that small gardens located in acres of mowed lawn are probably just not noticed or attractive to butterflies. We need to learn and quantify the factors (wind direction, shelter, size of plot, surroundings, etc.) besides nectar flowers to more accurately target them.
I also suspect that just plain luck becomes a bigger factor when the population is low.
The chances of a butterfly finding YOUR particular patch surely go down when there are fewer butterflies.
And even when there was plenty of milkweed, not every plant/patch was utilized by monarchs. I’ve seen beautiful big patches of lovely milkweed with absolutely no eggs, sometimes only yards from patches with plenty of eggs.
hi Sarah, thank you for your thoughtful comments. It can be difficult to quantify some of these factors when there are multiple factors at play. What makes it even more difficult is when you don’t what those contributing factors are. For instance, many gardeners are not aware of local pesticide spraying from neighbors or their city.
We have a very small butterfly garden in our front yard. We have two large planters with several varieties of native California and tropical perennials, and we have nectar plants growing in the yard as well. This is the second year we’ve had milkweed growing in the garden, and the first year we’ve had a caterpillars. I like to go out at night with a light to visit them, as they effectively hide in the shadows during the day when the temperature gets close to 90 degrees F. They all come out at night to feed, and on any given night, I count 12 – 20, munching away. I’ve been recording everything I observe each day and night, using still and video photography. We haven’t been collecting eggs or cats, primarily because our small habitat is meant as a showcase for the other homeowners here in our 330 unit retirement community to educate them. The goal is to get the HOA to buy into planting milkweed and nectar flowers on all of the common areas of the community. So far, things are going well. The homeowners walk by and I invite them to come up and see what we’re doing, and it’s a great opportunity to talk.
The other reason we’re not collecting and caging eggs and cats is that we want to perfect the outdoor, natural habitat. If we can, then we will share our knowledge with the rest of the homeowners, and they can do the same thing in their yards as we are, in addition to the land the HOA plants. One great thing about our community is there are no lawns – the yards are all gravel. Gardens are in multiple planters, and that means no pesticides are being sprayed in quantities that would drift throughout the complex. I do use Saver soap in our backyard tomato garden, but not in the front. My only problem is tachinid flies, and I’m looking for plants that might repel them, without interfering with the cats.
Hi Rob, I appreciate what you are trying to do and applaud your efforts to get the community involved. Please be aware that there are many other predators and parasites that will go after monarchs and only about 5% survive outdoors. More info on predators here:
13 Monarch Predators
Hi Ron in San Marcos,
I live in Carlsbad and have a very small backyard with quite a few milkweeds and other nectar flowers. I too have noticed the tachinid flies problems this year. I have still had pretty good success and lots of hatchings. Keep up the good work educating others. Thanks!!!
Over the past year my sister and I have released over 200 monarchs. I was so excited this year because I have over 40 chrysalides and they are E closing today tomorrow and the next day. However I am having a major issue. They seem very weak. And they are falling from the chrysalis. I’ve been watching picking them up gently and saving them by putting them on netting so they can hang on better. But I’m noticing that they’re not flying. I’m thinking it is that 0E spore. I’ve never had anything like this. And it’s devastating to watch. They are all beautiful and large monarchs but something is not right. Do you think that is what it is? I’m feeling very discouraged. Right now I have about 15 monarchs that of come out today and I have no idea if they’re going to fly. Because the ones yesterday didn’t.
Hi Cin, unfortunately this does sound. If these monarchss were all raised together, it’s probably the other caterpillars ingested OE spores too and will be sick. All you can do at this point is monitor. Here’s more info on OE and prevention:
I live in Oceanside, Ca. I have been able to alleviate the OE problems in my Monarchs, as I, too, felt broken-hearted to see weak, deformed and dead Monarchs as they eclosed.
I released 240 healthy last year and so far this year, 120.
If interested, my e-m is:
Wlwiegand@ gmail. com
I’m Wendy, I live in Oceanside CA.
I took what I felt was was an extreme approach to dealing with OE this year because I was saddened by weak hatchlings last year, even with 240 releases. LiveMonarchFounsation sells $20 microscopes to view OE; they have a YouTube instructional. After checking cuttings for cats/eggs(removing cats) I rinse thoroughly in water and then, removing eggs, soak in a 1:20 bleach/water solution for 20 minutes, again rinsing very thoroughly. I rinse eggs (on leaves, cuttings) in same solution for only 60 seconds-time it-and rinse very thoroughly. Checked my first 100 Monarchs with microscope and they were OE free! I though maybe I was missing the little spores because there was not a one. So, to double check,I raised a small bunch without bleaching, just rinsing milkweed/eggs with water. Although the parasite loads were low enough to have successfull hatching, the little buggers were there nestled in the scales! I realize that this way is somewhat labor intensive, but not prohibitive, and you can always raise smaller batches. Also do a large batch of cuttings and put aside some for later use. Plus, as Tony says, keep cat sizes similar in your cage so they hatch within a few days (5-8?) if each other.
The Monarchs have survived in nature with OE, I know, but for numerous reasons the parasite loads have become deadly. I just wanted to see for myself it I could in fact raise and release OE free Monarchs because they have been so threatened and are also beleaguered by other factors. Plus, it broke my heart to see them so weak that they couldn’t even hang upside down, fly, couldn’t completely eclipse, or were small.
I battle Tachinid flies with outside hatches I bring in; they parisitize them quickly when they are very small. The humidity makes the problem worse; there are so many this year! That’s why I felt compelled to at least see if I could help the Monarchs with the OE problem. Good Luck.
I live in Thunder Bay, Ontario – north of Minneapolis. So far this summer I have 250. Last year I only had 13, in 2015 had 47, in 2014 had 79, in 2013 only 9 but in 2012 I had 450. It is so hard to predict how many we will have each summer. Since I cannot look after this many this year, a friend is distributing some to interested families. This will add to the already number of people here who raise Monarchs indoors and/or have planted milkweed. I truly hope the numbers keep rising. Thank you Tony for your wonderful articles and advice.
This is the first year of my monarch garden. I planted many of the host plants last year. After reading this newsletter, I’m convinced I need to raise cats indoors. My question is what are ideal indoor conditions? I live near Washington DC and our summers are very hot and humid. Is an air conditioned home too cold? I volunteer at a local indoor butterfly garden, and I know the butterflies are happiest when the temps are what people consider uncomfortable, around 85ish degrees and higher. Any tips appreciated.
Hi Anna, if you are just getting started, check out this post:
21 Tips for raising Monarchs Indoors
Hi Tony! This is my first year raising monarch caterpillars. I have one caterpillar that I brought in as an egg from my backyard. It hatched 9 days ago. I’m not sure what instar it’s in.
I read on your website that monarch cats can get dehydrated. I don’t have a spray bottle to spray water, so instead I wet the kitchen paper (I don’t know what it’s called… it’s the thick soft paper towel stuff) it was sitting on. Maybe i wet the paper too much, but it hasn’t moved or eaten since then, which was about 16 hours ago, give or take. It seems to be trying to move, but unable to. It’s back legs seem to be stuck to the paper. I thought it might be molting, but I watched videos of molting monarch cats and they seem much more… active? than mine. Mine sorta just wiggles a little bit, then stops moving again. Also, one of it’s antennas seems to be bent. I’m not sure if it was always like that or not. Back to the main problem, i tried moving/tickling it with a soft paint brush, and it’s front legs and body will move, but not it’s bottom half.
I really want to know – is it stuck to the paper, or just sitting there because it doesn’t want to move? If it’s stuck, how do i get it unstuck without hurting it? And can caterpillars still become healthy butterflies if one of its antennas are messed up?
I feel really discouraged. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! By the way, I live in Toronto, Ontario.
Hi Angelina, I would invest in a cheap spray bottle. The only time we use paper towels is in our egg hatcheries, but we don’t wet those because it leaves to much moisture in the containers. A little moisture goes a long way in a sealed container. This is just a regular paper towel, correct? I know there are some that have soap in them which would not be good for raising. if he is stuck, I would gently try to pull it off and place on a leaf or cutting…
If it weren’t for finding lots of eggs in places other than my yard, I’d be wondering where the monarchs are, too.
I think I have too many milkweed plants to make it worthwhile to check them all. I check the ones next to the driveway pretty regularly because that’s where I park, and the mosquitoes aren’t too bad, and maybe the ones that are easy to access in some of the beds. But I rarely check the ones I have to wade through vegetation to look at. Maybe that’s where all the eggs are hiding. I also have some seedlings that I rarely check. I prefer to look other places, like my library, where I could generally find a decent number just on the west side of the parking lot, which was an easy search right near the curb, or at my church, or at friends’ houses where they have between 1 and 20 plants. I found a caterpillar and 4 eggs on a single plant at one of my friend’s houses last week. That’s more than I would expect to find in my own yard, even with my 100+ plants and the 24 females I released between 6/21 & 7/10. I planted plenty of nectar flowers, hoping to keep them around. They’ve been around. They just don’t seem to be laying their “hundreds” of eggs on my plants.
This spring, when it seemed like the monarchs were riding the wind north a month earlier than normal, maybe ahead of the milkweed supply, I saw pictures of multiple eggs that were laid on young shoots. And I really think that if I had fewer plants, I’d find more eggs more often, like I do at the library where I check the same 20 every time I go.
Also, speaking of the library, someone cut or pulled a lot of the milkweed around Memorial Day weekend. And of course, it grew back all young and tender since then. The last time I searched for eggs there a couple of weeks ago, that’s where I found about 15 eggs — on the new growth, not the plants that hadn’t been disturbed.
I haven’t seen many butterfly’s this year, in my own garden, but I believe it’s due to my limited amount of flowers. I planted late this year and my flowers are just now starting to bloom. I’m hoping activity will start to get better.
This is now July 22 2017. A month ago we had lots of Monarch’s around but now that the milkweed is flowering there are no Monarch’s . We live in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island B.C. Where do they go ????? You would think that they would be hanging around the milkweed and keeping the bee’s away but that’s not happening.
Hi Harry, bees and monarchs peacefully coexist for the most part. Since Vancouver is toward the northern limits for the western monarchs, there’s not a lot of reports from there I can refer to. Congrats on attracting some early monarchs and I hope you see more soon!
I was commiserating with a fellow gardener and butterfly lover last week here in Southwest Wisconsin. Neither of us have seen ANY monarchs and she said that Monarch Watch reported a lower than usual incidence of monarchs in these parts. I think the one who eclosed in my cage has come back to visit and I just had a new Baby Boy hatch. (2 in all) I love raising these critters and I wondered if buying them from Rose Franklin was a good idea, bad for the butterflies, helpful, or what? I’d love to get some eggs from somewhere…
Hi Janet, there is no data that suggests this is bad for butterflies. Rose Franklin is a recommended vendor for eggs/caterpillars and plants. Good Luck!
I just purchased a Giant Milkweed. It is in a 3 gal. pot and about w 1 1/2 foot high. Any suggestions on planting it and special care?
Hi Jim, we planted one in a 12″ pot and one in our south garden that gets lots of afternoon sun. We used slow release fertilizer on both and the plants look fantastic. We have not grown them before this season, but here’s more info:
I live in Escondido, CA. I haven’t seen any monarchs however I collected 3 cats a couple of weeks ago and released 1 female and 1 male in the last 3 days. The 3rd cat chrysalized but detached from its silk and fell to the bottom of my cage. I glued a thread to it and hung it. It was too damaged and tried to form but died and didn’t hatch. I collected 4 eggs which all hatched and they are all hanging ready to pupate. I collected a tiny cat who is still eating. The 4 cats went thru 12 – 1 ft tall potted milkweed plants and lots of cuttings. They got huge before going “walk-about. I have a huge patch of tropical milkweed and check it daily. It has been very hot here until this past week. We have had lots of milkweed bugs which supposedly only feed on the seeds.
I live near you in San Marcos. We have a small habitat, not screened or caged, consisted of two large planters with several varieties of natives and tropical perennials. We typically have 12 – 20 cats in our little habitat on any given day, and we’ve had a few cats make it into butterflies. These butterflies (I think) also laid eggs in our habitat, so it seems to be self-perpetuating.
Hi Rob, I suggest releasing butterflies and not breeding siblings inside the cages, which can produce genetically inferior butterflies…also, if caterpillars and butterflies are in the cages together, this can spread disease to the caterpillars. OE, specifically:
Hi Tony, we don’t have cages. We have a butterfly garden in our front yard.
I have aphids on my milkweed plants. How do I get rid of them without using insecticides?
Try hosing them off with a strong stream of water. Aphids are a common problem on Milkweed. Good luck!
DON’T WORRY ABOUT THEM. I USED TO SPRAY THEM WITH SOAPY WATER, BUT THE CATS WILL DEVOUR THEM ALONG WITH THE LEAVES.
Hi Marsha, I’ve seen them coexist on plants, but never heard of or seen caterpillars eating aphids…thankfully there are other predators like lacewings/ladybugs that do eat them.
The best way to get rid of aphids is to squash them between thumb and forefinger. I realize that it’s somewhat gruesome, but it does do the job. My plants were literally yellow with these things, and the growth was stunted to the point where I began to think my cats wouldn’t have enough to eat. But once I started squashing them a couple of times a day, their numbers began to thin out, and my plants began to grow large and very lush. Today, I found just a few on 3 or 4 plants. Just be careful you aren’t squashing eggs and small cats.
Hi Mary Lou, check out this post:
11 Short and Long Term Strategies for Keeping Aphids Off Milkweed
What is a salt gun? Where would I find one!?
Hi Becky, I’m not sure what to even say about this:
Salt Gun for Flies
WE ARE ONLY ABLE TO RAISE MONARCH’S IN OUR LITTLE GARDEN OF MILKWEED PLANTS, WHICH ARE COMPLETELY EATEN NOW AND WE HAD A GOOD CROP OF CATERPILLARS, WHICH ARE READILY TURNING INTO BUTTERFLIES. WE ONLY HAVE A SMALL PATCH OF GROUND TO PLANT MILKWEED AND AFTER THEY EAT EVERYTHING WE CUT THEM BACK AND REPLANT THEM. WE LIVE ON THE SECOND FLOOR AND SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO BRING THE CATERPILLARS UPSTAIRS AND PUT THEM ON THE SIDE OF OUR APARTMENT WHERE THEY POD ALL OVER THE PLACE. WE JUST HAD A BATCH FLEDGE THIS WEEK AND STILL HAVE A FEW PODS LEFT. WE ENJOY WORKING WITH THEM. JAN
I had not seen any monarch all spring, I had one come through early this spring and leave three eggs but I never seen her. I hatched the eggs and only one servived . After that no more monarch until mid July when my prairie liatris started blooming the it was like someone rang a dinner Bell and here they were, two and three at a time. Since the 15th of July I have collected approximately 80 eggs on my swamp milk weed and placed them in my hatching containers and they are hatching like crazy, also I have 6 black swallow tail cats on my fennel, last evening I saw a red spotted purple. My Mexican sunflower is just starting to bloom and this always draws them so maybe we will have a great late summer and fall and we can add to the migration population.
congrats John, that liatris really gets the season going! Enjoy the rest of your season..
Hi… it’s Susie Monarch again… I forgot to mention that Mexican sunflower also known as Tithonia is bringing a plethora of adult monarchs to my garden. The plant almost grows before your eyes, and the neon orange flowers are like magnets to the monarchs. Three or four adult butterflies will sit at the same time on one flower. What a wonderful way to attract these gorgeous critters. Just wanted to put that out there as a fantastic plant in your garden
thanks for the suggestion Susie. We plant them in Minnesota too, and they are definitely a summer favorite with monarchs!
Hi Tony! I live in San Diego California, and bring milkweed leaves in as soon as I see an egg on them. So far since May, I have brought in, fed and raised over 120 healthy adult monarchs, tagging them before they are released. I can honestly say that the ones left on my patio to survive on their own are usually diseased or die from predators. Therefore, I have turned my home into a monarch eating and frassing station. LOL …I take some of my adult monarchs to weddings, elementary classrooms, and graduations for release. I find that people are madly in love with monarchs. I also teach classes in how to raise monarchs. If anyone is interested in contacting me, I can be reached at: Monarchlover071@gmail.com.
Wish I lived close to you! Sounds like you are doing great! Yes, I’m now addicted too! My husband is mad that we have given up our kitchen to these angels but he too is now watching in amazement! Our very first ended up 11 cats equaling 11 beautiful butterflies!! As soon as we released them, we were blessed wth 30 eggs that I could find! Can’t wait to see my grandchildren fly away soon???
Susie, do the adults you tag return to your garden to lay eggs? Also, do they migrate?
I live in Oceanside and agree about bringing them inside, or more accurately, put in a cube or whatever you use. I have 4 cubes and I separate the ‘outside hatch’ and ‘inside hatch’ cats. I can’t collect all the eggs I have but if I find a cat outside on my milkweed I bring it in. Most definitely with the outside hatch the mortality rate is higher, mostly this year for me from the Tachinid fly. Also, our California Towhee takes them right off the plants. They aren’t bothered by the milkweed poison. Last year I raised 240, this year I’m at about 140 although we still have a few months yet. I got a little overwhelmed last year because as you said, my house and patio were Monarch/Cube city! Got tables specifically for the patio so I can at least eat dinner on my dining room table! One bathroom is my ‘nursery’- a small cube so I can keep track of the little ones before moving them outside. I closed the A/C vent in there and leave a window open so it stays warmer like the outside. Trying to work smarter and learning from last year’s mistakes.
Glad to have other SoCal Monarch Foster Parents. We need to get our Western Monarch numbers up as well.
I think another factor adding to the Monarch decline is the lack of a “corridor” of host and nectar plants. My garden is an island for the Monarchs in an ocean of streets, parking lots, lawns and gardens inappropriate for butterflies. I am trying to convince some of my neighbors to plant host, nectar plants, both natives and annuals like Tony has listed.
Hi Barbara, I think on the ‘plant’ front, we are headed in the right direction. It seems like many communities across North America are heeding the call to plant for monarchs and other beneficial pollinators. I hope you are successful with your community outreach!
Predators are going to concentrate around areas of high density. Small gardens are more vulnerable to predation than large ones. In a perfect world, There would be acres of butterfly plants. The only answer for most people is to protect them as best you can, and encourage others to plant as much ad they can.
Another suggestion would be to try.to get funds for planting of empty lots, road rights of ways, and any other suitable areas. NRCS is actually providing money to plant pollinators. I planted about 3 acres this year, and plan on planting more next year.
I live in a 55+ community of 330 homes in San Marcos, California, with quite a bit of area suitable for planting milkweed and nectar plants. My front yard is a laboratory of sorts, and a decent – if modest sized – Monarch habitat. The management here is on board for expanding the habitat across our land, which is pretty exciting.
How do I tell the difference between a male and female?
If I get mosquito netting to cover my milkweed, do I tie it on
The bottom so the lizards don’t get inside?
I,m ready to try anything to get my hobby and cats back!
They are definitely eaten!
Hi Tricia, mosquito netting is more to protect them from wasps, flies, birds. I would imagine a lizard could chew through this?? Someone correct me if i’m wrong, but I recall hearing this issue before. We don’t have any lizards in Minnesota. ⛄️
Hi Tony, I’ve have to build a wooden enclosure with steel netting because the lizards here in Hawaii are awful. My mesh tents are in the enclosure as the 1st line of defense for these pesky lizards. So far, so good. ?
Sounds like a good strategy…I’ve heard they can be a major issue!
Here is southern California lizards are everywhere. The most common are the Western fence lizards, and we have them right in the yard next to the planters that contain our milkweed crop. I’ve never seen them in the planters, though, so I’m unclear as to weather they eat Monarch caterpillars.
Hi Rob, I know some species of lizards eat monarchs, but not sure which ones. One of the sources from our Western page might be able to help:
Western Monarch Butterfly Resources
In central California it’s been a brutally hot summer (95-110 throughout June and July), but monarchs are still fairly plentiful around larger patches of fascicularis milkweed: Example: https://youtu.be/5kkbv9QA_Bg
I have had a very active Monarch season in VA. I’ve releassd over 177 since April. I Have had a big problem with the 1st and second instars. They can’t seem to handle the common or swamp milkweed around here. Has anyone else had a problem like this?
I live in so California and I’m so lonely for cats and crystallis!
I started my hobby last summer and had many butterflies, even this spring.
My milkweed is high and healthy. I found one sickly cat yesterday
so I took it inside but it died. .then find only one small one when I cut back a plant, hoping to get rid of any aphid pests. I do see butterflies
dancing among my milkweed but not the many many cats like last year.
We have released a couple dozen monarchs from the late May to early June eggs that we found in our garden. There was a gap with very few monarchs in early July, but we are seeing monarchs daily in the latter half of July. One limiting factor is the aggressive territorial behavior of the males. It seems that we can have one male monarch for our entire garden, and he’ll chase away all other males and pay so much attention to the females that many of them just avoid him.
Hi Mary, this is so interesting to hear! We always have males half-heartedly fighting (more like playing) in the garden. But when they’re not engaged, they’re often nectaring on neighboring plants like best frenemies . We have had several females ‘hanging out’ in the garden which I don’t normally see until pre-migration.
I think my problem is a lack of leaves for the chrysalis to cling to. I have plumbago hiding the milkweed from the deer and several other flowering plants. My one chrysalis attached to a bird of paradise but was gone in a day. The other 7-8 cats died suddenly and I don’t know why. I don’t use poisons.
Bring them inside and put in a butterfly pavillion. This is enjoyable to observe,tag, and release!
We are just recovering from a “black death” episode. All but one of ten cats at different stages of development perished, the last one however is looking good. I have sterilized everything and in the last few days picked a few eggs only to find in a short time they have turned black. I am trying different methods of incubation because I think that even using the floral tubes, something is getting to them, I think it may be spider mites.
On the positive side, from May to mid July I have raised and released 30 beautiful, huge, mostly male monarchs, a record for me in California. I am quite sure they come back to visit but because it’s a male dominant season perhaps that is the reason for a slow egg supply. The Monarch, one to two each day, are chasing the dragon fly who is chasing the hummingbird providing considerable entertainment. Growing plentiful in the garden are both native narrow leaf milk weed and non-native Tropical which are the favored they are abundant and healthy. At the time of this post, very few eggs are in the garden , when spotted, they are brought indoors immediately as there is no chance of survival in the garden NONE! I think spider mites, wasps and aphids are the critters of the hour and I have not been successful at eliminating any of them.
Since the success rate is so small now, it may be natures way of saying. “cut your losses and celebrate your successes” 30 is way more than “0” in California.
Spider mites are so bad here too!!
I’m in Pico Rivera, California and this year (3 years since I started) has not been very good either. I brought in about 10 eggs last week and ended with two catapillars only and they have excreted some green liquid that I had not seen before. They’re still eating though. I’ll see if they survive the chrysalis stage. I did have about 30 caterpillars in the spring and most of them did not make it, it was either OE or the tachinid flies that got them.???
Hi Aherlunda, green vomit/discharge is a common sign of pesticide exposure. Is it possible the plants were treated?
Aherlunda, do you have a dog or cat that has been treated with flea/tick pesticides? You have to wash your hands REALLY well before handling the caterpillars or their food. This happens to me, even after washing. To correct this, clean the cage with bleach solution, rinse the caterpillars well under a stream of cool running water, and give them fresh food. Repeat this process until they stop vomiting.
I don’t use any pesticides but maybe the neighbors have. I have trimmed the milkweeds and look healthy, especially because of the butterflies with OE.
Will the 2 catapillars I have survive healthy?
Hi Herlinda, there’s no way to predict this without knowing what the issue is. At this point all you can do is monitor and try to find the pesticide source to make sure this doesn’t happen again…good luck!
I’ve only seen a few, but yes, they’ve been here too! I have 12 in chrysalises, 24 caterpillars, and have released 5, so far. 4 female and one male. We just traveled from Iowa to northern Wisconsin and noticed loads of milkweed in ditches along the way! Saw a few monarchs, but not many.
Have not seen a single monarch this year. A couple of swallowtails but they didn’t stay long. Last year had lots of monarch. I have had a ton of bumblebees this years. Are they a problem for butterflies?
Hi Carrol, monarchs and bumble bees peacefully coexist in our garden, and I’ve never heard of issues from others…
I have 6 chrysalises under the table which the potted milkweed plant is sitting on. I haven’t seen anymore adult Monarchs but just found a newly hatched cat and brought it inside to raise. I am in Ocala, Florida.
I hadn’t seen many Monarchs this year till a few weeks ago. Now the Monarch’s cats and eggs are coming faster than I can collect them. Every time I go outside I come back in with at least 10 or more cats . Have over 20 Chrysalis now and over 25 , 5 star cats, plus 15-20 small cats. They have been sending me out for extra milkweed daily. I am also raising a lot of Gulf Frittilarys , Queens and Polydamas Swallowtails this year. This is my 1st year in this location and my garden is doing great. Best of luck to everyone else with the Monarchs this year.
I am continuously battling the wasp population. Any time we see a wasp, we try to kill it. Once in a while I find a nest in the yard & wait until evening to get rid of it & the wasps. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about nests in my neighbors yards.
In Cape Cod the Monarchs are here, three so far. I just released 3 black swallows in the last few days. Haven’t seen any eastern yellow swallow tails yet…
I read somewhere that some of the logging in Mexico is to clear land for Avocado production. Any comments in this?
Hi Cliff, I don’t think this is having much of an effect…yet. However, it’s a serious concern for the not-too-distant future:
The Avocado Effect on Monarchs
No, the avocados are not a threat as they are planted below 8,000 feet and the monarchs normally cluster up at 10,000 – 11,000 feet. In November and March pockets of monarchs sometimes cluster down at 8,000 feet and if the avocado orchard trees are mature, they will actually make good cluster trees, much like pecan nut tree orchards in Texas and northern Mexico make good monarch cluster trees.
thanks for sharing this info Paul…do you know if it’s possible to grow Avocado trees (or perhaps specific species/cultivars) at higher elevations?
I have 20 Gulf Fritillarys in the garden and about 15 cats, that I can see, but not many Monarchs. In November I had 32 cats on one giant milk weed and started transplanting them to other less used bushes. They eat the whole bush! 12 chrysalis”s were formed that I found and all but 3 hatched. This summer, I will see cats one day and never again. One difference is that I have seen more deformed monarchs. Wings that did not descend and are crumpled. Today, I found a monarch drying their wings and saw that the back wing was miniaturized. It will never fly. I spent about 30 minutes letting it walk on my hand and flap the wings, but it was unstable and kept falling to one side. Launched it from my hand at about 2 feet and all it could do was guide onto the ground. I moved it to a Penta flower so it could eat and maybe hide in the bush, but I saw the lizards surrounding the bush. I thought of covering the bush, but realized the monarch could not mate and also appeared to have a miss formed back leg and had difficulty hopping. We do not use pesticide in the garden, but our neighbors do have their lawn spayed at least once a year.
Hi Pat, if you are in a continuous growing region, OE parasites are a common issue that cause weakness and deformity in butterflies. More info here:
Monarch Disease and Parasites
Thanks Tony. I did not cut back the giant Milkweed this spring like I have in past years. This I can control.
Just happened to see a Monarch this morning while cutting the grass. Could not tell the sex. Have one chrysalis now and still looking every morning for cats and eggs.
I’m in Orlando and I am thrilled to say I see at least a dozen Monarchs a day. I have over 50 Milkweed plants in my garden and once I see eggs, I cover the plant with fine netting to keep out the wasps & lizards. Since January, I have released at least 40 Monarchs & they keep coming back to lay their eggs.
I had 8 eggs last year and this year I found 40 on the varieties of milkweed I have. I gave away eggs to folks around here who hadn’t found eggs in years.
I also gave eggs to folks in Inwood , Northern Manhattan , that have milkweed but no monarchs- yet…
After last years 8, I’ve seen more monarchs around here this year. Last eve another monarch deposited 4 eggs and was harassed by a wasp , I shooed it away but then the monarch was disturbed by the gathering of folks who were amazed at seeing her …and as the wasp returned, practically hanging over her every move, she flew away. Momma Monarch then rested in a Jaoanese Maple tree, This morning my husband was out in the front garden & called me outside telling me a wild one was busy laying eggs in our front waystation.
I filmed her laying a few , found 13 newly hatched eggs -ants were running up towards them, flies of some type arrived from the ether…I quickly gathered what I could find., placed them gingerly onto a plate and shooed ants away while picking another egg laden leaf. Amazingly, I found1 caterpillar under the lowest leaf nearest ivy.
I’m sure there have been plenty of eggs deposited but few survive because they are immediately eaten by predators.
I think everything you stated above is spot on -vigilant observations & actions -quick removal from site & raising them in the various ways you espouse. I’ve learned so much from you. My hope is more folks will learn from you too and offer them a better chance of survival ,raising the migration..
Thank you Tony & other advocates for your dedication in helping them thrive.
After watching paper wasps kill several monarch caterpillars, I purchased mosquito netting from Academy Sports. That was a great $10 investment. After monarch caterpillars appeared, I covered the plants to protect them. I released 3 monarchs and watched them fly away. Now the second round has 3 in a chrysalis (one has been released) and 1 caterpillar woking on the leaves. All the action was in one half of the rectangular garden, so I opened the other half to welcome back the butterflies.
The aphids are keeping me busy.
It has been going great here in Florida. I’m in the Jacksonville area and I have raised and released close to 60 monarch butterflies this year. We had a mild winter here, so we actually had caterpillars throughout the year. I just let 10 butterflies go today. It seems like the butterflies in early spring were somewhat small compared to the large beauties I have been releasing the past 6 weeks or so. I also have started dill and fennel this year for the Eastern Black Swallowtails. That has been very exciting as well. I have a large outdoor tent that I’ve made into a caterpillar sanctuary where they eat, then make their chrysalis, then emerge into a butterfly. It protects them from wasps. The monarchs and swallowtail are together in the tent, and so far so good!
No shortage of monarchs in my yard!! I raised over 300 monarch caterpillars/butterflies last year and have released over 50 so far this season, with easily another 50 in process and it’s only mid July!! I am very fortunate that my husband is a gardener and does the research and plants the native plants. I check plants every day(sometimes twice) for new eggs and harvest the eggs to bring in to a back porch hatchery. This is the fourth home since 2007 where I have live and raised monarchs. They seem to follow us. Not complaining! I love it!
We have just this week, added our name to a city list to mark our house for NO spraying of pesticides for mosquito control by the city.
I’ve found more eggs this year than last year. I’ve released 12 monarchs so far and have 12 tiny caterpillars right now, could have more but only want as many as I I can take care of. The eggs have all been found on common milkweed. I live in Brookfield, Wi.
Last week I counted 55 monarchs at Black Earth Rittenmund prairie, about 15 miles west of Madison.
Just released a Black Swallowtail, found the egg on some parsley I planted. I found three more eggs , one on fennel and 2 on golden alexander.
I saw one maile Monarch earlier than I have seen Monarchs recently back the end of June but no Monarch sightings since then at all. I have tropical, swamp, common, ballon milkweed, and butterfly weed but no action. It is extremely hot and dry here which is part of the issue.
In the past 4 summers I have not seen any wild Monarchs until migration began. In 2016 I did raise Monarchs and successfully released all 10 of them. I also had at least 3 wild catepillars emerge in September well after I began seeing wild migrating Monarchs in my butterfly garden.
I had some cats on milkweed on my kitchen counter and 3 of them disappeared – then I found an ant on the counter – is s/he the culprit? (I didn’t have them in my butterfly cage yet, as they were so tiny and (I thought) unlikely to wander.)
Hi Anne, little cats will wander. A cage or container is a necessity:
Butterfly Cage Ideas for Raising Monarchs
My milkweed plants seem to be more attractive to aphids this year than to monarchs. Our local nursery says it’s because w had so much rain this past year. I feel like I can’t get ahead of them-I hose them off and there are many more the next day.
Hi Pam, check this out:
11 Ideas to Stop Aphids form Taking Over Milkweed
Thank you Tony!
I am sure it exist somewhere but I would like to read about the symbiotic relationship between the red & black and black and red beetles that inhabit the milk weed. I haven’t figured out if the suck juice, eat leaves or eat other insects (like lady bugs)? It appears that you can’t have milkweed with out them?
Hi Jay, check out this page for more info:
I’m having trouble with the rain seems to be washing them off the plants. Plus, I’m getting a lot of babies and they reach a certain size than they disappear? Not sure what’s happening keep a eye on them daily. Have lots of variety of plants for butterflies to feast on
hi Jim, if small caterpillars are disappearing in mass, predators are likely finding them.
I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO FIND A SUCCINCT REPLY, WHETHER OR NOT GRASSHOPPERS WILL EAT ASCPEPIAS( OF ANY KIND). WE ARE IN A DROUGHT AND REALIZE GRASSHOPPERS COULD BECOME A SERIOUS PROBLEM! SOME OF OUR TUBEROSAS HAVE BEEN EATEN TO THE GROUND????
Hi John, yes they will eat milkweed (I’ve heard several complaints over the years)…I have seen them on our common milkweed but they have never been a pest in our northern garden. I don’t know which milkweed species they favor…maybe someone else will post their experience.
I can only reinforce what Tony said. Not seeing is not the same as they are not here.
In my experience. beyond a doubt, a huge factor is plain and simple “cycle of life”. Here are two examples from my garden.
1) April 9 I had a “remigrant” come visit me in Saint Joseph Missouri (I watched her for ~ 15 minutes – she was beat to pieces **) and “dumped” ~ 32 eggs on little stubs of Swamp Milkweed that were just emerging. Tallest was maybe 1 1/2 inches with as many as 9 eggs per stub. Within 3 days ALL the eggs were gone. I did not bring any in – yeah I know… big mistake. ( Hey – I will do it tomorrow.)
** I marveled at her. Wondering how far she had traveled in her life? At least several thousand miles! Maybe as many as five. And she got to live perhaps 8 or 9 months. Simply amazing.
2) In late May/early June I had not checked the same bed for quite awhile. Hey!! I didn’t see any Monarchs for weeks! (Just because you do not see them does not mean they have not been there.) Yep – they had been here! It was very late evening and I was coming back from a meeting. I stopped counting at 132 Cats! They were all 2 nd – 3 rd instars. Being so late and I had some things I just had to do. (Will bring some in and move others tomorrow.) By 10 AM next morning EVERY single one was GONE. And no – none were old enough to crawl away and change to chrysalis. I checked every where.
So big lessons! Since I have sporadically seen adults and reared and released 5 of 5 cats brought in. Every one pert females. Lately – not so good. In the past week I have brought in 7 large cats. Two tried to chrysalisbut had been attacked by Tachinids. Three others were affected by something – I think Black Death. I still have 2 and they both look ok so far. One is getting teady to go into “J”.
Coordinator – Missourians for Monarchs – Naturalists & Gardeners – NW Region
So far this year, I have seen lots of Monarch, and have collected lots of eggs. So of my milkweed looks bad, but I have lots in the hay fields. Last year I released over200 and shared caterpillars with local schools, senior centers, and friends. Hope this year is even better.
I have around a dozen milkweed and three butterfly weed and thirteen butterfly bushes and many more flowers that should draw the butterfly population. Right now I have begun to see swallowtails and a few others, one monarch. I have not had ant caterpillars for two years.
It’s been strange this spring I successfully let go about a least 100 butterflies. But come summer I see a couple of monarchs everyday in my garden everyday maybe more.
No eggs or cats to collect?
I have started making sure to kill all the Orange beetles by hand so not to use any pesticides. I will keep trying my best because I live in North Florida an am lucky enough to have good weather year round
I live near Cincinnati which is in the south west corner of Ohio. I had a few caterpillars on my milkweed in early June and raised 2 monarchs but since then have seen no monarchs or caterpillars. Last year I had them in droves in the fall but that is about the only time I see them. Is our area just not conducive to monarchs during the summer or is it just my yard? We do have very hot summers and often very dry. Also last year was my first year to have milkweed and attempt to raise monarchs. Could it be they just haven’t found me yet?
Hi Nancy, it can definitely take some time for them to find you. I think you live in a good area for summer monarch activity, but this can vary from season to season based on weather patterns. Keep working on that garden, and hopefully they will find you soon!
I live here in Kansas and we have been experiencing some very hot temps on a daily basis. I walked out earlier this week and I have two planters on my fence that my husband built. I thought to myself, self, where did all of my parsley go? All that was left was stems. I looked over and on my other parsley plant was caked with caterpillars. So, this last year when you had your mesh kits on sale I bought one and I rounded up all of the caterpillars and placed them inside along with more parsley. I do have several milkweed plants growing, so when they are ready I will introduce them. This is a new experience having them in the house out of the elements and watch them graze, poop and climb everywhere. lol. Thank you for all of your support and I will continue to plant and help raise on my part.
Myself and 8 other ladies in my Senior Park in central Florida just started doing our part in helping the Monaches. We are at about At 250 released mark, with 87 percent survival. And we have talked many of our neighbors to plant Milkweed in their yards
We are not seeing a decrease in cats or eggs, quite the opposite. In fact we have had to stop collecting eggs, etc. due to lack of enough Milkweed. We all are growing more Milkweed, but cannot keep up with demand.
I am forever relocating lizards & green tree frogs that continually lounge on my huge Giant Milkweed leaves….just waiting for a delectable Monarch or Queen caterpillar to roam by.
I wish this was addressed more to California/west. I live in the central valley just south of Sacramento. I have all the nectar sources you recommend in big patches , 4×4 ft at least and lots of milk weed ..I have only seen two monarchs in my yard yet this yr…I am hoping Aug is the month of activity here to see them. I have seen several yellow tiger swallowtails. My zinnias and Mexican sunflowers just hold there faces up to the sun, praying for a visit.
I have been doing this for about 4 yrs , I am thinking maybe consistency yr after yr may be what is needed, same plants,same area.
I also wonder about people so freely using systemic pesticides on roses and crepe myrtals and such .
This yr I had one sm monarch caterpillar, the next day it was gone. I will keep assuming what I am doing will matter in some little tiny way…or more as right now this garden activity is at least not a negative activity in the world. It is all about choosing some things throughout your life like this and sticking with it..such as growing some of your own food, hanging your wash, recycling, using cloth diapers ect. etc. thank you for your site….lz
Thank you for this information…I thought I had done something wrong in my garden. Which is 100% organic. I usually have 25-35 + caterpillars eating every leaf and stem of the milkweed. This season I haven’t seen but a few caterpillars and then they quickly turn into shriveled black empty shells 🙁 So heart breaking.
I just released my 40th monarch this morning. I actually moved all my caterpillars onto milkweed that I put inside my pool enclosure after I found wasps eating 2 little cats. I said – you’re not killing any more !#@” you! We’ve lost 4 inside – they didn’t open their wings, but I’m thrilled that 40 are happily flying. They are so beautiful in the garden!
15 more in chrysalis …. Jacksonville Fl.
If I fail to check for eggs regularly, little red spiders beat me to them. They suck them dry and I collect an empty egg shell.
To date we have raised close to a hundred monarch butterflies. In June and so far into July I have had to daily remove aphids and milk weed bugs from my plants. A few of the chrysalis have not made it to maturity. They turn a charcoal grey color and dry up. I use a salt gun to kill wasps, hornets and yellow jackets when they come visiting. Very effective. Our plants are currently loaded with small caterpillars and eggs…….Jacksonville, Florida
Maybe you’re not seeing. Monarchs because they’re all in Chicago. I have seen many more Monarchs this year than ever before, including mating pairs. Every time I go out to cut more milkweed (common, which seems to be the Monarch preferred diet here), I find more eggs, even if I’m not looking.. I have also found one large and one teeny caterpillar (again, by accident when I was bringing in milkweed). My garden is in an urban area and contains four kinds of milkweed and some nectar flowers.
I’m new at this and am in CT. When you say you cut milkweed and bring it in, what do you mean and why?
Last year we had thousands of butterflies in our gardens and I grew lots of different Milkweed. This year I doubled the milkweed and so far on 1 Monarch butterfly….We are so sad and can’t believe this! We are ready to move to the country and start all over again! We live here 3 miles from the ocean in Va Bch., Va.
My experience is that I’ve seen more adult Monarchs than before (my interest started about 2010). However, in the past, I’ve observed more larva compared to 2017. My older/existing milkweed has many insects which I theorize are attacking the eggs and young larva. I find more eggs this year, but on “new” volunteer milkweed, which do not have many insects.
Good questions/data. Please keep up your efforts!
A friend said she found eggs on seedlings that were only a couple inches high.
Actually, we have seen a lot more monarchs around Rochester New York this year than usual! Many folks are reporting this. We had a female laying eggs in our yard at the beginning of June, which was very early Since we usually don’t even see monarchs until the end of June. I found 12 eggs, and released the adults about the second week of July. We’ve had monarchs flitting about since then, and two days ago, July 20 and 21 they were laying eggs! I’ve collected more than 60 so far.
But the aphids are a really big problem on the milkweed. I sure wish there was a good way to limit them. We’ve had very wet weather, a lot of rain, much more than usual. Plants and insects Are growing great! We even have a multitude of lightning bugs here in this citified suburb. All in all, it’s been a great year so far!
Thanks for having this site to inspire all of us. We have just encountered an explosion of eggs in the past two weeks. We released around 200 each of the last two years, mostly late in the year. Right now we have around 150 eggs/caterpillars and it is only July. Looks like it is going to be a great year. Our first release should be in about 10 days. Hope everybody has a great year also. Thanks again Marilyn Smith, Lake Bluff, Il.
In Houston, I’m enjoying a far better year than last. With about 75 plants, I’ve hatched 56 Monarchs in the month of July plus 2 gorgeous Giant Black Swallowtails, lost only 7.
I have some small eggs on my Asclepias, either Queens or Viceroy. I’ll have to wait and see.
I dogged my plants faithfully and managed to completely rid myself of the nasty Japanese Beetles. Killed adults, removed eggs and squashed nymphs. I’ve also managed to maintain the aphids and thrip.
Pour the water to the plants, morning and afternoon, it’s 96 feeling like 106. Few plants in direct sun, it’s too much for them.
Good luck all, the hard work is worth it. I promised God that I wouldn’t let the Monarch go extinct in my lifetime; so far so good !❤️❤️❤️
I have a question for you in Houston. Does your milkweed begin to go dormant during September when the south picks up the southern migration. Last year I ran out of good milkweed in Arkansas in late September. Wondering if I should cut some of it back for new growth?
In Southern California many of us are see major mortality in our raised caterpillars, whereas last year we released hundreds. Some due to OE and other where cats fail to thrive. We wash all clippings, clean habitats, etc. Only difference between years that is apparent was our wet winter and now presence of mosquitoes. Are others in S California having similar problems?
There are quite a few people I know in our area of Northeast Florida who are raising Monarchs. Our local Ace Hardware is very actively doing this. They make sure their plants are pesticide free. We bought two native Pink Milkweed from them 6 weeks ago. They already had eggs on them and we ended up with 18 cats. We have since had to buy 4 more Milkweed plants twice to satisfy their appetites–total 10 plants. When we were in Ace yesterday getting 4 more plants there were several Monarchs “doing their mating dance.” I have found two chrysalis this week.
~Ty for all the Great information~I’m pretty new to this~I look under the leaf of my milkweed and see 100’s of black little spots are these baby eggs? Or are they seeds~
Hi Kimberly..if the black spots are moving it could be aphids. Otherwise, maybe a fungus? I would try a good image search to see if you can ID…definitely not seeds.
Since I live near a prairie preserve and an Arboretum, I think the Monarchs go to these “all you can eat” buffets. A generation or so later, they reach a saturation point and the July generation arrives in my yard. Unfortunately, I have to see the female lay eggs and rush out to rescue as the ants, wasps and earwigs are lurking on my milkweed.
My wife and I raise monarch butterflies just outside Toronto and we have found that this year has been a banner year for monarchs. The monarchy’s in our area seem to have arrived and propagated much earlier in the year than normal. We believe this is due to the abnorminally wet months we have had thus far as milkweeds have done exceptionally well. We have experienced one negative factor only, and that is we have lost more monarchs than normal because they had been compromised by parasites before we found them.
Well I am fortunate not to have this problem and not just in our prairie space and garden but in this part of Chicago in general for whatever reasons (and its really what allowed me to get so into this in the first place). I find caterpillars regularly on more or less wild common all over the neighborhood incl. the last two amongst the plants at the public transit train station in plain view.
We have various milkweed species in our space too and will be adding more over time amongst other species via seedballs as well. But the common is the most popular by far especially fresh smaller sprigs (re. the new Monarchs and Milkeeed book and latex poisoning potential of smaller cats i have begun to wonder if perhaps this is because the fresh sprigs are less able to induce this fatal protective behavior…I can ask on the dplex and Anarag himself should respond!). I have had negative experiences with tropical around here (city plants downtown) re. late breeding-however that was also crazy in general 2015-so we dont plant it though I know they love it. I dont find I need it.
I’m having problems too. Very few caterpillars. Decrease in the number of butterflies. Too many ladybugs and monarch butterfly bugs. Haven’t seen the flies, but my eyesight is poor. But evident on caterpillars and chrysalis deaths. We had a wet winter in So. Ca. and there are many more bugs of all kinds this year. Been thinking of keeping a couple healthy butterflies in cages.
Don’t keep the butterflies in cages…collect the eggs and raise them!
lots and lots of eggs and cats. mortality low. was growing 20-30 chrysallises per month last season
but cats are not surviving well. these are mostly outdoor. southwest florida.
indoor individual much higher survival. any thoughts?
Hi Gary, in continuous growing regions OE parasites are a big issue along with predation and disease. It’s easier to control those factors indoors:
Monarch Diseases and Parasites
It is so disappointing, we have more milkweed than we have ever had in the garden, we see Monarchs every day, some are laying eggs, but the #$@%& wasps come right behind them and eat the eggs and newly hatched babies. I haven’t seen a caterpillar in weeks. We have hunted down wasp nests and destroyed them but they are still in the garden attacking. I stalk the wasps and kill them any way I can, including by hand (gloves, of course!) but they still are there. It makes me very sad.
Have you considered putting out wasp traps? I have humming bird feeders that attract the wasp but the wasp traps don’t seem to attract the humming birds.
Late last season I could fill a 4 to 6 oz trap with dead wasp in less than a week.
Cover in mosquito netting…it works for me.
You need to harvest the eggs and bring them indoors. In just 6 short weeks, you will be releasing beautiful butterflies back to the wild!
You must get between the monarch and the wasp!!
I have just started seeing the little caterpillars in the past week on my milkweed plants, but not as many as last year (here in west central Illinois) We have also been very hot and humid and too dry which very well could be affecting the sighting of caterpillars or the butterflies. Also have fewer yellow swallowtails, viceroy and other butterflies this year. Sad and concerning.
I am very discouraged; I see Monarchs every day, many of them laying eggs. We have so much milkweed that we could support hundreds of caterpillars, but the red wasps come right behind them and eat the eggs and babies. I stalk the pests and kill them when I can. We are vigilant about looking for and destroying wasp nests, but even though we don’t find any nests around, they keep coming back.
Ditto here in northern VA, Barbara. There is established, healthy, flourishing milkweed and lots of plants for adult monarchs here on our farm. We do not use pesticides of any sort. But while I am seeing quite a few adult monarchs, there are, as yet, no caterpillars that I have found. I am watching vigilantly – and hoping. It’s hot, but then it always is in July.
Yesterday it was 104° outside with a heat index of 114° here in Kansas City. However it has not been this hot until recently. I’ve not seen 5 monarchs this summer, though I have seen swallowtails. Oddly, I have yet to see any aphids on my milkweed, for the first time ever. I have healthy coneflowers, verbena bonariensis, several Mexican sunflower plants, 5 butterfly bushes, 3 swamp milkweed, liatris, 14 tropical milkweed plants etc. around my admittedly very small yard, but no luck. I’ve never seen so few monarchs in my yard, ever. ?There is an infestation of Japanese beetles here which I will treat by applying milky spore to my lawn. We don’t use sprays or pesticides. I gave up trying to raise monarchs indoors or in a cage. Oh well, maybe next year? Just trying to do my part. ??
I don’t know if this helps, but we have some very aggressive wasps and between them and the lizards/ants, it is a futile battle. I rarely find any caterpillars in the butterfly garden anymore. My solution is to plant milkweed in pots. I pop up a folding table for a week or so in a different spot. (I even will place them on my car for the day). I place milkweed plants on it and it takes the lizards/ants longer than that to figure out they are there, but the Monarchs find them very quickly! The wasps go after the caterpillars, so I bring the plants inside once they have eggs on them, we are safe! If bringing them inside isn’t an option, you can place the plant in a mesh container, inside a screened in area, whatever works for you. I found that until they are older, most caterpillars won’t leave the plant so a pot with eggs/caterpillars on a towel is fine until they are about 11-13 days old. Change the towel daily, and once they are ready to leave the plant in search of a perfect Chrysalis spot, just pop an upside down Dollar Tree hamper (cut off the extra pieces for handles). They will create a chrysalis on that and viola! Once you are done, bleach, wash and set the hamper in the sun for a few hours to assure it is safe for the next batch. So far, this is an awesome system for me. Best of luck!