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Monarch butterfly caterpillar

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I was out in my garden this morning and saw something I thought might be milkweed so I broke off the top part of the stem to see if it bled. Sure enough it did. After I broke it off I noticed a tiny little caterpillar on one of the top leaves. It certainly looks like the monarch butterfly caterpillar pictures I am finding online.

 

I am wondering if we can keep the caterpillar to watch its transformation as we did years ago with a painted lady butterfly kit, or if this would be unhealthy for it and I should find it a milkweed plant outside somewhere with nice tender leaves? Unfortunately the one in my garden is small and the bit I broke off had the only young leaves; I think it will put out more eventually but it would not be good for caterpillar food at the moment. I have seen other plants around the neighborhood and could either put the caterpillar on one or harvest new leaves to feed it at home.

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We just did this! Definitely not unhealthy for them and it was a lot of fun. The caterpillars get much bigger than the painted ladies and the chrysalides are gorgeous. If you think you can get enough leaves, I'd definitely keep it inside.

 

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We also did this 2 years in a row. It was so fun to watch the caterpillar grow and we were lucky enough to watch one actually emerge from its chrysalis which was just amazing. When we released it, it didn't fly away right away, just sat on my kids hands, so I got some great pictures!

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We just did this! Definitely not unhealthy for them and it was a lot of fun. The caterpillars get much bigger than the painted ladies and the chrysalides are gorgeous. If you think you can get enough leaves, I'd definitely keep it inside.

 

 

We also did this 2 years in a row. It was so fun to watch the caterpillar grow and we were lucky enough to watch one actually emerge from its chrysalis which was just amazing. When we released it, it didn't fly away right away, just sat on my kids hands, so I got some great pictures!

 

Glad to hear others have had success with raising monarchs. Our little guy has been happily munching away all day :) I walked around the neighborhood and located two stands of milkweed plants I can collect leaves from. Actually, I'll probably go dig up some small plants as well to transplant to our yard. 

 

It's funny, when I saw that plant this morning I immediately thought "milkweed!" but didn't trust myself because that recognition was based on very long-ago memories. When I was small (under ten) we had a huge garden and milkweed grew prolifically in and around it--it was a tough weed to dig out, which is why I remember it! We did have monarch butterflies around but no-one ever taught me to look for the caterpillars.

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Lucky you! We have "adopted" monarch caterpillars the last 3 summers, and it is so much fun! We haven't found any yet this year. It will actually be safer with you raising it; the majority of monarch caterpillars don't make it to butterfly in the wild.

 

As long as you have a milkweed source, you should be in good shape! Those little caterpillars eat a surprising amount! Fresh milkweed is best, but it also can keep in the refrigerator for a while. Also make sure that any milkweed you pick from the neighborhood hasn't been sprayed with pesticide.

 

It would be good for the kids to learn about their molting cycle. My kids were heartbroken because they were convinced our caterpillar was dead, but we learned it was getting ready to molt and the best thing we could do was to leave it alone.

 

It is always interesting to see where they choose to go when it is time for the final stage into the chrysalis. We found some great sticks thinking that is where they would "anchor" itself, but all of our caterpillars preferred hanging on the "cage" itself (which was a mesh spaghetti strainer turned upside down). It turned out to be a great way to watch the progression, though!

 

I hope you find more caterpillars! You should carefully check any milkweed plants for eggs and/or caterpillar. One time we discovered a freshly hatched caterpillar in our cage......there must have been an egg on one of the milkweed leaves. Sadly, he/she didn't survive past its second molt.

 

Enjoy your monarch!

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We had a pet Monarch last year. Rather than harvesting individual leaves, I cut the top portion of the plant and put it in a small vase. I recut the bottom every few days, just like you do with flowers, it stayed fresh quite a while. I also put plastic wrap secured with a rubber band across the top of the vase, poke the plant through, so the catapiller wouldn't fall in and drown. You could also use a small spice bottle or a glass, etc. When he got pretty fat, we added a small sturdier stick with horizontal branches so he could attach his crysalis.

 

Right now we have two Black Swallowtail catapillers I found munching on the dill in my garden. They are now happily residing on a bouquet of dill and parsley :-)

 

Have fun!

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We raised monarch caterpillars several summers in a row. We don't have a good milkweed supply at the moment (and I have no luck growing any of my own in my yard). It was a great experience. We had a nice plastic shoe box with a hole cut in the middle and covered by a screen that we used as a "house" for them a couple of the years. When we just had the milkweed in a vase, we did have one "wander off" and we had to find where it went! When they are ready to make their chrysalis they get a bit of wanderlust sometimes looking for the right spot I guess. I heard from a friend though that if you put a dry stick I'm with the milkweed they will usually make their chrysalis on the stick.

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How fun!!! We did the kit once before, might do it again next year. Have fun with your little guy! I love their life process/transformation 😃

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Glad to hear others have had success with raising monarchs. Our little guy has been happily munching away all day :) I walked around the neighborhood and located two stands of milkweed plants I can collect leaves from. Actually, I'll probably go dig up some small plants as well to transplant to our yard. 

 

It's funny, when I saw that plant this morning I immediately thought "milkweed!" but didn't trust myself because that recognition was based on very long-ago memories. When I was small (under ten) we had a huge garden and milkweed grew prolifically in and around it--it was a tough weed to dig out, which is why I remember it! We did have monarch butterflies around but no-one ever taught me to look for the caterpillars.

 

 

So we do this every year and we have a bunch of milkweed growing in our front flower garden so we can collect them as eggs.  (They are easier to find as eggs than caterpillars.)  When you pick the milkweed, cut off about 6 inches of the plant, pluck the lower leaves, and then take a container, like a small sour cream or yogurt or cottage cheese container.  Put the lid ON, make a small X on the lid, then force the stem through the lid into the cup with water.  It will keep the milkweed upright and fresh.  Don't pick too many - they really like fresh, green leaves best.  This prevents from drowning themselves as well. You'll replace this about every 2-3 days.  Though, obviously, sometimes they choose badly as to where to make a chrysallis.

 

 

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So, we use a tank with a screen on top because they like to climb to the top and then hang from it for a chrysallis.  

 

 

monarchtank_zpsr3mmlvyz.jpg

 

We learned how to do this from our nature center, so ask away.  We've been doing it for years.  If you have the opportunity to identify and collect them as eggs it is the best case scenario.  There is a parasitic wasp that likes to lay it's larva onto the catepillar and it's really disgusting to deal with - your catepillar is consumed from the inside out.  While quite the learning experience (gag) it really is a little traumatic.  Or at least it was for me, some of my kids thought it was fascinating.  (Gag again.) 

 

ETA: You also might want to line the bottom of any container, tank, etc., with newspaper. Those little caterpillars can poop a shocking amount.

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