First Time Raising Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies are the most wildly known butterfly in North America, perhaps in the world. Otherwise only living for a few weeks, the last generation of the year being a “super” Monarch generation, journies to the mountain forests of Mexico for the winter. Each spring they begin their migration back to the United States and Canada.

About a month ago I noticed our first Monarch butterfly of the year in our front garden. It was the only one I had seen (in the wild) this entire spring. Monarch butterflies only lay eggs on milkweed as it is the only plant that a Monarch caterpillar can eat. I have milkweed mixed in with my pollinator plants all over our property and in my flower beds. Sure enough, she did me a huge favor and laid some eggs.

How To: Create a Butterfly Habitat in Your Yard

I was able to collect around 20 eggs, twelve of which hatched. It was so fun watching them grow bigger and bigger. The book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is correctly named. Holy smokes they can burn through a lot of milkweed, especially in the last week.

Here is a video of them crawling around and eating milkweed.

Out of the twelve that hatched, I only lost one little caterpillar who curled up and died, which left eleven. All others made it into the chrysalis stage. Out of those, I only lost one due to black death (or something similar).

Here is a video of on Monarch caterpillar pupating and getting ready to form its chrysalis. This video is fast forwarded x8.

Here is a video of Monarch butterflies emerging from their chrysalis. This video is sped up.

So far six have successfully “eclosed,” hardened off their wings and flew away. After they emerge, they must have at least one hour for their wings to dry and expand.

Five out of the six that have emerged and left, were male Monarch butterflies. I’ve only had one female so far. The above is one of the males that has emerged.

I just can’t believe how truly beautiful they are. I’ve never seen one up close and so fresh out of the chrysalis. They are a sight to behold.

This male sat opening and closing his wings for around 30 minutes. He was definitely not camera shy and I got a lot of great photos!

This was my only girl (below). She never did open her wings for my to take photos of and then flew off in a flurry!

Female Monarch butterfly.

I have four more chrysalis that are about a week behind so I’ll be sure to update you on how those go as well.

After a few more rounds, I will create a blog on how to raise them. Until then make sure to check out the following resources:

Monarch Butterfly Garden
All About Monarchs: How to Attract, Raise, & Release Monarch Butterflies
How to Raise Monarch Butterflies – A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids

Also, these are EVERYWHERE right now on the farm. They love the gravel road and our brick retaining wall, along with our brick house. Any place warm that they can hang out or get a dirty drink. I looked them up in my butterfly identification book and believe it is a Red Admiral, in the brushfoot family (same family of the Monarch). They are actually featured on the cover!

“Males are especially pugnacious, darting out at almost anything crossing their territory, even humans!”

Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by Jim P. Brock & Kenn Kaufman

Their host plants are nettles, false nettles, pellitories and related plants. We definitely have a lot of nettles here on the farm so that makes sense!

What butterflies have you see in your yard?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    Great work, Melissa! You must be excited to have launched these babies out into the world. 🙂

  2. susurrus says:

    Well done! We have small black and red cinnabar moths and I’m expecting to be overrun by caterpillars at some stage. I don’t think we’ll have enough food for them, so I am standing by to relocate some of them.

    1. Melissa Peterson says:

      I had to Google that one, wow!! They are beautiful.

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