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First Monarch Eggs

Posted by jibd 6 (My Page) on
Sun, Jul 31, 11 at 19:02

Hi all,

Just now I found monarch eggs on my tropical and purple milkweeds! This is the first time I've found eggs of any kind, as this is my first year butterfly gardening. Since I've never done this before, I have some questions!

First, I'll be ordering a butterfly rearing tent, but I wasn't happy with the ones on amazon, since they seemed pretty small (11 by 11). Where do you guys buy them? Second, do I do anything special with the eggs? I don't want them to get eaten by anything, but I'm afraid that if I bring the leaves they're on inside that the leaves will shrivel up before the eggs hatch. Lastly, how do you guys feed the cats? My purple milkweeds are still all under a foot tall since I grew them from seed, so I'll be feeding them with swamp milkweed and tropical milkweed, which I have plenty of. Do I cut off portions of the plants and put them in water in the enclosure? I'd really appreciate hearing about other people's set ups.

I'm really very excited, as these will be my first caterpillars to raise! Here's a pic or two of the eggs on the Asclepias purpurascens:

And here are some pics of the butterfly that stopped by a few days ago, most likely the mom.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: First Monarch Eggs

Congratulations and welcome to a new addiction. Every one has their own preferred system for raising caterpillars. I prefer to keep the eggs and smaller cats in small tupperware containers without any holes. That keeps the moisture in, but doesn't risk the cats drowning in water. I just put fresh leaves of any type of clean milkweed in each day and clean out any frass (poop). Once the cats get about an inch long, then they can be put into a bigger, mesh container with potted plants where they can finish growing and pupate.


RE: First Monarch Eggs

Congrats on the eggs!
I've given you a link to the place where I order my butterfly cages. They're actually meant for reptiles, but they work wonderfully for caterpillars.
When I raise monarchs, I let them stay on the plants until they get beyond the hatchling stage - I've never experienced any loss of cats at that small size. Of course, there's always a first time! :( Then, if they're on tropical milkweed, I just put the leaves in the cage with the cats on it. I don't use water picks or leftover containers to keep the leaves or branches fresh in water, because tropical MW oozes its "milk" in the water, and the leaf is left flat. If I find the cats on honeyvine/Cynanchum laeve, I use water picks.

Others can give you much more info about raising monarchs. I usually only get one batch a year, usually in late summer or fall. Others also have different set-ups that may work better for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Reptariums

RE: First Monarch Eggs

How exciting Jibd! It is very fun raising them up inside. I prefer to collect the eggs, and either pick off the whole leaf, or cut out a portion of the leaf with the egg on it, and bring them inside. I lay the leaves on a damp napkin on the bottom of a Gladware container. The napkin is damp only, not wet or sopping, and this seems to keep the leaves from drying out too quickly.

I watch the eggs frequently, to make sure the napkin stays damp, the leaves don't mold, and watch for when the eggs will hatch. The egg starts to darken when the little cat will hatch. When they hatch I put a fresh tender milkweed tip for them to crawl too. If they don't have a fresh leaf they may wander and get lost or go eat the other eggs.

Here's a link to another thread that might be helpful for you. I posted a few pictures of my setup to this thread.

Here is a link that might be useful: Please post pics of host plant setup

RE: First Monarch Eggs

Thanks for that link. I think I will try your method next time I have monarch eggs. I had a really tough go of it this spring when all my monarch babies died. So so sad. I'm hoping for another chance. (I have successfully raised them earlier this year and last year as well, so don't know what happened with the 2nd batch this year?)


RE: First Monarch Eggs

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Mon, Aug 1, 11 at 10:43

My method for hand-rearing monarch cats is done in one quart glass canning jars, one caterpillar per jar. I use swamp milkweed leaves(A. incarnata) for food, and the leaves are washed under a stream of cold water, and dried with a paper towel, before they are fed to the caterpillar. The leaf stem is kept in a very small "bottle-cap" water source, on the bottom of the jar. When the cats reaches 4th instar, a piece of fiberglass screen is used to cover the jar, held down with a rubber band. Usually, the caterpillar will crawl up to the screen when it is ready to form a chrysalis. The jars are washed with hot water, and dried, daily. Sometimes more often. This is the best way to raise healthy butterflies, in my experience. I only raise a few each year, generally less than 10.

RE: First Monarch Eggs

Thanks everybody! All the eggs have hatched, and I took in one caterpillar. I have a question though. At the hatchling stage, can the cats be switched from one food source to another? I'd like to ween them off of purple milkweed and onto tropical milkweed. I tried giving the one I took in a tropical milkweed leaf today, but it just ate some of it and went back to the purple milkweed leaf. I'll be going away for a few days and would like to move the cats onto the tropical milkweed on my deck if I can. When I get back this is what I think I'll do: I'll cut off some tropical or swamp milkweed stems and put them in plastic water bottles with saran wrap around the opening, and I'll keep these in a butterfly rearing tent a few feet high. I'll have two cats per water bottle set-up. How does this sound?

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