We had a very productive last summer. We raised and released 48 Monarch butterflies. We took in 50 eggs but only 48 made it to butterflies. The whole process was much more time consuming than beekeeping. To prevent disease, we changed Milkweed leaves and cleaned the nursery tanks daily. Once the last butterfly fluffed it wings out in the garden, a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction kicked in. Even if just one butterfly made it through the winter to produce a new generation is better than none.
We started with bringing in Monarch eggs. Searching under Common Milkweed leaves for them and cutting them off the plant.
We only bring the egg in because the caterpillar stage may have some parasitic insect egg injected in them. Some wasps are known for this.
At the caterpillar stage, a caterpillar will eat until it reach a point that it needs to molt. It will stop eating and not move until it molts. Then it will resume eating again until it grows big, ready for the chrysalis stage.
Once a caterpillar is ready to pupate, it will walk around looking for a place to attached itself and turn to chrysalis. Most of our caterpillars attached themselves to the top screen cover but some attached under leaves. One escape artist managed to squeeze out from the tank, walked up the bay window and attached itself to the window sill near the ceiling.
Once they find a place, they spin a silk anchor patch, attach themselves and hang down in a ‘J’ shape hanging there for a day before turning into a chrysalis.
Hopefully some of their children will come by this summer and we can help them raise their young again.
We also put together a short video of the whole process Enjoy here: https://youtu.be/HP3hu4m93nQ