Raising a Monarch
In the wild, monarch eggs and larvae have a small chance of survival with only 10% of eggs reaching adulthood. By raising a monarch at home, you can bring the outdoors inside for a fun activity for the whole family while helping an entire species! Kids will have the opportunity to learn about life stages of a monarch while responsibly caring for another being.
The entire process takes 14-28 days.
What you’ll need:
- A large ventilated jar or container, clean fish bowl, or aquarium
- Access to fresh, untreated milkweed
Step by Step:
Step 1: Find the milkweed
Search for milkweed in your yard or a nearby park and look for eggs or larvae on the leaves. Eggs and larvae are usually found on the underside of leaves or on buds and flowers near the top of the plant. Once you find a leaf with an egg or larvae, remove the entire leaf and transport it safely into your home.
Step 2: Make a home
Place the leaf in a container with a damp paper towel at the bottom, egg- or larvae-side down. Set the container in natural light away from the direct sun. Place a ventilated lid, screen, or mesh covering on the container. Eggs only take 4 days to hatch and caterpillars form a chrysalis within two weeks.
Step 3: Feed your larvae and clean the container regularly
Keep an eye on the container and clean it regularly first by removing and setting aside the leaf with the caterpillar on it. Dump out the remaining contents of the container including the damp paper towel. Wipe down the jar with a wet rag or paper towel and replace the damp paper towel at the bottom. Gather fresh, untreated milkweed, rinse it off and place it in the clean jar. Once the caterpillar has moved to the fresh milkweed leaf, discard the wilted leaf.
Note: caterpillars can eat up to 200x their weight in milkweed so it is important to give them a fresh supply to keep them growing!
Step 4: Caring for the chrysalis
Once the caterpillar reaches its 5th molting stage, it will climb to the top or side of the container and create a chrysalis. Note: Do not move the chrysalis or a motionless caterpillar because they are likely preparing for or recovering from a molt. The caterpillar does not need more milkweed or for its container to be cleaned at this stage. Watch what happens as the chrysalis begins to turn colors and the caterpillar begins to turn into a butterfly!
Step 5: Release your butterfly
The chrysalis will turn clear before the adult butterfly emerges. Once this happens, it is important not to touch the butterfly for at least 5 hours so their wings can dry. When the butterfly’s wings begin to flutter, it’s time to let it go…but check the weather first! If a storm is on the horizon, you may need to move the butterfly to a larger cage or place in an upside-down laundry basket until calmer weather returns. When you’re ready, choose a location and set it free!
Visit www.saveourmonarchs.org for more information. Like this activity? Check out our lesson page for more activities for the whole family to enjoy!