Saving the Monarch Butterflies 101
So you want to start a little Monarch butterfly farm. You have come to the right place. I've been helping Mother Nature raise Monarch butterflies since the pandemic started in March 2020. As everyone remembers we were on lock down and these little caterpillars I've found helped eased staying at home. I strictly only raise Monarchs as I have access to the their source of food. Other moths and butterflies may or may not have different diets.
Butterflies, and their caterpillar forms are very fragile creatures. In the wild their life span is about 2-6 weeks. Yes, I said WEEKS. Not to mention butterflies and caterpillars easily become the victim of small birds, and the Tachinid flies. (I will further discuss the Tachinid fly in another post, keep an eye out for it.)
"Butterflies are the heaven sent kisses of an angel"
Some items you may want to purchase or have access to:
-The need to raise butterflies :)
-Milkweed plant - caterpillars source of food, the bigger the caterpillar, the faster it eats the leaf. (I normally see this tree in Elementary schools. I try not to trespass, nor am I recommending you to.. but some trees do branch out of the school property and I pick those if possible.) Milkweed is also a plant you could find at your local plant store.
This is also the plant you will need to look for to find eggs and caterpillars.
I recommend to get a few.
1st enclosure could be for the eggs. If you decide to raise caterpillars from the very beginning, is very much up to you. When caterpillars first hatch they eat their egg shell and are a little difficult to see. Search very carefully if the egg is no longer on the leaf. (Note: caterpillars will eat the other eggs if it's on their source of food, hence my recommendation of separating the levels.)
2nd enclosure could be for the growing caterpillars. (If you want to separate the bigger caterpillars to get them ready for their chrysalis process is also up to you.
3rd enclosure will be for separating the new emerged butterfly from their chrysalis. For that, I recommend a bigger netted enclosure for fluttering around. The less butterflies in one the better. Reason for that is because their wings are very fragile and once bent or ripped it is NOT fixable and it jeopardizes their time before even being released.
-White sugar and water. If you must hold on to the butterflies more than a day due to bad weather or darkness has hit (they cannot see in the dark and would be prone to be eaten), prepare in a small dish 1 part sugar and 4 parts warm water to melt. You can leave it in the enclosure for the butterflies to fend for themselves Or I normally dip a finger in the mixture then offer one butterfly at a time by putting my finger under their body. Butterfly will hold on and their proboscis (basically their snout of a mouth) would brush against your sugar infused finger and suck the sugar water away,
Butterflies are very mesmerizing creatures, and as much as people would love to keep them as pets. DONT. Like I mentioned above, their lifespan is only about 2-6 weeks. Their purpose is pollenating and to mate with other butterflies to lay eggs. Then the whole process begins again. Instead of keeping the butterflies, which does no help...let them be free and save the eggs or caterpillars. Mother Nature will thank you.