Butterfly Whisperer Shares Tips For Raising Monarchs in Minnesota
You may not have noticed, but this week, we have had a LOT of monarch butterflies floating around the sky in Southeast Minnesota. This is a good thing but the honest truth is...this is one animal that might not be here in the future. There is hope though for this animal and I'm pretty sure that hope might be with the kids...because we can teach them how to save these beautiful butterflies so future generations can enjoy them too! I've got a few tips below from a butterfly whisperer too.
Rochester has several individuals that are amazing resources about monarch butterflies! I’ve had a privilege to work alongside many and learn from them...and so has my daughter. My daughter is really the reason why monarchs take over parts of our deck in the spring and summer months but to be honest, the entire family plays a part now. We have watched hundreds of monarchs go from the egg to butterfly stages and *special talent alert!!!* we can all find a monarch egg in seconds.
Here are a few tips that we’ve gathered that might be helpful if you are wanting to raise a monarch this summer!
Tips On Raising Monarch Butterflies
Finding eggs. This is a lot easier than it sounds but you've got to know what to look for, when and where.
- What: the eggs are pretty small but the monarch usually will lay them under the leaves on the milkweed plants. Sometimes, it doesn't make it there and you will find them in odd places, like on the flower or on top of a leaf. (check out the pictures below to see what an egg looks like or at this link)
- When: There are times when the monarchs are laying more than others. We have found eggs in the wild in May all the way until the end of August/early September. (Right now...there are a lot of eggs out there!). If you see a monarch in the sky, you can probably find an egg.
- Where: Look for places with milkweed plants. Vacant lots that aren't being built on yet are great locations! Edges of parks, including Silver Lake, and in ditches are other great spots. (There are also some milkweed plants on 1st Ave. by People's Food Co-op!) Check out the pictures of the two popular milkweed plants can be found in the area that monarchs love to land on.
Caterpillar Stage. This is a fun one because the book "The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar" is pretty much on point. Caterpillars might be tiny and small at the start but they get huge...and fast.
- What they eat: milkweed. That is all they need so keep a stash handy by either planting some in your yard (recommended if you plan on raising a lot!) or be ok with being on the search for fresh milkweed every day while they are in this stage. You can put some milkweed in a bag and store in the fridge for a few days too to help keep them fresh!
- Container: We have used jars, bug containers, plastic cups but our favorite is a mesh laundry basket. It's a few dollars at the store and thanks to a tip from a friend, we cut the side and just velcro it shut. So easy to open and close!
- Do they shed? Yep...you might notice that the caterpillar will get quieter and might even appear to be dead. It's almost like it is taking a little break. Don't worry! It is working really hard to shed its skin.
- The poop: Yes...what goes in must go out and caterpillars leave behind some poop that needs to get cleaned up.
- Why are they in a "J"? This is where things get really exciting because your caterpillar is getting ready for its biggest job yet...it is ready to be a butterfly.
The beautiful butterfly!
- Caution: wet wings! While the butterfly is making its way into the world, the wings are wet. It will take some time for it to dry and you will see it flap its wings to make that happen.
- Food: If you are planning on keeping the butterfly for a little bit, you don't have a lot of time before it needs to go out and fly and lay eggs, but you can give it some food. One of the easiest ways is to put out some slices of oranges or just put in some clippings of flowers.
- The release party: When you are all ready to say goodbye...the butterfly won't be able to verbally say "thank you" but know that when you let the butterfly go from your finger, all of the monarch family is saying thanks for caring for one of their babies.