If you want to raise Monarch Butterflies, they are a little tricky. I know because we have been trying for two seasons now. Being the host of CoolToys, it might seem a bit odd that I would want to raise Monarch Butterflies. So let me explain.
Growing up in Southern California in the 70’s, you couldn’t see the mountains most of the year because of the smog. Today I get to appreciate them every day. The activity of surfing also implied the activity of tar removal from your feet the beaches were so littered with tar balls. My parents divorced when I was a young teenager and I spent a couple of years in Oakhurst, California where I learned to appreciate nature. I remember when the helicopters would spray at night to eliminate mosquitos. I expect all the pesticides we used may be part of why I haven’t been blessed with children.
Butterflies are considered an “indicator” species. I am told this means that if you have butterflies, you have a healthy environment. Three years ago when we were replanting our severely overgrown front yard, we decided to add milkweed to help raise Monarch Butterflies. The interesting thing is that the milkweed plant has several varieties and some actually cause problems with the Butterflies.
Once we found what we though to be the correct Milkweed, we planted it along with some “hot lips” salviva and the Monarch butterflies came. So did the hummingbirds and every other bird. We were pretty proud of our little hummingbird and butterfly garden until the end of the summer when the milkweed seed pods opened up. The things make a huge sticky mess. More importantly the milkweed grew to completely cover our walkway. We didn’t trim it as we were told it could be hosting eggs or caterpillars. We didn’t see a single one that first year.
Last year it was more of the same but the milk weed got so unruly that we decided to replant. Our hope in trying to raise monarch butterflies was that we could actually see something. Just about the time I decided to start digging last year we found our first and only caterpillar. He eventually wandered about 50 feet away and hung himself just outside of my office window and created his chrysalis. That cemented the deal for my wife, even if we helped only one, we were keeping the milkweed so we could try and raise monarch butterflies.
Apparently word spreads slowly in the Monarch butterfly communities, but once it goes it goes. Very early this year we woke up to find our Milkweed turned into sticks by 13 little caterpillars. We bought more at the local home store, but we assume the home store or its supplier sprayed the Milkweed because the four monarch caterpillars that wandered on to the new plants all died within a day.
We discovered a website that called the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars “piggypillers” because of how much they eat and how quickly they devour a Milkweed plant. Another website showed that they can have up to ten generations born in a single season before migrating back to Mexico. Hopefully they can make it over the wall.
Over the next week, two things happened. First, more Monarchs showed up and left eggs on the new Milkweed, and second the little caterpillars started to make a run for it. We were able to capture a few and convince them to make their chrysalis in our little reptile cage. A few we can’t find and one turned up on a brand new pillow on the chair just outside my office. Something about my office these guys like.
So far our little experiment to raise Monarch Butterflies looks like a success, we’ll see how it goes for the rest of the summer. One word of warning, they will eat their own eggs, so if you want to raise Monarch butterflies, make sure to cut of the leaf and bring the eggs inside. Oh and be ready to feed the little things when they hatch.