Thursday, November 15, 2007

Raising Monarchs

Soon after we moved here a friend gave us a milkweed plant and instructions for "raising" monarchs. (Thank you Mark!) For any of you who would like to do the same here is what we did:

First plant a milkweed plant in a pot, so you can bring it indoors. Our local nurseries sell milkweed but it can also be grown very easily from seed (I've got tons of seeds–I'd be happy to mail them to anyone interested!) Then you just check the plant every few days until you see a couple eggs. Apparently these eggs are very tiny (about the size of a period on a page) and white. I never saw the eggs. One day I just noticed several tiny (and I mean tiny!) caterpillars about the length of a piece of rice but half the diameter.

Once there are eggs or caterpillars bring the plant indoors so it will be protected and so you can watch this amazing process. The caterpillars start off slowly, but after about a week they are voracious eaters. We had 11 caterpillars and they went through 4 medium sized milkweed plants. I had to go buy new plants twice!

After 10-14 days they will leave the milkweed, climb up another available tall thing, and form their chrysalis. This was amazing. They moult their skin and underneath is an emerald green chrysalis with gold spots. The chrysalis then has to attach itself to a small "button" it formed as a caterpillar. It is fascinating. A very good site to see this is

Finally after 10-12 days the chrysalises become dark and transparent, you can actually see the butterfly inside. Then they hatch very quickly. They are all shriveled up and have to pump up their wings. After resting for a couple hours, they fly away.

This was so much fun for the kids, and really easy. I highly recommend it. We will surely do it again next summer!

No comments: