Raising Monarch Butterflies
Monarchs Need Milkweed
Monarch caterpillars ONLY eat milkweed. In fact, the monarch butterfly is also known as the “milkweed butterfly.”
The female Monarch butterfly will lay her eggs on the milkweed plant. When the egg hatches the milkweed plant provides all the nourishment the monarch needs to transform the Monarch caterpillar into the adult butterfly.
WITHOUT MILKWEED WE WILL NO LONGER HAVE THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY.
But these plants are rapidly disappearing, due to the loss of habitat stemming from land development and the widespread spraying of weed killer on the fields where they live.
This is why it is important for local gardeners like your self to incorporate Milkweed into your garden. By planting milkweed and pollinator plants you are creating a "habitat" for not only the Monarch Butterfly but ALL pollinators. You will see your garden come alive with honey bees, bumble bees and many other butterfly species.
Wild or Cage raise?
It's really up to you. Monarchs raised in the wild suffer the consequences of predators and elements but that is nature. If you cage raise you must be diligent about keeping your cage clean and milkweed plentiful and healthy.
No matter which method you choose, NEVER use pesticides or chemicals to remove "pests". Remember - the Monarch Caterpillar has to eat the leaves for food! You will kill the caterpillar if it eats chemicals. Sometimes you may see aphids. Just check your plant for caterpillars and remove them to a safe container for a minute. Give your milkweed plants a nice wash with a strong stream of water and knock off the aphids, then place the caterpillars back on the plants.
Cage Raising Monarchs
If cage raising is something you would like to try the survival success rate of the Monarch from egg to butterfly is much, much higher. Cage raised Monarchs have about 90% success rate egg to butterfly if you are diligent about keeping your cage CLEAN and not overcrowded. Wild Monarchs have a much lower success rate, somewhere between 5-10% but that is the nature of things. While the success rate for cage raised is much higher for cage raising, it will require some work on your end. If cage raising is something you would like to do, here are some things to take into consideration.
Purchase a Butterfly Habit Rearing Cage
Plant some Milkweed in planter bags for easy cage raising and growing health of plant. Planter bags also work GREAT if you don't have much garden space available. They ALSO allow you to bring plants indoors during winter to keep tender Tropical milkweed alive, thus overwintering your plants for BIG BIG plants the next year. WIN- WIN!
Download this AMAZING "Raising Monarch Butterflies" PDF Book for EVERYTHING you need to know!
Cage Raising Monarch Butterflies
Tropical Milkweed Fact/Fiction:
Is tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) bad for monarchs? What is the Xerces Society’s position on this milkweed species?
Tropical milkweed is not native to the U.S. but is sold by many plant nurseries and is frequently planted in gardens. It is used as a host plant by monarchs (and other milkweed-associated butterflies) both where it has been introduced in the States and where it naturally occurs beyond U.S. borders. Yet, preliminary research suggests that tropical milkweed’s presence in the U.S., particularly at southern latitudes (south Texas & Florida - NOT ARKANSAS), may encourage monarchs to lay eggs outside of their regular breeding season, thus disrupting their migratory cycle (Batalden & Oberhauser 2015), and increase the prevalence of monarch infection by the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, commonly referred to as “OE” (Satterfield et al. 2015). These potential negative impacts on monarchs stem from the fact that tropical milkweed may have foliage year-round when it grows where winters are mild and adequate moisture is available (such as in the Gulf States and parts of California - NOT ARKANSAS). In contrast, the majority of native U.S. milkweeds are summer or fall-deciduous and do not have foliage during late fall and winter. Though tropical milkweed potentially remains evergreen when growing in the southern U.S. (south Texas & Florida - NOT ARKANSAS), in regions where winter temperatures frequently fall below freezing, such as in the upper mid south to northeastern U.S., tropical milkweed behaves as an annual species and is typically frost-killed. When this occurs, tropical milkweed does not have foliage during the winter and there is no potential for parasite spores to build up on the plants. To mimic this effect and prevent harm to monarch health, people who live in the southern U.S. and who already have tropical milkweed in their gardens are advised to cut the plants back to the ground during early fall.