Is Your Caterpillar Cage Killing Monarch Butterflies?
Over the past 40 years raising monarch butterflies, I’ve tried many different cages to help guide them along from tiny monarch egg to mighty monarch butterfly.
While many cage options are somewhat effective, the majority leave the door open for the unnecessary hardship of losing your monarch butterflies before their time. Poorly designed cages are the catalyst for escapes and disease outbreaks which could ultimately kill your caterpillars or cripple your butterflies.
While fancy DIY cages may be more visually appealing, they can contribute to monarch disease/death in the following ways:
- Difficult to clean properly, which could lead to disease outbreaks
- Some are not designed for Houdini-like caterpillar escapes
- Many raise caterpillars and butterflies together inside these cages. OE disease spores fall off the butterflies’ wings and down to the caterpillars’ milkweed, spreading the deadly parasites to the next generation.
Which Caterpillar Cage Ideas Minimize Monarch Loss?
There are basically two types of caterpillar cages I use for rearing monarch butterflies. By using these cages, we never lose monarchs…or lose them to disease!
1. Plastic Food Storage Container for Monarch Eggs
Line the bottom of the container with a paper towel and place leaf pieces with eggs inside. Spray the leaves lightly w/ water every other day. Secure the lid. No air holes are necessary, as checking on eggs daily provides more than enough oxygen.
Do not place these in direct ☀️.
Food storage containers are a fantastic hatchery and milkweed stays fresh in this humid climate.
9” x 9” x 3h” (9 cup) and 11” x 8” x 3h” (9.6 cup pictured above) are two container sizes we use regularly.
Make sure you spread out the eggs to protect them from wandering baby caterpillars…we put about 20 monarch eggs in the 11″ container.
You can find a wide assortment of food storage containers at most big box stores or look for large food container hatchery options here:
After the baby monarch caterpillars emerge, I place the a small caterpillar-occupied leaf piece on a fresh large milkweed leaf or cutting, and place it inside one of the next cages, where there is better air flow…
If you are able to bring in monarch eggs on stem cuttings, you can forgo the food containers and place the cuttings in a larger mesh cage:
The following are our preferred raising cages for a few reasons…
2. Mesh Pop-up Butterfly Cages
- Breathable mesh cage keeps air flowing and humidity levels down for healthy caterpillar growth
- Clean cage without disturbing chrysalises in a side-opening caterpillar cage
- Small caterpillars can’t escape tiny mesh holes
- Mesh sides can receive direct sun without ‘cooking’ the caterpillars
- No dangerous nooks and crannys like laundry hamper pop-ups
- Clean frass (poop) with keyboard vacuum or use the poo poo platter
- Use as a butterfly cage to release butterflies or keep during inclement weather
- Use a 5% bleach solution to clean cage between batches
- rinse out, then sun dry
Using these monarch butterfly cages, my survival rate is consistently over 95% and I never have issues losing caterpillars to daring escapes or deadly disease. 💀
These cages should help make your raising efforts more successful too!
Learn more about my raising process in Bring Home the Butterflies 2: