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by Tony Gomez

12 months ago

Raising Butterflies Blog

8 Ways to Serve Monarch Caterpillar Food with Milkweed Cuttings- Feed Hungry Caterpillars

Milkweed Stem Cuttings are the 'Just Right Goldilocks Option' for Feeding Hungry Monarch Caterpillars. The Why and the How to feed them...

12 months ago


By Tony Gomez

Monarch caterpillar food ideas- 8 Ways to make milkweed last longer by using milkweed leaf and stem cuttings.

by Tony Gomez

12 months ago

Since monarchs only dine on milkweed, you’d think presenting them with monarch caterpillar food would be simple, but…

Milkweed meals served the wrong way could mean more work for you and an increased chance for monarch diseases. Why not raise monarchs to truly thrive? Discover the simple solution we use for keeping milkweed fresh for days, that also keeps caterpillars from crawling around in potentially disease-causing frass. (poop)

Monarch caterpillar food ideas- 5 Ways to make milkweed last longer by using milkweed lead and stem cuttings.

Milkweed stem cuttings can be taken in a variety of sizes, and placed in a variety of containers filled with water. Here are 8 options we use to help raise our monarchs with a consistent 95% survival rate.

Find the proceeding tools for serving monarch caterpillar food and other suggested raising supplies on our Top Raising Tools & Resources Page

1. Floral Tubes w/ Milkweed Stem Cuttings + Rack Holder (our preferred way of feeding caterpillars)

Floral Tubes &  Holder Rack for Milkweed Cuttings- Raising Butterflies Supplies
Floral Tube Set Up
  • Use a boot tray to carry the cuttings containers/caterpillars to a sink
  • Fill the floral tubes with water and put the caps on
  • Use a sharp pruner to take milkweed cuttings at a 45° angle for optimal water absorption.
  • Take small cuttings (at least 3 sets of leaves) to midsize cuttings (up to 2 feet) cuttings. The cutting size you use will depend on milkweed availability, cage size, and caterpillar size.
  • Rinse off the cuttings thoroughly under a faucet including both top and bottom of leaves
  • Nick the sides of what will be the submerged stem (in 2-3 places) with a hand pruner to increase water entry and prevent wilting.
  • Stick the cutting through the hole in the lid of your tubes
  • Space out the floral tubes/picks in a floral tube rack (or find another way to keep them upright and secure)
  • If cutting looks wilted after a few hours, try recutting at the bottom of the stem

Still suffering from wilted cuttings? 🥀 😠

  • Take milkweed stem cuttings and place them in a glass filled with about 2″ of hot tap water for about 3-5 minutes before placing them in floral tubes or cutting containers or
  • Take Smaller Cuttings
use milkweed cuttings- an easier way to feed monarch caterpillars and keep milkweed fresh

Click Here for Floral Tubes + Rack Holders 🌿🐛

1a. Little Hole LIDS for Small Milkweed Cuttings

Little Hole Lids for Small Milkweed Cuttings and Leaf Cuttings. Prevent Baby Caterpillar Drownings

If you're using thin-stemmed host plants or leaf cuttings, make sure to include these yellow lids with small holes to prevent accidental 👼  caterpillar drownings. These lids are fitted for our FAT CAT Floral Tubes:

Find Little Hole Lids for FAT CAT Large Floral Tubes Here  (these will not fit on most other tubes so make sure to get our FAT CAT tubes if you purchase these)

2. Floral Picks w/ Stem Cuttings, Egg Carton, Rocks

You could easily place 6-8 stem cuttings across an egg carton. Since the cartons are so light, place a couple rocks inside the empty carton to hold it in place. Space out the picks across the carton.

3. Floral Picks w/ Stem Cuttings, Food Storage Containers, Marbles/Vase Fillers

Pierce the middle of the storage container lid with a sharp knife, than stick a phillips head screwdriver through the hole. Put marbles or vase fillers inside the container and put on the lid. The marbles/vase fillers will hold each pick in place and keep the cutting upright.

4. Floral Picks, Styrofoam Cooler lid, Rock

Use a raised styrofoam lid so the floral picks won’t pierce the cage floor. Place a flat rock in the middle of the lid to keep it in place.

5. Food Storage Containers, Marbles/Vase Fillers

Milkweed in food storage containers with marbles or vase fillers. Feed Monarch Caterpillars
Steady and Secure with Vase Fillers

Use the same food storage container as B, but this time put the cuttings directly through each lid hole. If there are any small holes the caterpillar could crawl through, cover them with small strips of duct tape after the cutting has been inserted into the water.

When using milkweed stem cuttings inside food containers to feed caterpillars, we use duct tape to cover any open areas to prevent accidental drownings.
The Swimming Pool is CLOSED for the Season

If you want a container that holds more water use a wider container (ie food container, short jar) instead of a taller container (ie gatorade bottle, water bottle) because tall containers are more likely to tip over. 😱

note: a jar opening would need to be covered with plastic wrap with stems stuck through to avoid accidental drownings.

6. Floral Picks, Food Storage Containers, Marbles/Vase Fillers

Leaf cuttings can be effective for keeping single common or swamp milkweed leaves fresh to hatch eggs or feed small caterpillars.

Don’t use the food storage container lid so you can angle the floral pick in the container. This allows the common milkweed leaf to sit in a horizontal position, which is convenient for placing monarch eggs or caterpillars:

Single Common Milkweed Leaves will stay fresh for days if you keep them in floral tubes. This is a simple way to hatch eggs and to feed baby monarch caterpillars.

You could also try putting in 2-3 leaves of other varieties with smaller petioles. This insures the tube hole will be filled to capacity and prevent potential drowning accidents

TIP: leaf petioles are short, but if you cut along the midrib of the leaf (on both sides) you can stick the leaf in further for less refilling.

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Cutting- Food for Monarch Caterpillars

7. Floral Tubes or Picks w/ stem cuttings + Cup
When feeding monarch caterpillars milkweed cuttings, keep your floral picks elevated so they don't leak, and so caterpillars aren't crawling around in potentially disease-causing frass. More ways you can use stem cuttings to feed monarch caterpillars...
Pick Up!

Use a cup or glass that allows the top of the floral pick to come just above the rim of the glass and it will stay (somewhat) securely in place, though not like in the racks.

8. Floral Pick Cuttings in Potted Milkweed Plants

Some who raise caterpillars on potted plants also stick the floral pick cutting in the potted soil, so caterpillars can crawl on to the large plant after the milkweed cutting is devoured.

The caterpillar feeding method we use (and recommend for best results) is using large floral tubes inside secure short peg holding racks. You can find those here:

Click Here for Large Floral Tubes + Peg Rack Holders

I hope this info has shown you the extreme benefits of utilizing milkweed cuttings for monarch caterpillars. If you’d like to learn more about raising healthy monarch butterflies, check out my ✯ customer-rated Raise More Monarchs with Less Effort Book (choose Print or PDF)