Top Tools, Resources, and Supplies for Raising Monarch Butterflies through Life Cycle
Helpful Solutions for Raising Monarchs through the Entire Butterfly Life Cycle
These are some of the top resources I have utilized over the past 3 decades to boost my monarch survival rate over 95%. If you use other invaluable raising tools or techniques for raising healthy monarchs at home or school, please post them in the comments below.
Before you start raising, you’ll need an ample supply of the caterpillars favorite (and only) food resource. If you’re planning ahead, seeds will suffice, but in case of milkweed emergencies plants, plugs, and cuttings can help support monarchs much sooner.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a cage that can be easily cleaned and dried if you want to avoid monarch diseases. The fine mesh on these cages will also keep baby caterpillars from escaping and predators from entering.
All of these options are easy to clean and dry, portable, and are easy to store for winter.
Window Cages VS Clear Mesh Cages?
If raising outdoors, I suggest using the window cages before they have the tightest mesh that can keep out tiny ants/spiders, and parasitic wasps.
If raising indoors, the clear mesh allows you to see from all 4 sides of the cage which makes it ideal for classrooms. Personally, I use this cage style most often.
I highly suggest having a second mesh pop-up for releasing and keeping butterflies overnight if there is inclement weather. Butterflies should never be kept in the same cage as feeding caterpillars because they can spread disease (OE spores) from their wings and bodies to the unsuspecting caterpillars below.
If you’d like your cages elevated for less bending over, this 48″ by 24″ adjustable-height table can hold two of our largest cages or several smaller ones:
Butterfly Raising Books
Raising monarch butterflies is a process. The better your process is, the more successful your results will be. If you’re not raising healthy monarchs with a 90% survival rate, take some time to review and improve your process… you (and the monarchs) will be glad you did!
1. Raise More Monarchs, with Less Effort, and At Least a 90% Survival Rate (available in paperback or PDF file)
Raise On Stem Cuttings
Placing milkweed leaf or stem cuttings in water extends the life of your milkweed and keeps it hydrated until your caterpillar guests are finished.
For raising monarchs, we typically place milkweed stem cuttings in large floral tubes with holding racks for best results:
You can also use floral tubes with single common milkweed leaves for instar 1 and 2 monarch caterpillars. Cut the leaf on both sides of the midrib to stick the stem in further for less refilling. 1 large leaf can easily sustain a few baby cats for at least a week:
Monarch Eggs and Caterpillars
While finding eggs or caterpillars on milkweed is usually the preferred method for starting your raising journey, that’s not always realistic in today’s changing landscape. The following resources offer eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises to insure your season gets off to a flying start.
Please don’t order monarchs unless you have access to milkweed plants…a good option for schools, and for when you have lots of milkweed…but no monarchs ☹️
note: the first 2 options are only good for those who live east of the continental divide. These vendors aren’t allowed to ship further west due to USDA regulations.
No western resources currently for states west of the continental divide including CA, WA, OR, AZ, UT, NM & CO.
Cage Cleaning Supplies
Some universities and butterfly breeders use a 5%-10% bleach solution mixed with water to clean cages and other raising supplies. You could either mix it in a spray bottle or soak the cages in a tub. I would suggest starting with the 5% solution (1 part bleach to 19 parts water) before trying a stronger concentration. Mix the solution in a bucket, spray bottle, pressure sprayer, or soak mesh cages in a large tub, laundry tub, or bucket for about 20 minutes.
Bleach is corrosive and can irritate eyes and skin so use with caution…
Protect your caterpillars from monarch diseases by sanitizing their cage in between monarch batches and at the end of every season. Rinse and dry your supplies thoroughly after using bleach.
Some raisers use clorox wipes or similar brands to disinfect both cages and raising equipment such as cuttings containers. Rinse and dry your supplies thoroughly after using bleach wipes.
A cordless keyboard vacuum is the perfect tool for cleaning up caterpillar frass (poop)quickly…and without getting your hands dirty! An inexpensive, low-power vacuum is your best option, as too much suction can pull up the cage floor.
4. Poo Poo Platter for Easy Cage Cleaning
These bendable frass-catching platters make cage cleaning easier:
5. Boot Trays
In the summer we use these for holding cuttings containers while cleaning out the caterpillar cages. In the winter, they can also be used as saucers for potted plants.
Tagging & Tracking Monarch Butterflies
There are several tagging programs for the western monarchs so research to see which one makes the most sense for your region.
Raising Butterflies T-shirts, Sweatshirts, & Hoodies
Butterfly Raising Articles
Raising Resources for Schools
A helpful checklist of all the important points to consider before starting your school butterfly garden.
An award winning book by author Lynn Rosenblatt that captures the magic of monarch metamorphosis with amazing pictures, scientific facts, classroom activities and experiments. Grades 3-6
The Monarch Teacher Network (MTN) is a public facebook group of teachers and other people who use monarch butterflies to teach a variety of concepts and skills, including our growing connection with other nations and the need to be responsible stewards of the environment.
Get first hand gardening/raising tips from experts in your region.
Happy and Healthy Raising to All!🌿🐛