Did you know that Monarch butterflies are pretty easy to raise? Anyone can do it, even if you don’t have a green thumb! In this article, we’ll look at how to raise Monarch butterflies in your home, from the supplies you need to set up your butterfly habitat to the best ways to care for your caterpillars so they become adult butterflies you can release into the wild.
Monarch Butterfly Lifecycle
The monarch’s lifecycle lasts about four to five weeks. The caterpillar, or larva, hatches from an egg and immediately starts eating milkweed—the only food a monarch will eat throughout its entire life.
There are four stages of growth within a few days of hatching—the 1st through 3rd instars before reaching 4th instar when it pupates or forms a chrysalis. When forming a chrysalis, a caterpillar eats itself to form a shell-like structure that protects it while it undergoes metamorphosis into a butterfly.
It does not have any control over what part of its body is eaten or which hormones develop during transformation into an adult butterfly.
Raising Monarch Caterpillars at Home
Before you go on a quest to raise monarch butterflies at home, make sure you do your research. Start by identifying what type of butterfly larvae (caterpillars) you’re working with.
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is one of three milkweed species that are commonly sold in stores, but it’s also an invasive species that can negatively impact other wildlife—so skip it if you have another option.
The most widely available choice is swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), which will work just fine for breeding monarchs.
Raising Adult Monarch Butterflies at Home
To start a monarch butterfly colony at home, you’ll need to raise adult butterflies. Find out how to feed, breed and raise these beautiful insects at home so you can enjoy watching them flutter around your garden. Adult monarchs typically live for two to five weeks.
Each female lays about 300 eggs during her lifespan; one egg is laid per day on average, usually on milkweed leaves or flowers—many people who raise monarchs add milkweed plants to their gardens for that reason.
The eggs hatch into caterpillars within 3-5 days; after three instars (growth periods), they emerge as chrysalises from which adults emerge several days later—though depending on weather conditions, some pupae develop faster than others.