HATCHING MONARCHS

Post last updated: December 22nd, 2018

My friend, Cee, learned that if you plant it, they will come. In 2016, she had two milkweed plants in her wine bottle bed. A yellow (Asclepias tuberosa) milkweed and a red milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).  She soon found monarchs in her yard because milkweed is both a food and a host plant for monarch butterflies. This is Cee’s wine bottle flower bed which you first saw at Yard Art with Wine Bottles and a Plow.

Cee's wine bottle flower bed with laundry hamper habitat
Cee’s wine bottle flower bed with laundry hamper habitat

This year, Cee has planted seeds or plants of an impressive list of butterfly attractors – alyssum, cosmos, dill, Dutchman’s pipevine, fennel, lantana, lavender, lemon grass, parsley, penta, phlox, passion vine, sage, milkweed, purple coneflower, purple salvia, Shasta daisy, stonecrop, sweet pea, verbena and zinnia.

The milkweed plants came up again this year and Cee is doing her best to expand the Monarch population with netting arrangements inside and outside the house. She is learning by doing.

Inside the house, she has a netting arrangement over a milkweed plant. When the caterpillar is fully grown, it leaves the milkweed plant in search of a quiet place to pupate. It makes a silk pad or mat from which to hang. It hangs in the “J” position for about a day and then forms a cocoon. In about 12-14 days, the monarch butterfly will hatch from the cocoon.

Pupae and "J" position of monarch caterpillars hanging inside a net
Netting arrangement inside the house. You can see two pupae/chrysalis and one caterpillar hanging in the “J” position.
Photo by Cee

Outside, Cee uses a mesh hamper from the dollar store as a “habitat” to protect the caterpillars and their cocoons from predators. She secured the bottom of the mesh hamper with rocks and mulch in her wine bottle garden.

Very small monarch caterpillar
The auto-focus on Cee’s camera saw her hand instead of the teeny
tiny caterpillar. Photo by Cee.

At one point, she talked about relocating the caterpillars. I freaked out. I do NOT do worms even if they eventually become a beautiful butterfly. She reassured me that she breaks off the leaf or uses a stick. She either encourages them to get on the stick or she uses the stick to gently pick them up. Whew, what a relief!

Once a monarch has hatched, she uses her fingers to pick them up and remove them from the hamper or they get on her finger and she sets them on another plant to allow them to finish drying.  Most have flown right off her hand.

 

butterfly-chrysalis-in-mesh-hamper
Notice chrysalis hanging at the right corner of the mesh hamper.
Photo by Cee

 

Newly-released-monarch
Newly released monarch. Photo by Cee.

 

monarch-butterfly-released-on-Easter-Sunday
Monarch released on Easter Sunday. Photo by Cee.

The number of butterflies she releases every day can vary from 2 all the way up to 7. She has about 17 caterpillars now but hopes to grow and release more over the summer.

CHRYSALIS HABITAT

As spring became summer, Cee wanted a larger habitat in which her chrysalis could hatch. She found a zip-up laundry hamper (approximate size 24″ high x 14″ wide) on clearance at Bed Bath & Beyond. It has a bigger opening for pulling a wooden stand in and out. She sewed a net screen over the handles to prevent the entry of predatory insects.

Laundry hamper with handles sewn shut.
Laundry hamper with handles sewn shut. Photo by Cee.

 

From Norfolk Botanical Gardens, she got the idea to install pool noodles (blue) on the center of a wooden stand her husband built for her. The stand is inside a zippered laundry hamper. You will note that three monarchs have just hatched, leaving their empty, clear chrysalis on the pool noodle. The two dark chrysalis will be the next to hatch. She uses a straight pin to remove the chrysalis from its silk pad by gently picking at the silk pad and transferring it to the pool noodles.

 

Zippered laundry hamper with chrysalis pinned to pool noodles.
Photo by Cee.

 

Photo of mesh habitats hanging up to dry after being washed.
Even worms have laundry. Photo by Cee.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2, 2017

Cee reports that 179 monarchs have been released, 26 are in chrysalis, 29 are in “J” formation and 19 are caterpillars.

 

14 thoughts on “HATCHING MONARCHS”

  1. Lovely!! I have my butterfly garden outlined in wine bottles, too. Perhaps that has something to do with butterflies liking it…
    Gypsy

  2. Love this! Monarchs pass through our area at the end of each summer. I have lots of the good plants for them, but I haven’t had any hatch. I had thought about purchasing a set up of the chrysalis but really would like for it to occur naturally. I planted milkweed in our garden in Florida last fall when we were there last, I’m anxious to see if it survived the next time we are there. Who knows when that may be though. Great photos. Thanks for the smile. xo Kim

    1. Kimmie – Thanks for your comment. Cee provided great photos and the mesh hamper hatching was so interesting but just two comments… Over the years, I’ve had trouble getting the milkweed to come back. I have a small stand of it that came back this year but it’s not the healthiest.

  3. Love that wine bottle edging! That is so cool that she does that. The mesh hamper is such a good idea. In North Carolina we used to have a good amount of monarchs and I hatched a couple with the kids. Up in New England now, I haven’t seen many monarchs, but I grow a lot of milkweed just in case for the few that fly through.

  4. Hello. I certainly am learning by doing and enjoying myself in the process! If I see a caterpillar on milkweed and I want to move it for safety, I just pinch off the leaf with the caterpillar and set it in the netted milkweed plant. So much easier. I can also control how many caterpillars are feeding on a plant. I do need to check on how I release them. I followed instructions on a site but now I’m wondering if I need to try something different. Right now I have 7 in various stages of transformation.

    I’m not sure why, but this is a very relaxing hobby for me.

    -Cee

    1. Cee — It makes sense that you would find it relaxing. I think we always become calmer/relaxed when we are doing right in the world. You’ve got me interested in it again. I checked my milkweed bushes today. No eggs.

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