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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.