Raising Monarchs in Minnesota - Family Tradition

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

One year, back in 2010!! we got a butterfly kit, to raise our very own Painted Lady Butterflies.
I was skeptical of the tv commercial, but it turned out to be the best. thing. ever!

That early spring experiment lead us to the discovery of Monarch Caterpillars in our Minnesota Garden...

That means that this was our 5th year raising Monarch Caterpillars into Butterflies!
Our kids were just 2 & 3 years old when we started!

What a fun, family tradition!

It starts early in the warm season, May if you are lucky...maybe June.
This year, for us, was June.

See those little white spots on the underside of the Swamp Milkweed leaves?

Those are Monarch Eggs!
This leaf was munched on...a good sign that there are baby Monarch Cats around, somewhere!


They can be soo tiny, that they are hard to see.
Here are some of our babies in comparison with a US Quarter.

This little guy, just hatched!

(Sorry, blurry cell phone photos to blow up the shot!)

This year, for the first time ever, I found dozens of eggs on the TOPS of my milkweed plants!

And while we always try and search for the eggs and bring them inside to our butterfly habitat...
Sometimes we miss them...and find them full grown in the garden, almost ready to go into their chrysallis!

All of that black stuff on the leaf below this fella?
Frass...AKA...Caterpillar Poo!
They are pretty messy creatures.

Some of the smaller guys, chomping on Milkweed inside the Butterfly Habitat.

They eat and eat and eat and eat.
And poop. 
And poop. poop. poop. pooooooo....

My husband, bless his heart...
Humors us while these things take over the house...
And he jokingly threatened to let them loose on me...

So one night, when he was gone...I snapped these photos and texted them to him...

Ok, ok, let's not do anything drastic...he replied!

So back to the habitat they go...and when they are ready - they hang upside down in the shape of a J...

And then...they do something so disgustingly cool.
They shed their skin, one final time...
Which is amazing and revolting, all at once...

I took video of the Monarch to Chrysallis process and posted it last year, 
if you care to go back and watch it!

And once they are in their Chrysallides, we wait.

Their transformation is amazing, and I never grow tired of watching it.

I've been racking my brain trying to come up with something easy, and, well, outdoors, to move our Monarch Obsession to, when I stumbled upon this.

A big plastic ugly greenhouse. 
On clearance.

So I found a smaller version, took it home, and assembled it.
Instead of the plastic cover that heats up the inside, I bought a roll of screen, and secured it to two sides.
Bad pictures, I know...
Wasn't sure if it would work...it did.
Stay tuned for next year's Monarch Season!

I cut milkweed, put the ends in water and just kept transplanting cats into the habitat!
Some made their J's under leaves, some made them on the screen...

And some I taped up from my habitat inside the house...

Not all of my chrysallis' made it this year, which was really sad for me.
I usually have a very high success rate...but you can see the discoloration of that front guy?
Top of the Chrysallis is green, inside looks black and you can see some wings?

He never emerged.

But many, many did, and it was a banner year for Monarchs in our neighborhood gardens!

It was also a banner year for these Swallowtail Beauties!
I planted tons of dill, just for them...but I never did find any cats to raise....
But the adults sure did love Derek's Zinnias...

A plant I would never have thought of planting, but Derek brought some home from a first grade class field trip to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and a new love affair was born!

Not only did the Swallowtails love the Zinnia Plants, but the Monarchs did as well!

We are already looking ahead to next year's Butterfly Season!


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