Monarch

Danaus plexippus

Family: Brushfoot (Nymphalidae)

Life History: Most noted for their annual migration from Mexico to Canada. Monarchs are also present in other parts of the world.

Range: East coast into portions of the midwest that migrates annual from Mexico to Canada. Year-round colonies in Florida and California. Limited presence in the PNW.

Forms: A white morph has been observed periodically in variation locations, with Hawaii having the highest frequency of this form. Subtle changes in appearance and size of the wings can be noted between the non-migratory and migratory generations.

Common Milkweed
$6.00
Asclepias syriaca Sun: Full to part Moisture: Medium wet to dry Height: 3-5 ft Bloom time: May to August Bloom color: Pink

Out of stock

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Tropical Milkweed
$8.00
Asclepias curassavica Full sun Medium soil 2-3 feet tall Blooms June to October Bloom is red-orange with yellow Annual

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Hairy Balls Milkweed
$8.00
Gomphocarpus physocarpus Full sun Dry to medium soil 4-6 feet tall Blooms July to September Bloom color white Non-native Annual

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Life Cycle

Monarch Life Cycle

Monarch egg
Eggs are laid singularly on the underside of milkweed leaves
Monarch eggs
Sometimes the eggs can be near each other
Monarch egg
Sometimes eggs are laid in weird places, like nascent flower heads
Early instars
Newly hatched and first instar caterpillars are very tiny and will eat in the center of leaves
All sizes
Caterpillars will eat a lot and grow fast in hot summer weather
Pupas
The curled caterpillars have pupated
Chrysalis
One to three days old
Chrysalis
Wing color becoming visible
Chrysalis
Full transparency
Chrysalis
Ready to elcose! The arrow points to a distortion in the lower concentric ring indicating eclosing is soon to happen
Eclosed
Newly eclosed Monarch has a distended abdomen full of hemolymph that will be pumped into the wings
Female
Females have thicker black veins and lack the small black dots
Male
Males have thinner black veins and small black dots near the inner margin of the ventral hindwing
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Raising Monarchs

Raising Monarch caterpillars is paradoxically easy and challenging. When all goes well it can be relatively simple. The more caterpillars raised the likelihood of challenges applies.

Challenges include having enough food to feed the voraciously hungry caterpillars; disease (OE) and parasitization. Most of these challenges can be mitigated to some extent. 

We have found that offering a combination of native and non-native milkweeds accomplishes our goal of nurturing caterpillars into butterflies. Nectar sources for adults also is met through a combination of native and non-native flowers.

Our methods for supporting Monarchs allows us to successfully raise 100-200 butterflies per year divided across multiple broods. 

In the late summer and fall our backyard will be graced with gently gliding Monarchs flying about the yard.

Raising Tips

  • Always wash leaves to remove aphids and other insects
  • Don’t worry about the assortment of insects you’ll find on milkweeds. You’ll go crazy trying to remove them. Everyone co-exists in the wild without human intervention.
  • You can never over feed a Monarch caterpillar, but you can most definitely under feed it.
  • You can never have too much milkweed.
  • Sanitize critter cages between each brood cycle.
  • It’s best to keep chrysalises separate from caterpillars.
  • Sometimes no matter what you do, caterpillars and chrysalises will die without any explanation. It’s all part of the way Nature works.
  • During the warmest part of summer caterpillars can grow rapidly. Check on them every couple of hours to make sure they have enough food.

Monarch Video Clips