« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Heidi Shaffer, Published August 10 2009

How to care for monarchs

Finding monarch eggs and caterpillars in North Dakota and Minnesota is fairly easy because much of the landscape is prime monarch development habitat, according to Gerald Fauske, a research specialist at North Dakota State University.

Carol Schmidt said caterpillars are usually on the underside of milkweed leaves. Holes in the leaves usually indicates that a caterpillar is feeding somewhere on the plant.

Schmidt said to pick extra leaves and bring them home for food. She gets the egg or caterpillar settled in a jar as soon as she gets home. Each lid has nail holes poked through it.

According to Fauske, the three most important things to remember when raising caterpillars are to:

  • Provide a constant supply of milkweed.

    Caterpillars get virtually all of their water from the host plant, he said, so fresh leaves will keep the caterpillars healthiest.

  • Keep rearing containers clean.

    Schmidt said bacteria and parasites often plague her late summer/fall generation of monarchs. She cleans the jars with soap and water and washes her hands after handling the caterpillars to cut down on contamination.

  • Maintain a constant, moderate humidity.

    Providing damp or wet material can be detrimental as caterpillars have no separate system to remove excess moisture, Fauske said.

    After hatching, caterpillars will feed for about 10 days before spinning a chrysalis on the top of the jar.

    The butterfly will emerge 10 to 14 days later, after which its wings will be wet for a few hours. Schmidt usually waits a day to release the monarchs to make sure they are completely dry.

    Monarchs will continue to lay eggs in the Red River Valley through the beginning of September.