Paul Nickerson

Meet the Monarchs

Over the past few weeks we have been keeping an eye on the milkweed around the campground, awaiting signs of the arrival of Monarch Butterflies. Checking your milkweed plants is very simple. Simply grab the top the the plant, and carefully bend the plant so you can observe the undersides of the leaves. Eggs will appear as small dots on the surface. We didn’t seem to notice the eggs until we saw small caterpillars and began to look closer.

Our incubation setup is simply a fish tank that has been stood up long-way. The open side is closed up using a piece of plastic wrap. As the caterpillars remain on the milkweed, the tank does not need any fancy trimmings.  To collect and relocate the caterpillars, simply cut the section of the plant on which the caterpillar is located, and place the stem in a container of water. We used mason jars in our tank. As the milkweed is consumed, or dies, replace it, being careful not to remove any caterpillars with it. Also change the water as needed.

A warning to those hoping to only keep a couple caterpillars: our intention was to have about four… As we were bringing in more milkweed, it seems we kept bringing in more eggs. Currently we have a half dozen caterpillars and four chrysalises. It is important that as the caterpillars grow, you add tall pieces of milkweed that will allow them to reach the ceiling of the tank. We originally placed a long stick in the tank, but the caterpillars did not like to leave the milkweed.

Success!

These are the first two Monarch Butterflies that have hatched from our set-up! Since then, we have had a number of other butterflies fly from the tank.

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