Friday, November 7, 2008

...Still More Butterflies to Arrive!

You’d think I would have had my fill of butterflies after successfully raising the Gulf Fritillary caterpillars we stole from Grandma Lana’s garden. Nope. I decided we were not done yet. While passing time at the nursery catty corner to Rigel and Izzy’s swim class, we happened upon a supply of milkweed-- and I couldn’t resist. It was a struggle not to squawk in protest when the cashier started to pluck off supposed aphid-infested leaves—did she know that on the leaf she just picked off a baby monarch caterpillar was crawling across? I silently retrieved the discarded leaf and tucked it safely into one of my three containers of milkweed. Hence, I have determined that raising butterflies requires a measure of obsessive-ness. All is worthwhile once the finished product emerges from its cocoon and perches upon your finger (or better yet, your little one’s fingers).

Above left: caterpillars hiding amidst the flowers. Above right: a tiny monarch egg, which turns dark green when it is about to hatch.

How To Raise Monarch Caterpillars
We attempted to raise monarch caterpillars last year, and gave up after many failed attempts. I think the best way to go is not to raise them in vented containers indoors as we did, but to observe them outdoors. Proper ventilation is a must, and so this time around we have our milkweed containers perched outside the kids' window. Milkweed is the only plant monarch butterflies lay their eggs upon, and thus the only plant monarch caterpillars eat. Not all nurseries carry it. Once you find some, be sure no pesticides were administered, or the likelihood of finding caterpillars on your plant is slim to nil. Look on the undersides of the leaves and inside the flower clusters for eggs and teeny caterpillars. If you are interested in raising your caterpillars indoors, visit for in-depth instructions. Otherwise, just place your containers outside in a safe spot (direct sun is fine), and observe as the caterpillars develop from chrysalis to butterfly!

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