Raising Monarch Butterflies

Well here it is folks! Want to get started raising Monarch butterflies? Here ya go!

First off, let me state that we are in NO WAY a professional butterfly raisers. This will be our third year raising them, and this is how we did it. I’m sure google can lead you to “professionals” or those pesky scientists, but we just learned on our own.

First you have to have the Monarchs. I just learned today, that yes – you can buy them! Now, honestly, I want to know who would want to capture a Monarch, put it in an envelope, and mail it!! DO NOT DO THAT!!! If you plant milkweed, they will come!! So there is your first step – plant milkweed. Now there are several types of milkweed but you want the ones that are native to your area. Here in Ohio – butterfly weed, common milkweed, and swamp weed (these are the common names by the way) are native (which means they are commonly grown here and do very well!). Asclepias is the scientific name for the genus of milkweed. You can buy milkweed from a garden center, such as Oakland Nursery, or the offsite garden center of Kessler’s on 256 as you head into old Pickerington. Call before you go to make sure they have them, and ask if they use pesticides. If they do, DO NOT buy from them. Each of these milkweeds can be grown in the ground or in a pot. I haven’t tried growing one in a bag that I can hang, but maybe this year I will try one. They need lots of sun, so plant it in a sunny spot, once the outdoor temps reach above 50 degrees consistently. Then water the plant when it looks a little wilty (do not over water it) and wait for a pregnant female Monarch to come fluttering by. (Please don’t email me about how to tell if the Monarch that you see is pregnant or not, or if it’s female or not!!) If you see one, and she stops for a second on your plant, chances are she has laid her eggs. Maybe a few, maybe ALOT!! After she has flown away, go look at the leaves of your milkweed. More than likely, the underside. There you should see what looks like a tiny white speck (about the size of a pencil lead). If you have a magnifying glass, use that to look at it. If you don’t that’s okay. Next you will want to cut the leaf with the white speck (egg) and bring it inside. Find a CLEAN AND SANITIZED preferably shallow food container (with lid). Line the bottom of it with a paper towel, and put the leaf on it. Egg side up, please. Every few hours, look at it and make sure that the leaf is still moist. If not, give it a little sprinkle of water. Close the lid and…wait. Follow this process until about 3 – 5 days have passed. One of those days, you will open the container and the egg will be gone! Close by, or maybe even climbing up the side or on the lid you will find the tiniest little caterpillar – about 2/10ths of an inch long – just wandering around. It is looking for food. What food you ask? More milkweed leaves! Just go cut another piece off your plant and bring it to the little guy. He will find it. Or if you just can’t stand it, use the partial leaf and “scoop” him up and lay him back on the bottom of the container. He will thank you! If by chance, you have managed to find more than one egg – GOOD FOR YOU! You can keep about 10 eggs in the container at a time. As you feed them they will grow. They are eating, pooping, growing machines!!! What does their poop look like? Black dots. Don’t let them crawl in it. Put in a new paper towel and transfer the leaves (with caterpillars attached) to the new paper towel. Spritz with a bit of water, and you’re good to go.

Whew! That seems like a lot doesn’t it? Well we are only in the first instar – only 4 more to go. Now while the little ones are growing in their container, you are going to want to find a bigger one! We had a 10 gallon fish tank, with a mesh style lid. But there are butterfly habitat’s that you can buy online. We chose to use the fish tank, because we had one. Clean and sanitize the enclosure. Wash with soap and water, then use an alcohol solution (a teaspoon of 70% rubbing alcohol to a quart of water) to sanitize. Let it air dry or dry with a paper towel. Line the bottom of the tank with a paper towel (its easy to clean up the poop (frass)) with the paper towel. Move the now bigger caterpillars into the larger enclosure. That frees up the old container for new eggs, if you’re lucky enough to get more! So, the caterpillars (aka cats) are bigger now, and they want to eat more. So what do you do? We improvised by using old pill bottles with snap on lids (they’re easier than the screw on kind, but either will work). Put a hole in the middle of the cap (an icepick works really well, so does a paring knife), and fill with water. Go get full leaves with stems attached or “top” the branches of your plant, even, and put them in the holes of your pill containers. You can buy floral tubes online, but you have to buy them in 100 ct. packages or even more. Not necessary. Place the containers on the bottom of your enclosure. The cats will find the milkweed. You will keep doing this, over and over, getting more and more milkweed for the cats to eat, because they are going to grow to over 2000 times their initial size. Amazing. Cats like fresh milkweed leaves to eat. Keeping them in the pill containers filled with water or the floral tubes with water, keeps the milkweed from drying out so quickly.

One day you are going to look at your enclosure and see that all the cats or at least some of them have crawled to the top of the enclosure and they have stopped eating. About 12 hours after that, they will drop into what looks like a “J” position hanging from the lid by their butt. They will have formed a solid white webbed dot that keeps them attached to the lid. Within 24 hours they will have formed a chrysalis, not a cocoon, from themselves. It looks like a oblong soft green stone, with a shiny gold line around the upper middle. About 10 days following that, the chrysalis will turn black, and if you look closely, you will be able to see the Monarch inside of it. Within a few hours, the Monarch will emerge and look kind of wrinkly. Leave it alone, and let it hang there for a minimum of 2 hours. You will notice that it’s wings will fill out and grow larger. By hanging there, they are drying their wings. Once you notice that the Monarch is spreading its wings several times, it is time to release it. Hopefully, it is a sunny day, and warm (not under 70 degrees). To release it, place your finger just under it’s head and it will crawl onto your finger. Take your other hand and kind of cup it over the butterfly so he/she doesn’t fly away in your house. Go outside and raise your hand to the sky. The Monarch may hesitate but then will fly off in search for food (nectar flowers) and a mate. The cycle will then start over.

Now this whole process only takes about 28 to 30 days to complete. So from as early as April to September, may even October, you can spend that time raising Monarch butterflies! The more you raise, the more that will migrate back to Mexico to overwinter. And since the species is on the verge of extinction, you will be helping to keep it from going there. We need the Monarchs. Not only are they beautiful, but they are pollinators, just like bees, birds, and other good insects. We need pollinators to make food! Food for us humans to eat! It’s a win-win situation. They just need our help!! Do not feel bad if you give it a try, and it doesn’t work out. At least you tried. It takes patience and a bit of work, but the end result and satisfaction is worth every minute. Trust me!!!

Spring is Coming!!!

Although today, Sunday – February 10, 2019 – may not show it, Spring IS coming! It’s time to start thinking about your flower beds, gardens, and MONARCH butterflies! It won’t be long now, and those beauties will be migrating North out of Mexico to begin their lifecycle of the next generation(s) and we want to be ready for them when they arrive!

So, what do you need to be planning toward? Where in your yard, or on your patio/deck, or even on your balcony (if you live in a multi-story apartment) do you want flowers, vegetables, and butterflies? You need to plan the space for your plantings. Whether it be in the ground, or in pots and containers, you can have it all!! You think you don’t have enough space? Believe it or not, you DO! Not every flower or vegetable has to be in/on the ground. They can actually be hung! Many garden centers have suitable containers for all types of growing needs – pots, raised bed supplies, even bags that you can hang up. Amazing isn’t it?? Once you figure out what you want to grow, next comes how you’re going to grow it. Grow it low, grow it high, it doesn’t matter – just grow it. Then, gather your materials. You will need a garden spot, pots or bags or both, potting soil (and trust me, there are different ones for flowers and vegetables), seeds or starters, sunshine, water and/or rain. Put it all together, and soon you will have a flowering oasis! Don’t have a “green thumb?” That’s okay, I didn’t either when I first started. You will get the hang of it!! Feel free to email me at deebeekden@petalzpawzandwingz.com if you have any questions! I’ll be happy to help you out!! See the next post for raising Monarchs!!

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food and water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing – they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent, his eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face, your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then together you and your special pet cross the Rainbow Bridge.

–Author Unknown

It is with great sadness that we had to let our beloved Cassie cross the Rainbow Bridge just a few short days ago. We are comforted by the knowledge that we will one day meet up with her again, where as the story above tells, she will be healthy and strong again. It is our hope as you read Rainbow Bridge that you, too, are comforted in your loss knowing that the time apart from your special pet will be brief even if you don’t realize it right now.

Welcome back!

The holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s is behind us and we can look forward to the coming Spring! I had been wondering if we were ever going to get any snow, and now I can wonder no longer. Today the flurries began, and this weekend is supposed to be cold and snowy. We need the colder winter, and the snow to kill off any unwanted bugs and their eggs/larvae, as well as put into dormancy state the perennials that will bring beauty to our gardens the soil warms and the sun once again shines its hot face on those tender roots, stems and leaves. I love Spring!!

We’re glad you came back to visit our site and to see what’s new and find out the latest happenings in our world! Come back to visit often, you never know what exciting news awaits! May your new year be a prosperous, happy and healthy one!

What a November!

Hi Everybody!

I’m sorry that it has been so long since my last post, but this month came and is now gone before I realized it!  A lot has happened in the yard and in the house, too.

Let me start with what a beautiful month it has been.  The leaves have turned to beautiful color and now are falling at  astronomical rates!  Thankfully, I have places to put them (besides at the curb or in the middle of the back yard or even a leaf bag) which is over the butterfly garden, the milkweed plants around the perimeter of the yard, and the veggie garden.  After winter’s snows it will be nice to have all of that free nutrition added to the soil of the beds for spring planting!

Kris and I and a friend of ours took a weekend and went to Logan, Ohio for a girls weekend/wine tasting.  We stayed at a gorgeous pioneer cabin, moved from West Virginia and rebuilt on its current site.  It was a great weekend.  Towards the middle of the month, another friend of ours – moved in!  He even

I’m here!

brought his dog – Boofus.  We are still re-arranging furniture and rooms, so that he will have his own space.  It’s kinda nice to have a live-in maintenance man.  Just teasing you Shawn!  LOL

Shawn had a beautiful pond at his previous residence that I hope he duplicates at our house sometime in the future.  I can’t imagine a more peaceful spot in a yard where you get to hear the water trickling over the rocks, and watch the butterflies flitter amongst the flowers, and the birds singing in the trees!  I’m

Peaceful looking, isn’t it?

so excited for spring, are you???

The Squirrels have found it!


Let me get my cheeks full

Anyone looking?


Hi everyone!  While making coffee this morning I just happen to notice some movement at the squirrel bunkers.  A little squirrel found his breakfast!  Cute little guy/gal.  I haven’t quite figured out how to tell the difference yet….LOL  Guess I need to check under the tail????  Oh well….he or she is enjoying the food.

Best seat on the house

Lazy week

Hey Everyone,  it’s been a lazy week with work schedule.  I have managed to feed all the critters…they are really stuffing their bellies for the winter ahead!!  The birds get fed every day, the squirrels every other day, and the other critters well….let’s just say that they are finding food, okay?

Something pretty funny did happen the other day, and that is my neighbor came over for a visit and scared a squirrel out of my potting soil bag.  I’m sure there is something delicious buried in there.  Let’s just hope it isn’t babies.  They have a tendency to nest high in the trees, but if they can find a more private spot to nest, they will.  Eeek!

Moonvine – it’s as big as my hand!

Anyway, fall is here and I hope to get all of my outside work completed.  I am truly hesitant about cutting back my moonvine.  It is so pretty when it gets a chance to bloom in the evening, and it smells wonderful.  But the blooms are getting a little touched by the cold weather.  I cover them, but they must just like it warmer….sounds a bit like us, huh?

Winter is coming….let’s get ready

While most people may find squirrels irritating and a nuisance, we find them adorable and just as needy for food and nesting materials as the birds.  So today, I spent a couple of hours taking down the squirrel bunkers, washing them, putting them back up then lovingly filling them with corn and nuts.  I just figured with the chilling night temperatures, it was time to begin making sure the little guys had their food to start beefing up for winter.  While I was at, I gave the birds their seed and suet.  They need to get some “meat on their bones” as well.

Quaint little eating joint for the squirrels

Raising Monarchs – the Good

Just hangin’ out

Well folks, here is the final post on Monarchs for this season/year.  Our last few butterflies that have been released should be heading south to Mexico to party and over winter (we hope).  It’s a long flight, and hopefully our butterflies will catch those high windstreams to help move them along so they don’t have to flutter their wings the whole time.  Whew!  That would be so tiring!!

The good thing about raising Monarchs is that we are helping bring them back from the endangered list.  By planting native milkweed and native nectar flowers, we initially attract them where the females can lay their eggs, then give them nectar to eat once they’ve emerged from their chrysalis to start the cycle again, or to give them necessary food for the long trip to Mexico.  It is a beautiful thing to watch them grow from egg to butterfly, then to release them into the world, but they will only survive if we give them what they need!

They are pollinators as well as beautiful butterflies.  Without pollinators, we don’t have food and without food – we die.  So…..we hope that you will consider helping them, so that they can help us!  It is a simple thing to do…just think about it.

We have a male that we released this afternoon, but he must have decided that he wasn’t ready for the trip, because he just hung out on the butterfly bush until dusk.  I felt sorry for the little guy, so I brought him back in to spend the night with us.  I will try again to get him to fly away in the morning when the sun is shining and its a little warmer.

That’s all folks……until Spring!