First sight of baby caterpillars!
I live in Southern California growth zone 10 and my daughter recently said she wanted to have butterflies on our backyard, it seemed an appealing idea since it was something I haven’t done before. After doing some online research I decided to grow Milkweeds plants from seed! Milkweeds is a host plant for Monarch butterflies.
I have planted the milkweeks from seed on the second week of April and it took around 3 months for them to grow at around two to three feet tall.
I started to notice the first baby caterpillars on the plants at around the third week of August, which is about four months after I’ve planted the milkweed from seed.
Monarch caterpilar Predators
After scooping the milkweeds hoping to find the caterpillars from 08/26/18 have grown, I have got disappointed for not to find them any where around. I noticed they were banished by monarch caterpillar predators!
Protect monarch caterpillar from predators
After seing the caterpillars vanished by predators I built a cardboard butterfly cage using household items which will protect my caterpillars until they become butterflies!
I’ve made this cage using a cardboard box as the body, I added windows for air flow and I have use a window screen that a had around as the cap for the cage and placed wood posts at the top. All these items I had laying around in my garage.
First step was to unfold the bottom and top caps of the box to obtain a much taller box shape.
Next I put together the edges and tape them with masking tape.
I then cut the windows around the 4 sides of the box and attached weed barrier to provide air and some sun and air flow to enter the box.
An used a window screen I had laying around as the gate cap.
Once the cardboard butterfly cage was finished I put some milkweeds plants I had in pots inside and placed some baby caterpillars I’ve found on other milkweed plants I have.
Monarch butterflies caterpillars growing
Who knew caterpillars had mighty those jaws? They are milkweed devours. I have successfully protected and grown monarch caterpillars inside the cardboard cage. I have around 4 big caterpillars at the moment which will soon be forming chrysalis hopefully.
Monarch butterflies caterpillars forming chrysalis
Success! after caring for the caterpillars for all this time to grow inside the cardboard butterfly cage I have one caterpillar forming chrysalis.
I know I had four big caterpillars ready to form chrysalis but I believe the rest escaped the cage, I believe that when is time for them to transform to the next stage they look for a more safe place where they can be undetected by predators away from the milkweed plants. Actually the one I have was on a texas privet bush just next outside of the cage, so i cut a little branch where it was placed and put it back inside.
I will soon have a butterfly grown and protected from predators. I am now in the process of getting more caterpillars with fresh milkweed and repeat the process and see how can I improve the number of grown butterflies… I will update in the next days…
Milkweed state after the caterpillar feast the leaves.
Chrysalis stage, monarch butterfly to be.
Monarch butterflies first release
Success! after 12 days of waiting on the chrysalis, a grown butterfly was found in the cage. The colors on this monarch butterfly were so bright and full of life.
And I still got more grown monarch caterpillars for a second release round! I really enjoyed the experience of growing and taking care of monarch butterflies and will be more prepared for next seasson to release in higher numbers.