Instructables
Picture of Monarch Butterflies -- Egg to Butterfly
Monarch butterfly caterpillars are fun to raise until they form chrysalises and ultimately emerge transformed as butterflies. This instructable takes you even further back in the butterfly life cycle and describes how to raise a monarch from a newly-laid egg into a fully grown butterfly.

I have also raised Swallowtail butterflies from eggs found on parsley in a fashion similar to that described here. I would be interested in hearing about the experiences of other readers in locating and identifying the eggs of other types of butterflies.

 
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Step 1: Timeline

Below are the dates on which significant events in the life of these Monarch butterflies occurred. The timing may vary, but it will be helpful to know about how long things take.

June 28 -- Monarch butterfly observed laying eggs on milkweed.
June 30 -- Five eggs brought inside (photos only show four).

July 2 -- Transfer eggs to a fresh leaf in anticipation of the eggs hatching.
July 3 -- Two hatched by early morning and the remaining three by noon.
July 5 -- Colored bands becoming apparent.
July 8 -- Getting bigger.

July 12 -- Lost one caterpillar. Failure to thrive.
July 13 -- Start molting period. Appear uninterested in food.
July 15 -- Finish molting. Voracious and big.
July 17 -- J-hooking.
July 18 -- Four chrysalises. Nothing left but the waiting.
July 28 -- Chrysalises darken in the evening. Wing patterns clearly visible.
July 29 -- Butterflies emerge!

Step 2: Milkweed

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed and the caterpillars eat milkweed. If you are going to find monarch butterfly eggs, you have to first find milkweed. Fortunately, milkweed grows throughout the United States. Unfortunately, it is treated as a weed and rooted out. Find a patch that's going to be around and start looking for both eggs and caterpillars.

Milkweed has wonderful flower clusters that attract butterflies. I grow a patch outside my kitchen door. My neighbor grows a lots of flowering plants and I believe his flowers attract butterflies and then they come on over to lay their eggs!
jenise20001 month ago
I love them
oxymoxy2 months ago
I have raised monarchs for 12 years, the best way to harvest the eggs is to cut them (and a small section of leaf) out and float it in a shallow dish of water preventing them from drying out. I've attached a photos of this year's harvest so far.
temp_1778063048.jpgtemp_-471415864.jpg
Thank you for this wonderful instructable! Please sign up to report milkweed and Monarch migration here: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/
Lots of info & interesting things for the kids here as well! Only 5 more weeks until the butterflies start their migration north from their winter home in Mexico.
2/12/13
ndebolt2 years ago
Newly hatched larvae are cannibalistic. They will eat other eggs, so for this reason you must keep each egg in a separate container. If you put all of the eggs on one new leaf (as the image shows), OR if you have a cutting with more than one egg on it (as the above commenter recommends), the larvae that hatch first can and will eat the unhatched eggs.

See this photo for an example:
http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/images/eggs.monarch.eat.unhatched.6.jpg
Puzzledd3 years ago
This is a very inspiring instructable, thanks! Some of our students at school are hatching butterflies at the moment (from chrysalises that a parent bought), but it makes sense to find eggs and start from them.

I've been trying to get photos of different butterflies for my album, but now I have a new project - looking for eggs (no milkweed here, so it could be a difficult project - I'll have to research our local butterflies).
typo31504 years ago
The caterpillar only eats the milkweed, and will almost always stay on the plant, so putting them in a jar is not strictly necessary.
yes but then they would escape after they finished their milkweed....
They never finish eating until they form a chrysalis
typo31504 years ago
Amazing photos!
typo31504 years ago
They eat their entire caterpillar-hood. They can climb from leaf to leaf and have no desire to "escape" the milkweed, if it is not wilted and lousy. They may leave when they are ready to make the chrysalis, and crawl under whatever they can suspend the chrysalis from.
dannelle4 years ago
why can't we touch them their soo cute but if it kills them I'd rather not hehe...
typo31504 years ago
Keep the leaves on a stem, in a vase. That way leaves won't wilt. Caterpillars know how to hang on to the plant, as they do this in nature.
typo31504 years ago
If you take an entire stem and put it in a vase, the caterpillars can move from leaf to leaf on their own. Put some newspaper or a cookie sheet under the stem, in case they fall off, or you don't want the frass (poop) to go everywhere.
dfwmonkie4 years ago
awesome
Now how are you going to get that rhubarb for the cake?
The cake requires too much rhubarb. Substitute yams.
I love this instructable. I think this will be a fun science project for my daughter. Thanks so much~
isaberg5 years ago
Because they're really so incredibly very small. There would be no way to pick them up that wouldn't squash them flat.
Beest9215 years ago
Awesome instructable! Last night my wife said "Let's do that!". I haven't done this since I was a kid so I said ok. It just so happens I have a huge milkweed in my backyard. So this morning I went out to it and lo & behold I ended up with 4 eggs, and 7 caterpillars of all different sizes from newly hatched to inch & a half! My wife has never done this so she is in for an amazing surprise! Thank you for bringing out the kid in me again! Now it's time to sit and wait!
maryjolene5 years ago
can we touch them when they are small?whyy?
fegundez15 years ago
where is it that you live?Here in Fla. it seems that those who believe no bug should live have killed off almost everything but the mosquito! Also have you tried any other types?
osgeld5 years ago
Very interesting and well done, we have TONS of milkweed around our parts and it could be a very educational and fun project for the kids next summer Thanks!
isaberg osgeld5 years ago
Thanks so much! I was just looking at some eggs on the milkweed wondering if they were monarch, and if so, what to do - this is a great resource. Excellent job!