How to Raise Monarchs for Beginners: Part 3
If you’re looking for a couple of posts on how to raise monarchs for beginners, read part one and part two. Part three is mostly just waiting for your chrysalis to turn black and a butterfly to emerge. Then spend all the hours basking in the beauty of your butterflies!
So your chrysalis turns green and then you wait 10-14 days for it to turn black. Or I guess clear–the chrysalis is clear, and you can see the wings of the monarch inside. It’s so amazing to see:
If your caterpillar forms a chrysalis in a weird spot you can remove it very gently and reattach it somewhere else–I did that with the chrysalis above, but it took so much time because I was terrified of hurting it that I just left the others that attached outside the enclosure alone. It’s not a bit deal when they hatch because they sit there for awhile to let their wings dry.
What to do when your butterfly emerges
You do nothing. Leave it alone. Yup, that’s it. Just let it hang there until its wings are dry. Some say this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, and a lot of monarch raisers in the butterfly group say to leave it for 24 hours. Basically, I waited until the monarch started crawling around, then put my finger in front of it so it could climb up, and then put them in the enclosure if necessary. Or have a photoshoot. Also, you can actually see and hear the liquid drip from their wings if you watch and listen closely. And you’ll be able to tell if your monarch is male or female by the two black dots on the lower wings–males have these, females do not.
It was so cool to watch the boys watch the monarchs–my five-year-old is comparing his tongue to the monarch’s tongue:
It’s so amazing how much butterfly fits in that tiny chrysalis. And the wings are so small when they come out! They seem to stretch–and I tried to get a time lapse of it, but I’m not sure it shows it very well:
When to let the butterfly go
The butterfly doesn’t need to eat for at least 24 hours, so you just kind of wait for your butterflies to tell you when they’re ready to go. Either wait 24 hours or release them when they start to fly around the enclosure. I tried to release them as soon as possible after their wings were dry.
The monarch group suggested that I release my butterflies on a sunny, calm day, with temperatures at least 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit, and with the weather we had when they hatched, that wasn’t entirely possible. I had the option of feeding them sugar water soaked up on cotton balls or releasing them to feed in less desirable conditions (forecast of rain, terribly windy, cloudy, etc). I chose to release them because even though I rescued the eggs, I didn’t want to try and control nature too much. The butterflies will adapt, and I went into this with the mindset that not all of them would make it–even though aside from the one I accidentally squished, all of them have been released (except for the 4 still in chrysalis) So far more made it to the butterfly stage than I thought would. Anyway, I didn’t want to feed the creatures man-made sugar and water soooo. I let them go. I did gather them fresh flowers for nectar, but they wouldn’t eat from them in the enclosure, though they ate from the same types of flowers later outside.
I had a handy-dandy metal mesh butterfly cloche and that is what I used to transfer my butterflies out of the house.
You can release them onto the flowers, but if they are ready to fly and the weather is good, then they’ll likely just fly right off and away. Which is what happened that last release I did. Magic.