Raising monarchs inside

Aquarium for monarchs(Enlarge)  ©Janet Allen
Raising monarchs in aquariums

Why do this? For one thing, of course, it's fascinating!

For another, though, it's a way to maxmize the number of eggs that actually turn into butterflies.

I've read estimates that only 5-10% of the eggs laid survive to butterflyhood.

Parasitism, predation, weather, even milkweed latex all take their toll.

Of course, low survival rates are common with insects—we'd be overrun with insects if every insect egg laid actually survived to adulthood.

Here's more on how we raise monarchs.

Monarchs in the aquarium  ©Janet Allen
Many prefer pupating on the top screen

But the current situation is not normal.

Most of the problems monarchs are encountering are new and human-caused: loss of habitat in general, loss of milkweed specifically, climate change, as well as illegal logging and general turmoil in Mexico's overwintering areas.

Our stats

Here are the total numbers of monarchs we've raised and released:

Year Males Females Unknown Total
2006 - - 25 25
2007 104 (51%) 99 (49%) 0 203
2008 53 (51%) 50 (49%) 2 105
2009 58 (55%) 47 (45%) 5 110
2010 112 (50%) 111 (50%) 1 224
2011 109 (54%) 91 (46%) - 200
2012 123 (49%) 129 (51%) - 252
2013 0 0 - 0

(The percentages indicate the percent of each gender, not including the individuals whose gender was not recorded.)

NOTE: We saw only four monarchs very briefly in 2013 and had NO monarchs lay eggs on our plants that year!

So altogether, we've raised 1,119 monarchs from 2006 to 2013. Given that only 5-10% of eggs typically survive to become butterflies, that's at least an additional 999 butterflies than there would have lived otherwise!

They don't all survive

Dead caterpillars ©Janet AllenDead caterpillars

They don't all survive. Perhaps these two had a parasite.

All in all, though, we've had only a miniscule number that haven't become beautiful, healthy butterflies.

Attacking a monarch ©Janet AllenStink bug attacking monarch

Here's a stinkbug nymph dragging away a caterpillar it has killed. I was wondering why my daily caterpillar count was decreasing! Now I'm checking the leaves before I bring them in.

Stinkbug on hand ©Janet AllenStinkbug on hand

This shows the scale of the stinkbug, and thus the caterpillar it attacked. There's a lot of drama in this small world.