Rearing Butterflies From Eggs
Butterfly caterpillars are
very specific with their diet. They will eat only one family or one type of plant.
For example, Monarch caterpillars will eat only Milkweed. If all the milkweed in the world died, all the Monarchs
Only 2 or 3 eggs out of 100 laid in the wild live to be an adult. Nature is full of predators, parasitoids,
Your first step is to obtain a sufficient amount of pesticide free host plant or artificial diet
for the butterflies you plan to raise. Some species of butterflies eat a vast quantity of leaf
matter while they are growing caterpillars.
PESTICIDE OR INSECTICIDE AND DOG/CAT FLEA CONTROL
Insecticide will kill your caterpillars. In most cases, if you have purchased a plant which has
been treated with pesticide, eight weeks after it has been treated, it will be safe to use. If you
purchase a plant which has been 'organically' certified, it still could be fatal to your caterpillars.
BT is acceptable for use on organically grown plants. If pesticide or insecticide is sprayed in the building
where your eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, or adults are located, it may kill them also. Dog and cat
flea and tick control, such as Frontline, may also kill your caterpillars. Wash your hands thoroughly
before you touch their rearing container.
START AND STAY STERILE
Start with sterile containers for your eggs or caterpillars. Butterflies contract dreadful diseases. If
your rearing containers have been used in the past, sterilize them even if you did not have a disease
problem with your last batch of caterpillars. Washing in the dishwasher is sufficient. If your container is
too large for the dishwasher, use a 10% bleach and 90% water solution to soak your container. If your container is
mesh, it can be washed in the washing machine. Always, always, wash your hands before feeding or tending to your
When your eggs arrive, immediately place them with the host plant. If they are on a leaf, you can simply staple or pin the
leaf with eggs to the living host plant. If you are rearing them from egg in a container with cut food,
add fresh tender leaves every day. Butterfly and moth eggs will dehydrate quickly in a building. Air conditioning and heaters
remove humidity from the air. Although it is important to keep butterfly eggs from dehydrating, it is also important to
prevent them from sitting in an airtight container. They need air. A closed container without air flow
is a perfect spot for mold and bacteria to grow. When your caterpillars emerge from their
eggs, watch them! Their first meal is usually their eggshell.
It is extremely important to feed hatchlings tender new leaves. Older leaves are often too tough
and baby caterpillars simply die from starvation because they cannot always eat older leaves.
A Monarch hatchling eats its eggshell.
Available in Postcard
A ruler reveals that a hatchling Monarch measures less than 1/8th of an inch.
Available as photograph
Spicebush Swallowtail hatchlings eat their eggshells. Other Spicebush eggs await their
turn to hatch.
Available as photograph