How To Set Up a Monarch Caterpillar Habitat?

Monarch butterflies are known to be one of the most famous butterfly species, and people love to raise their caterpillars and set a proper habitat for them. Kids love to observe the magical transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly with colorful wings and different anatomical features.

How To Set Up a Monarch Caterpillar Habitat? You can set up a monarch caterpillar habitat by growing some milkweed plants in your garden for their food and collecting the eggs or small-sized caterpillars from the milkweed leaves. Select a suitable enclosure with barks, grass, leaves, and sticks to provide a natural habitat, place a paper towel at the base and regular maintenance for hygiene, provide enough food or fresh milkweed leaves, and allow ideal temperature and light conditions.

They are prone to predation; therefore, select a suitable place to protect the caterpillars. People love monarch butterflies to be around them because they are also considered a sign of good luck and upcoming new changes in your life.

Therefore, people raise them and release them when they complete the metamorphosis and are capable of flying and defending themselves.

How do you set up a monarch caterpillar habitat?

Setting a suitable and natural environment for monarch caterpillars is not rocket science, and you can easily understand their requirements and things for their survival and healthy growth in captivity. The following steps can help you get the whole setup required for these caterpillars.

Plant your own milkweed

Almost every butterfly lays eggs on the host plant because the caterpillars feed only these host plants until they complete the larval stage and become pupa.

One caterpillar can eat a whole milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca) during the larval stage because they only eat in this growth period and need a lot of food around them.

Milkweed provides the nutrients and the poison that help the adult butterflies protect themselves from predators but does not cause harm to the baby butterflies. However, some plants contain higher levels of toxins; therefore, monarch butterflies prefer specific types of plants.

Confirm the type of milkweed before planting it in your garden, and understand the details of the plant species and butterfly preferences.

Therefore, growing your own milkweed plants at a suitable location in your garden is better to provide enough food for the pet. However, they like to move from one plant to another.

Moreover, you can take care of the plant and take necessary measures to keep the pests away from your plant, which ensures a healthy food supply for them.

For example, I grew six milkweed plants in my garden to attract the monarch butterflies and feed the captive caterpillars.

Collect eggs or caterpillars from milkweed

You can buy the caterpillars or the eggs from the stores or collect them from the plants you grow in your garden because monarch butterflies can locate them and lay eggs on them.

Observe the monarch activities for a few days in your yard and notice them laying eggs. I searched for the eggs on the plants in my garden in the morning and evening to collect and raise them.

A few days back, I was checking for the eggs and noticed three eggs on the underside of the milkweed leaves, and I got excited to see them.

I detached the leaves where the eggs are deposited and took them inside the house to raise them in captivity and build a setup for them.

Select a suitable enclosure

You can make an enclosure for the caterpillar yourself using the discarded wooden table legs and the unused stuff in your house if you have experience doing such DIY projects, as it is a lengthy and time-consuming project.

Moreover, people also order butterfly and caterpillar enclosures for suitable habitats, and they provide a kit with all the essential things required for raising the butterflies.

You can also select a plastic container for the eggs and young caterpillar in 1st instar stage and a separate one for larger caterpillars.

However, ensure that the enclosure you select has enough space for them to crawl and roam independently because overcrowding and congested places can cause problems.

They can show cannibalism if the space is not spacious and large enough for them to feel like a natural habitat. You can choose a 16″ x 11″ x 3.5″h enclosure for 7-8 monarch caterpillars.

Moreover, I have selected a mesh container to raise my caterpillars because it will allow air and oxygen and a suitable habitat to grow.

I have placed a wet towel on the container base before placing the leaves because it will allow moisture in this place and keep the eggs hydrated.

Enough food with fresh leaves

The eggs usually hatch in 3-4 days, depending on the environmental conditions, and you will see tiny caterpillars crawling on the leaves.

I removed the paper towels and replaced them with new ones. Moreover, I placed grass on it and took some floral tubes to put the milkweed stems with leaves inside it.

It will keep the leaves fresh for a few days, and they can feed on these leaves. They eat a lot, and providing enough milkweed leaves to each of them is necessary.

I also placed barks and sticks inside the enclosure to provide a natural habitat and space to hang, climb, and crawl. Moreover, the food requirements increase with their size as they grow.

You can replace the milkweed leaves without the floral tubes daily, avoiding any damage or harm to caterpillars because they crawl on these leaves.

They undergo five instar stages during the larval stage before entering the pupa phase and shed their skin many times. You should provide them with fresh milkweed leaves during this period to build a natural habitat for them in captivity.

Suitable temperature and lightening conditions

Temperature and light conditions directly affect the overall growth and time taken by the caterpillar to finish the larval stage.

Therefore, it is better to provide a suitable temperature and sunlight. It is better to avoid placing the enclosure in direct sunlight because it will cause dehydration.

Moreover, an adequate amount of light is essential for growth, as it is observed that warmer environmental conditions will back up the growth process.

I have placed the enclosure in a 3-season room with many windows to allow the natural light inside and enhance the chances of better growth.

Watch the chrysalis carefully

The monarch caterpillar finds a suitable place in the enclosure to hang in a J-shape and produce a chemical to make a silken thread.

It will hang on the top of the enclosure after completing the larval stage. It is ready to enter the pupa stage and form a chrysalis around it.

My monarch caterpillars form green chrysalis, which changes colors over the growth period and eventually becomes blue when ready to emerge as a butterfly after one to two weeks.

I was amazed to see an orange and black butterfly hanging upside down for two hours to spread its wings.

Do monarch caterpillars need water?

Monarch caterpillars do not directly need water because they get the humidity and moisture from the leaves they consume. They do not drink water but get moisture from the dew and raindrops. They usually hide during the day when there is heavy rain.

You can fulfill their water and moisture needs by lightly misting the leaves before feeding them or putting fresh milkweed leaves instead of dried ones.

It also depends on the weather and environmental conditions how often you should feed the water-misted leaves to the caterpillars. Moreover, the frequent misting and water in the enclosure encourage mold and diseases.

Things to consider for raising monarch caterpillar

The first and foremost thing to consider when raising the monarch caterpillars indoors is cleanliness. The towel paper or the tissues at the base should get changed daily, as they poop a lot, and it can cause mold, diseases, and parasites.

Moreover, do not use insecticide or herbicide on the milkweed plants because it will cause chemicals on the poisonous leaves.

Furthermore, it is better to wash or clean the leaves before feeding them to the caterpillars because dust and parasites can cause health problems.

You should not raise them indoors if you do not have access to the milkweed plants because it puts their life at risk if they do not get enough food supply.

Do not mix the small and large caterpillars in one enclosure because the larger ones can attack and eat the smaller ones.