Salt Creek Butterfly Farm
planting butterfly habitats, presenting interactive butterfly programs
Setting Up a Caterpillar Habitat
There are a lot of ways to set up a safe, clean habitat to raise your caterpillars.
No matter what you set up, you'll need to provide - a clean container, adequate ventilation, fresh food.
I prefer to start with a mesh popup container.
As food, I prefer to use potted tropical or swamp milkweed for Monarch caterpillars. The great benefit of using a potted plant is that you don't have to change out individual stalks every few days. If you need to be away for a few days, no problem! I place a clear, plastic plate underneath the pot, so if the plant becomes dry and I water it, the entire container won't become messy. One caution, if you've kept your plant outdoors look it over very carefully before bringing it indoors. You don't want any other insects on the plant - especially a little spider.
When using stalks of fresh cut common milkweed I use a mason jar with water. I initially place one jar with one stalk in their container. As the caterpillars eat that, or after a few days I put the second jar and stalk in the container. The caterpillars will transfer themselves over to the fresh food. No need to touch the caterpillars. Remove the first jar, clean it and in a few days repeat the process.
The mason jar lids are retrofitted with a plastic grid to keep the caterpillars from crawling down into the water and drowning. I weight the jars with glass pebbles to keep them from tipping over. I put the jar on a plastic plate for stability and to collect the frass droppings from the caterpillars. You can see that the fresh stalks require more maintenance, but if you have a habitat with milkweed, there's no need to purchase the food - just know it will be a little extra work.
common milkweed stalks potted tropical mikweed