Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How Milkweed Flowers Can Help You Rear Monarchs

Well, the Monarchs have been coming through the area the last few weeks.  Yesterday, after seeing some predatory flies trying to lay eggs on our caterpillars, we decided to rescue them and bring them inside to safety.  The kids are getting leaves and milkweed flowers for the cats, which brings me to a little helpful tip for you.

If you are raising Monarchs, you know those little caterpillars can have a voracious appetite.  One cat can consume 20 full sized milkweed leaves from birth to chrysalis.  It doesn't take many to decimate even a large milkweed plant.  If you're raising them indoors to protect them, it's not uncommon to run short on milkweed leaves.  How can you get the most out of your plants?

Well, one way is to cut the flowers off and feed them to the caterpillars too.  Yes, they will eat the flowers.  Harvesting the flowers helps you and your plants out in a couple of ways.  First, it stretches out your leaves so they will go farther.  Second, when the flowers are cut off, this sends a signal to the plant to make more flowers.  After a plant flowers and mades seeds, it begins to slow down because it has accomplished its purpose to propagate its species.  Removal of the flowers suspends this "slow down" process and actually stimulates the plant to increase it's production of leaves and flowers.

Feeding milkweed flowers and even green seed pods to my caterpillars has saved me and my Monarchs on numerous occasions.  Give it a try, and you'll no doubt be amazed at how much farther your milkweed plants will go in rearing your monarch caterpillars.

(Can you see the baby Monarch caterpillar on the underside of the leaf?)

(No shortage of milkweed flowers here.)

(Some of the many caterpillars we rescued today.)

Well, back to our story for today.  We have collected some 30-50 Monarch caterpillars and have them in 2 pavillions in our house.  Hopefully, most if not all will make it.  Time to go harvest some leaves and flowers again.

Happy Monarching!

Caleb & Janae Warren

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