Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed plant leaves. These plants can be grown quickly from seeds or purchased as mature plants at garden centers. There are many varieties of milkweed plants but the best options will include larger leaves. They eat a lot, so account for each caterpillar consuming 175-200 leaves.
Habitats should be kept clean from waste (“frass”) and include fresh and rinsed milkweed. Rinsed but not soaking milkweed will ensure the leaves are free of debris and will provide additional hydration. Be sure to keep safe from extreme temperatures or too much humidity that can lead to a moldy, sickly environment.
Once caterpillars emerge as butterflies it’s important to only release on warm, sunny days. They should be kept for at least a few hours to ensure their wings expand and dry. Butterflies kept for longer than 1 day will need access to nectar through a honey saturated cotton ball or sponge.