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Tips for Rearing Monarch Caterpillars at home or in the classroom:
Collect caterpillars from host/food plants in your garden (milkweed) or purchase kits from Educational Science.
Use a screened habitat to house a potted milkweed plant or feed clippings to caterpillars in a smaller plastic container. Milkweed wilts quickly and caterpillars won't eat curled leaves. Late instar caterpillars, nearly ready to pupate may be finished off this way but don't let them run out of fresh leaves (this is more work than a potted plant and not recommended for school sites.)
Fun to raise with kids in the classroom or at home.
Never touch or move a caterpillar not in forward motion. The caterpillar may be preparing to molt or pupate, which if interrupted could cause death.
Recently emerged adults need 2-3 hours to dry their wings. They don't do well in captivity but can be kept overnight, or for a few days if you introduce regular feeding to them before releasing.
A sugar/nectar solution can be prepared with five parts water to two parts sugar. It helps to microwave the solution for dissolving, but make sure it is room temperature before feeding.
Monarchs generally won't require food until after 24 hours and then need to be held gently by their closed wings with feet touching the nectar or potted flower. If they are thirsty, their proboscis will unfurl. This must be done for 2 minutes, 2 or more times a day. The warmer the temperature, the more feeding is required.