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Releasing butterflies for the fall monarch migration

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In the olden days, I used this 6-step process for releasing butterflies. While it was effective, I have discovered a new release method that makes a huge difference on the energy level of butterflies when I release them. But first…

hatching butterflies


The Old Way

1. Let your monarch’s wings dry before moving it- before your release it outside to fend for itself, make sure the butterfly wings are dry so it can fly away from potential predators or other territorial monarch butterflies. About 2 hours dry time

butterfly hatching


Two hours is enough time for them to dry sufficiently, but should still allow you to move them without taking flight.

butterflies hatching


2. When transporting your monarch outside, move your finger toward the butterfly’s head so it can crawl on

3. Once your monarch has climbed aboard the finger express, bring your hand in toward your body…pull gently to fully remove your butterfly from the chrysalis.

4. Cup your other hand over the butterfly so it doesn’t try to fly away.

4a. This is an alternative method of picking up the butterfly, and a more secure way of doing it if the butterfly is trying to fly:

5. Bring the butterfly outside so that it can warm its wings in the sunlight. Wait to release your butterfly if it’s raining, or if the forecast high temp is less than 60В° fahrenheit. They can hang from the top of a butterfly-only mesh cage, or an indoor plant until the weather improves.

If the temperature is close to the 60В° minimum, conditions should be sunny with lightВ winds.

6 . Here are some potential places to hang your new butterfly, that should keep it safe until it takes flight:

Photo Courtesy of Angie Luebben, GA.

a rope provides an easy surface for the caterpillar to attach its feet and is most likely free of any lurking predators

small tree branches- just make sure there are no predators like spiders or ants in the immediate vicinity

garden plants it can easily hang down from- again, check for predators

Your butterfly does not need to eat right after hatching, so don’t worry about hanging it from a nectar flower.

A BetterВ Way

This is so simple, and the only reason I didn’t start doingВ this sooner is because I used to take a lot of photos of newly hatched monarchs. In fact, if I’m snapping photos for this blog, I’ll still use the old method. However, if you want to release more active monarchs,В that can easily elude predators (and territorial male monarchs!) try this:

Bring your mesh enclosure outdoors with your new butterflies hanging inside (I suggest having a second mesh enclosure for keeping and releasing butterflies)

Set the cage in a sunny area or hang it from a shepherds hook

Lay the cage down horizontally so it doesn’t rock in the wind or blow over (I also put 2-3В rocks in the bottom of the cage)

Leave the butterflies to dry for at least 3 hours- the sun energizes monarchs and is a key component to insuring their safety from predators

Open the door, let them crawl on your finger and then hold them toward the sky or

  • Let them fly out on their own
  • A Male Suitor Awaits the New Princess

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