Finding monarch eggs and caterpillars is an exciting experience, especially if it's your first time! It can be a bit more difficult to find immature life stages of monarchs compared to the showy adult monarch. However, when you know what signs to look for, it can be much easier!
If you are wondering when to look for monarch eggs, check the Journey North Monarch Egg Map to find out when they will be in your area!
On the Trail of Monarch Eggs
The best place to look for monarch eggs is on milkweed because it is the only plant that adult monarchs lay their eggs on. The trick is to look on the underside of the leaf but you may sometimes find eggs on the stems or flower buds as well.
**It is important to be very careful when handling milkweed leaves so you don't accidentally crush or disturb monarch eggs. Caterpillars can drop off of plants if disturbed. Pinch the very tip of a leaf and carefully turn it over without shaking the plant.**
Identifying Monarch Eggs
Monarch eggs could almost pass through the eye of a needle. In other words, very tiny! You may want to use a visual aid such as a jeweler's loupe or camera lens in order to identify the monarch egg. The egg is unique looking in that it is ovular, ribbed and somewhat transparent.
A monarch is in the egg stage for 3-8 days. In order to hatch, it has to eat the eggshell and then begins feeding on the leaf. A single caterpillar can defoliate an entire milkweed plant and sometimes more depending on the plant's size.
Signs of Monarch Caterpillars on Your Milkweed
There are several tell-tale signs that a monarch caterpillar has been on your milkweed. One thing to look for is milkweed leaves that have been chewed on, also known as signs of herbivory.
Another sign is small dark bits of frass, another word for insect droppings.
Monarch caterpillars go through five instars, or stages between molts. First instar caterpillars are very small and can appear almost translucent or pale green. Subsequent instars are distinctly striped in yellow, white, and black, with a pair of black tentacles on both ends of their bodies. The photo below shows a caterpillar that is next to a molted skin. Monarch caterpillars will grow to about 2,000 times their original size!
If you have followed all the signs, then you will find monarchs! Good luck!
8/5/2020 05:41:48 pm
Can you tell me - is it possible that Monarch butterfly's may lay unfertilized eggs - and is an egg that turns black a dead egg?
8/20/2020 02:14:09 pm
I had wondered this too. I was watching a monarch and it appeared it lay an egg on a bit of holly near the milkweed. Checking it over some days later there were 3 black dots that seemed to resemble a monarch egg, but totally round, firm and slightly smaller. I’ve found these on several underside milkweed leaves too. I couldn’t determine if they were eggs of another insect, odd frass, unfertilized eggs? But they were firm. Google hasn’t been a help.
6/14/2021 06:11:48 pm
Monarch eggs turn blackish hours before they hatch, this is normal
6/17/2021 11:37:10 am
Are you sure it was a Monarch as Monarch's only lay eggs on milkweed. there are about 3 other butterfly's with similar color and a couple with similar markings.
7/29/2021 04:52:43 pm
I have a monarch laying eggs on my passionflower
8/26/2021 10:38:11 am
hello 👋 i was wondering if you know if its to late to plant milkweed? i havent been able to find any caterpillars yet
8/26/2021 11:02:44 am
nope its completely normal. they are about to hatch congratulations!
8/23/2020 03:34:01 am
We have been looking for eggs over the past few weeks. While we had much success in finding eggs and caterpillars we have yet to find a chrysalis. How far away from the milkweed have they been known to travel in order to make a chrysalis? I also wonder, is there a specific plant they look for to pupate? So far we have counted thousands of eggs and hundreds of caterpillars but no pupas.
9/24/2020 01:51:52 pm
Last year a caterpillar crawled through the garden, up the porch steps, half-way across the porch, and chose an old chandelier that was on the floor, to hang from. I was able to check the progress every day of the chrysalis, which was a breath-taking green and gold jewel like I have never seen. This was the first time I have ever experienced Monarchs up close, and I will spend the rest of my life providing for them. I wish I was able to submit a photo so you can see what I just tried my best to describe.
8/11/2021 03:09:23 pm
I planted some milkweed this year and I got my first monarch not long after. I have pics of the chrysalis, which was hanging from the siding right at the milkweed garden. It was a beautiful sight. When the butterfly emerged it was awesome. We have decided to do our part to save the monarchs with our milkweed garden.
10/3/2020 08:14:42 am
Mine have attached to the underside of my hydrangea beside my milkweed, and to the house siding mostly but they have travelled over to my neighbors house as well.
8/26/2021 11:04:07 am
thats so cool!
8/30/2021 03:16:25 pm
They could crawl upto 5 feet away to form a crysalis
8/26/2020 03:21:19 pm
We have an orange flowering plant that comes back each year and we have monarch caterpillars every year. This year we had 12 on the plants at one time. Today we have 2 chrysalis on our porch, about 10-15 ft from the plants. Not sure where the others went.
8/29/2020 12:52:19 am
The orange-flowering plant is probably butterfly weed, as monarchs only host on milkweed plants.
9/1/2020 07:42:44 pm
I have lots and lots of milkweed but have never seen a caterpillar or chrysalis. I do see butterflies in the garden. What's going on?
8/17/2021 07:31:42 pm
Aw. That must make you sad. I dk why, but don’t give up! There are Monarchs where you live?
9/6/2021 07:33:33 am
My milkweed plants are 3years old and get huge - I have seen many monarchs on them but never eggs - any ideas?
9/2/2020 02:58:44 pm
will small caterpillars survive if I put them in a large jar with fresh milkweed daily ????????????
9/2/2020 09:18:59 pm
Yes! I wrap the tiny stem of the milkweed leaves in a piece of slightly moist (not dripping) paper towel and keep the cats in lidded containers. Clean the poop out twice a day and replace the leaves when needed.
9/6/2020 12:28:32 pm
I've had some some Monarch's laying eggs this week and I noticed that my milkweed plant has a large amount of aphids on it. Will they harm the eggs or larvae?
8/1/2021 12:54:23 pm
The aphids happen every year on all my plants. I Still have eggs and caterpillars on them. Last year I collected 125 eggs and released 121 butterflies. 4 caterpillars died young. As far as the aphids harming the eggs or young, I don't know. I do NOT see evidence of much chewing on many of my plants from caterpillars, but I have found several chrysalis hanging around my yard, so some have made it on their own. I do know that ants on the plants will take eggs and small caterpillars. I've seen it happen.
8/17/2021 07:34:48 pm
Wow! Good job, Dave! That’s impressive.
8/18/2022 03:05:03 pm
Them no good pests!!
9/27/2020 11:24:50 am
I have milkweed with some penta plants nearby. The Monarch laid a lot of eggs. When the caterpillars hatched from their eggs, they devoured all the leaves on the Milkweed. I counted six chrysalis so far. Many of them have traveled to different areas. I found on on my wife’s car tire.
10/12/2020 01:26:54 pm
This is my first time raising Monarch butterflies I am having an amazing experience, I found the caterpillars in my milk weed plants. In a week I have released 18 butterflies and I have 2 to go. I live in Mechanicsville VA, I would like to know when I can plant the seeds that I am ordering to have mature plants in Springtime.
11/9/2020 12:47:55 pm
I have just started to raise Monarchs and have quite a few caterpillars on my milkweed. I am raising them in a mesh cage but I seem to be having a problem. One caterpillar grew to a mature size and then hung at the top of the cage. However, the caterpillar only made half of the chrysalis and then appears to have died. Another grew to a great size then died before making the chrysalis. I now have another that has reached the stage where it has found it's way to the top of the mesh cage and I'm not sure if it will survive. Is it possible there is some type of virus in the cage that is killing them?
6/16/2021 06:49:28 pm
I had this and then the fly larvae came out of it
Shelley L Barber
11/30/2020 03:12:31 pm
I have released about only five or six monarch that appeared very healthy and beautiful. I recently bought some new milkweed and monarchs laid eggs, I'm so upset my cats are turning black, I had one form chrysalis and he's black and he's not emerging I fear I have the dreaded black death and I'm devastated. Should I throw my milkweed away after this is all done? I'm considering treating it these were tall milkweeds and they had the buds on them and I think I bought them from home Depot with the OE bacteria I'm very upset!
11/30/2020 04:19:22 pm
I am having the same issue. All of my beautiful caterpillars made their Chrysalis and I can see the formed butterfly inside but they will not hatch. My heart is breaking as I took such care of them. Is there really such a thing as "black death". I've not heard of that. Is it the same as OS?
6/11/2021 10:26:34 pm
There sure is. Had it happen to one of my chrysalis. I'd have to search for the reason it happens again because it's been a few years and only happened once do I can't recall off the top of my head.
6/7/2021 07:50:30 pm
The milkweed sold at Home Depot is almost certainly tropical or Mexican milkweed, which tends to carry lots of spores of the OE parasite. The parasite usually often makes the monarch unable to hatch out of the chrysalis. You should look for milkweed that is native to your area, and you should not plant the tropical milkweed anywhere in the U.S.
4/30/2021 09:45:46 pm
Such a lovely blog page!
6/13/2021 05:51:35 pm
I have numerous cats eating native milkweed this week in Wisconsin.
8/1/2021 01:01:12 pm
I'm in East Central Wisconsin, and currently have over 50 cats in various stages from eggs to chrysalis, and have released many butterflies already. It does seem as if they were late getting to Wisconsin this year, as I didn't find any eggs until June. Usually I find them in May. The weather here was weird this spring, and we had quite a few cold nights late.
8/26/2021 10:48:48 am
thats so cool i wish i had alot of butterflies like you :]
10/16/2021 12:39:29 pm
I live in WI as well. I just cut down 3 milkweed on accident. I live on a horse farm so I have lots in the paddock. I also live by the woods so I have more there as well.
6/26/2021 09:04:25 am
We have our milkweed plant in a pot on our patio table and just noticed our first caterpillars yesterday. Will the caterpillars be ok getting off the table to find somewhere to pupate or should we move the plant closer to the ground to make it easier for them?
6/28/2021 12:59:55 am
Thank you all for great comments and replies.
8/26/2021 10:46:22 am
thank you for all this information do you know about where to find painted lady caterpillars?
7/18/2021 11:28:04 am
I have ordered an outdoor mesh cage to rear monarchs in. We planted native red milkweed that we bought at a nursery that specializes in native plants. I am planning on getting an additional milkweed to keep in a pot in the cage. I am finding plenty of eggs on our native milkweed, but only 1 good cat so far.
8/17/2021 07:44:44 pm
Take the whole piece of the branch, not just the leaf.
8/26/2021 10:44:34 am
that sounds like a good idea
7/28/2021 06:39:36 am
Knowing that Monarchs in the wild are “challenged” these days, is the whole idea of this page to encourage finding the eggs and caterpillars, and then moving them to a protected environment to mature? We have significant amounts of volunteer milkweed on or property (first appearing about five years ago) here in Colorado. I saw my first M caterpillar on one of the plants a couple of days ago. I went to find it to show my girls yesterday but could not find it again. Should I have moved it to a safe enclosure for awhile?
7/28/2021 10:06:50 am
Every morning I see more new holes in my milkweed and can find a few small (1st - 3rd instar) caterpillars but then the cats seem to disappear. I have taken 4 eggs inside that were oviposited around the same time and 3 are at 5th instar. The fourth one made a chrysalis this morning. Is it possible that all my outdoor cats are being eaten by predators? I thought once they reached 3rd instar they should be pretty safe?
8/6/2021 03:57:47 am
Great share! it's very informative blog. I really appreciate your work. best self-publishing company in India
8/11/2021 05:56:08 am
I have about 5 acres of milkweed. As hard as I look I find only a couple small caterpillars. All the plants seem to be covered with ants. I'm sure they are the problem. What can I do about this?
8/23/2021 10:13:38 am
I read that ants do not like coffee grounds or vinegar. I sprinkled coffee grounds around the plants and that seemed to help. I spritzed some diluted vinegar in the soil in another area. My soil is rather alkaline, so I did not worry about acidifying my soil too much.
8/13/2021 07:23:52 am
Thank you for this blog. Very informative ! I am new about raisin monarch butterflies. I havex2 chrysalyns. I am very excited. I found 5 eggs on my milkweed plant this morning.
8/19/2021 05:31:52 pm
2 years ago, I had numerous caterpillars that I kept on inside porch in a number on habitats and provided them with fresh milkweed on a daily basis. I was able to release over 100 butterflies. Last year I only released 15. This year, I have numerous butterflies. Although I check several times a day, I have not found any cats. I was lucky in finding one large black swallow tail cat on a queen Ann’s lace, that I took inside and released about a week ago.
8/20/2021 04:54:03 pm
Hi, very good blog; thanks to all who are participating and informing us newbies. I live in suburban Baltimore and have 5 volunteer milkweed. that come back each year. They sprouted in late May, then grew to about 7 feet tall.by end of July. They have a lot of pods. We had a bad wind storm yesterday and they were too top-heavy and fell down. Question is, when do the adult monarchs lay their eggs, and when is the plant done being useful to then (i.e. when can I safely cut the plants down? Thanks to anyone who answers.
8/26/2021 02:28:34 pm
I cut off 3 stalks of milkweed with caterpillars and eggs Unfortunately, there is also aphids and ladybugs. Is it okay to put them in a butterfly container with the aphids?
9/2/2021 11:35:41 am
I raised monarchs for past five years. Last year I tried in my new home in Tehachapi mountains. They all turned black and piled on each other and died. Soooo sad. This year, I planted a robust butterfly garden. Today I am watching as a mature monarchist cruising around the flowering milkweed. Should Ibring them inside if I find any eggs, or just let nature take its course. I’m in Southern California. Tx, ya’ll.
9/20/2021 03:47:22 am
Pretty sure I've discovered Monarch eggs, but not sure, as they're on my tomato plant, not milkweed. I was trying to find out what these tiny singular eggs were on my leaves; I shared a photo through Google Image Search, and they looked like and were identified as Monarch eggs. I can share my pic if necessary...
9/28/2021 02:17:28 pm
I agree, for 3-8 days, a monarch butterfly is an egg. It must first consume the eggshell before it can begin feeding on the leaf, which is how it will hatch. Depending on the size of the plant, one caterpillar may completely defoliate an entire milkweed.
3/19/2022 08:19:19 pm
I have a few Monarch caterpillars on my milkweed plant but they have gone through it quite quickly, do they eat anything else or can I feed them something to keep them well nourished?
6/9/2022 12:39:57 pm
Live in Hawaii- no milkweed. So I purchased a “Crown Plant”
7/12/2022 11:54:16 am
Minnesota - Its the start of July here, usually I've had luck finding their caterpillars around this time of year, however I'm not finding *ANY*, I have seen signs they are about (fed on milkweed) but honestly, any of the surrounding insects could have also fed on it (ants seem to be the biggest issue on milkweed here). I've seen only 2 butterflies so far this year.
9/9/2022 11:10:06 pm
Found my first two caterpillars two days ago. Got a plastic container with water in it and milkweed leaf stems stuck through a hole in the lid. Have it in a small metal waste can with a piece of woman’s hosiery stretched over the top and a rubber band stretched around it. Got a Restcloud Butterfly Habitat Ordered that’s supposed to be here Sunday.
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