Making a Cage
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Growing Milkweed | Catching Monarchs |
Making a Cage | Rearing
There are many kinds of containers that are suitable for larvae. The only requirements
are that the container has good airflow and is big enough for the caterpillar(s)
and host plant leaves or clippings. A washable container is also preferable as well
as one that allows for easy observation. Good rearing containers include:
jars covered with panty hose
- Plastic deli containers (1 quart) with 1" holes cut in the lid and covered with
- Shoeboxes with screening or netting attached to lid (such as
these available at our online store)
- Ice cream pails covered with netting
- Aquaria with screen tops
For a more permanent container, you can cut windows in plastic containers like ice
cream pails and attach screening with a glue gun or duct tape.
The larva container needs to be at least four inches deep so that the emerging adult
has room to hang from its chrysalis casing and allow its wings to expand and harden.
Once this has happened, you should move the butterfly to a larger cage or release
it. Alternatively, you can move the pupa to an adult cage or simply hang the pupa
in a safe place until the adult emerges. Adults should not be left in small larva
Examples of Caterpillar Cages
This cage works well for rearing larvae and holding adult butterflies. If your larvae
pupate in this cage, they will be easy to observe as they emerge as adults and will
not have to be handled until they are released. The dimensions of this cage were
chosen to make efficient use of the plywood and screening that we buy. They can
- Two 12" X 16" X ½" plywood boards
- Four 1" X 1" X 22" wood posts
- Four 14½" square edge molding pieces (trim)
- Three 12" square edge molding pieces
- Eight 1" corner braces
- One 2' X 4' piece fiberglass screening
- One 2' X 1' piece fiberglass screening
- 6' X ½" Velcro
- Sixteen 1/2" wood screws
- Eight 1-1/2" sheetrock screws
- 5/16" heavy duty staples
- 9/16" heavy duty staples
- Double stitch fuzzy side of Velcro on three sides of 2' X 1' piece of the screening,
leaving a 1' side without Velcro.
- Screw posts onto corners of one of the plywood boards. Screw other board onto
the top of the posts. Pre-drill all holes for screws.
- Screw brackets into corners, attaching 2 brackets per post. It's easiest to use
a power drill with screw attachment.
- Wrap large piece of screen around three sides of cage (all but the front), attaching
screen with 5/16" staples to the posts. There will be overlap of screening at the
top, bottom, and front edges of the cage. This will be tucked under the molding,
or stapled under Velcro.
- Staple three strips of Velcro to the front of the cage, on the outside edge of
the two front posts, overlapping the screening, and on the bottom plywood edge.
- Attach the front screening panel using the Velcro.
- Finish the cage by attaching molding. Staple (with 9/16" staples) or screw the
square edge molding to the top and bottom edges, covering all edges except the bottom
front edge where Velcro is attached.
Hanging Butterfly Cage
This cage has the advantage of being able to collapse
into a manageable size for storage while you don't have butterflies in your classroom.
You can make it any dimensions. Many teachers modify this design to make a sturdy,
long-lasting cage by using a plywood round instead of cardboard, and building a
support structure to hold the cage.
- Hanger or large embroidery hoop
- Cardboard round (e.g. from pizza) for base of cage
- String or rope
- "Bridal veil" netting
- If using a hanger, bend into a circle.
- Cut a rectangle of netting large enough to go around the cardboard and the hanger,
with several inches of overlap.
- Close the netting around the cardboard and tie off the bottom end.
- Attach the hanger or embroidery hoop to the netting with paperclips.
- Tie off the top of the cage with rope.
- Finish by using toothpicks to connect the overlapping flaps.
- Hang from ceiling or other sturdy support.
Note: Kid tents (with screening) may be used for large, in-class butterfly