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How you can help monarch butterflies.

How to  Raise Monarchs Safely

Fact Sheet

We discourage mass-rearing and selling of monarchs now that the population is perilously small. Mass-production of monarchs could:

  • put the wild population at risk for disease and
  • negatively affect the gene pool of the population.

Captive rearing of wild monarchs at home or school is fine—as long as it's done carefully. It doesn't harm monarchs to bring them inside and rear them—in fact, it usually saves their lives.

Concerns About Captive-Breeding and Releasing Monarchs

Are we helping or hurting monarchs by releasing large numbers of captive-reared individuals?

Across the country, people purchase monarchs for release at weddings, funerals, and other celebrations; and to raise in classrooms and other educational settings. Following news of the dramatic decline in monarch numbers, some people are rearing large numbers of monarchs in backyard operations or obtaining them from commercial breeders or other organizations and releasing them with the goal of supplementing local populations. While raising and releasing small numbers of monarchs can offer important scientific and educational opportunities and foster a connection to nature, we believe that releasing commercially produced and continuously mass-reared individuals is unlikely to benefit monarchs, and could actually hurt them, as a result of mass rearing conditions that promote crowding and disease spread,  or cause the loss of genetic diversity or adaptation to captive rearing conditions. Large-scale captive rearing and subsequent release can also limit the ability of monitoring programs to understand natural population dynamics.

For these reasons, we recommend against large-scale captive rearing of monarchs for release into the wild, and we summarize the potential impacts here...


Sonia Altizer
Monarch Health
Odum School of Ecology
University of Georgia

Lincoln Brower
Department of Biology
Sweet Briar College

Elizabeth Howard
Journey North

David James
Department of Entomology
Washington State University

Sarina Jepsen
The Xerces Society
for Invertebrate Conservation

Eva Lewandowski
Conservation Biology Graduate Program
University of Minnesota

Gail Morris
Southwest Monarch Study

Kelly Nail
Conservation Biology Graduate Program
University of Minnesota

Karen Oberhauser
Monarch Larva Monitoring Project
Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology
University of Minnesota

Northwest Lepidoptera Society

Published October 8, 2015