Your eggs have hatched and now you are the parent of tiny monarch caterpillars!! The terms larvae and caterpillar are actually interchangeable. Any type of caterpillar is the larvae of some sort of butterfly or moth. The monarch caterpillar goes through five stages of growth called instars. The first instar starts when they hatch. The final instar ends when the caterpillar begins its journey into metamorphosis. If you want to learn more about the individual instars please click
Fresh out of the egg!!
Here is a tiny monarch caterpillar or larvae fresh out of the egg. When fully hatched, the larvae eats its egg and then starts eating the milkweed leaf. Freshly hatched, the monarch larvae are white in color with black heads. That will quickly change after a day or two to the distinctive white, yellow and black stripes.
When they hatch, I move the caterpillars to another tupperware container with fresh milkweed leaves and let them grow a little larger before I move them into the plastic pet carrier.
Your job now is simple: feed the caterpillars until they pupate. You must replace the milkweed leaves everyday if you want the caterpillars to grow properly.
Little Striped Cuties
Here you can see that the caterpillars now have their distinctive stripes. They are still very small. When they are this size, I still have them in the tupperware container. When the milkweed leaves start drying out, I cut around the caterpillars and put them on top of a new leaf. I don't actually handle the caterpillars themselves if I can help it.
Awww...they grow so fast.
This little guy is ready to graduate to the pet carrier. He/She is big enough now that esaping out the top would be unlikely. The great thing about caterpillars, too, is that they stick pretty close to their food source. They do not "venture out" much. The only time they do is when they take time out to shed their old skin.