Molly that is wonderful and great pics to boot. I didn't know anyone else did this obsessive thing lol. I have three kids and we do this same thing but not monarchs. We do the black and blue butterflies. Those will lay their eggs on any passion flower incarnata if you have one of those. There is one strain that doesn't get eaten but we can't seem to find it. We keep planting new passion flower vines and as soon as they put out leaves you can see the black and blue butterflies flitting around the plant and if you watch closely you can see them lay the tiny white egg. One butterfly can lay many of them. We pull them off the passion flower after they hatch and put them in a simple critter keeper (found at any pet store and very inexpensive). We will put twigs in there for them to climb as they like to hang from something. My kids love release day and it is always fun to watch the kids with a butterfly on their finger let it go. They appreciate nature. Also, dill weed gets alot of these caterpillars. We can't keep dill or passion flower vines for too long as they get eaten to the vine by the caters.
I'll have to dig out some photos. It's too funny but as I was watering the chids this morning I noticed the black and blue butterfly hanging out by the passion flower so I'll have the kids harvest a few caters in a few days.
For those of you with kids, there is a butterfly keeper made by imaginarium I believe. We purchased it one year and it is basically a small tent and you send off for the caterpillers which arrive ready to cocoon. The kids can get all the way into the tent and be amongst the butterflies and you can use the tent again if you have dill or passion flowers or milkweeds to get caters from.
Great topic and glad to know I'm not the only strange mom growing caterpillars.
Someday I may go really freaky and start a thread on stapeliads lol!