Releasing Your Butterflies
Now you have some butterflies! Good job! But you may wonder, when do I release them?
Monarchs won't feed for the first 24 hours after they emerge. They need at least 2-4 hours to dry their wings before they are ready to fly very far. If you need to release them before their wings are fully dry, the best idea is to find a shrub or tree and let them hang upside down under a leaf (similar to the photo below). This will protect them from weather and potential predators.
Monarchs can't fly if their body temperature is below 86 degrees. If you release on a cool, sunless day they won't be able to fly right off. You will notice they will shiver and vibrate their wings in an effort warm themselves up.
I try to find new places to release each time to try to spread out the gene pool. Too many brothers and sisters mating, even in the insect world, can cause deformities and weak generations. Ideally you would collect a few eggs from different areas so when you released you wouldn't have to worry about it, but that would be challenging to do unless you are really good at labeling and keeping track of where you got which eggs.
If the Monarchs do not fly away immediately you can handle them gently and set them in trees and other protected areas. To pick up a Monarch that is dry but maybe not warmed up yet, simply slide your finger between their front legs and let the butterfly walk onto your finger. You can also scoop them up with two hands, taking care not to fold their wings, and then place them somewhere. They do not have the kind of powder on their wings that rubs off easily so if you accidentally brush against them it won't hurt them. Its worse to bend or fold the wings than to simply touch them.