Sunday, September 26, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
One of the final 5 cats. in the house today.
Well Hello again friends, I have an update on the caterpillars. But first I want to share with you that I have released 180 monarchs. I am really happy about this fact. It is really a sweet feeling seeing the butterflies fly off my hand everyday. Did you know they have sticky little feet that they tastse plants with? That is how they find the milkweed to lay their eggs.
There are about 107 chrysalis now and they are going start hatching fast this week. And how do you know when they are going to hatch? They are green for most of the time, then about 24 hours before they hatch the chrysalis turns dark and you can see the black and orange wings clearly.
So the update. I have consulted with a few other Monarch Waystation-ers. They have confirmed that they have also been loosing cats. left and right. It seems that things have been going pretty well until the second week of August. So maybe the excessive heat triggered a vectore that caused the cats. to become ill. A virus? A bacteria? It is hard to tell. There is also speculation that the leaves on some plants have something wrong with them. I do think mine were the last batch of cats. that I brought home. So as of tonight the total is 38. I am just shocked at how fast this happened.
I have about 5 cats. left and I am hoping that they will be able to make thier chrysalis.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
So there are a few possibilities of problems. I could have brought home some caterpillars that were affected with a virus or bacteria. I also may have brought home milkweed leaves that had been sprayed with a pesticide. Although I find that unlikely, it is possible. I think the more plausible explanation is bringing home caterpillars that are infected with something. Yikes! I had such a good run. I am hoping to find out more, I emailed a man I know that has much more experience than I do. I will post the results tomorrow.
My butterfly tally is 166! i am happy about that! I have about 120 chrysalis right now.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Before they shed their skin they rest in the "J" state for about a day. As they are hanging they are expanding their skin in preparation for it to split.
The Butterfly Tally is 148!!!!
There are 104 Chrysalis!
I mentioned in my last entry that the egg laying has slowed down. I found no new eggs yesterday so that is why I cut a few stems for the cats. out of my garden. I also discovered yesterday they one of my spots where I collected stems has been mowed :( So I need to search out another area for my remaining cats.
I Found a new caterpillar today, an anise swallowtail! I found it at work where I was weeding a clump of Queen Anne's lace. So I brought it home but I had a problem, how do I keep the QAL fresh? Luckily I had one of those little water tubes used for fresh flowers. They just were not big enough to put into a vase. If you look very close you can see the caterpillar.
The other photo here is a vase I am using out in the cat. house. You need to keep the caterpillars from dropping into the water so covering the vase with plastic wrap and a rubberband works. A double works better than one. Pull the wrap taught and slice a small hole in it. When you push the stem of the milkweed plant through it will expand to the correct size. I also place a wad of wrap around the bottom of the stem to be sure.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
A monarch resting before being released, this can take a few hours. And the new improved caterpillar storage system
*I just want to say thanks for all the sweet email & fb messages about the butterflies. I truly enjoy this, however my slightly obsesive personality has gotten a hold. If I go out to visit the caterpillar house I find that and hour or more has passed since I opened that door :). I am happy to share this with you and it makes me happy that you are all enjoying the experience too! *
Now back to regularly scheduled programing....
I was out this morning checking in with the cat. house. There were 9 butterflies yesterday and 11 today. The tally for released butterflies is 137 give or take a few, I don't have a completely accurate number for Friday the 20th. I guess I was in too much of a hurry ... But I digress. The egg laying has slowed down this week in my garden and I think it may have something to do with the yucky aphids. I blasted off all the critters with the garden hose. Not as easy as it sounds! I had to cup the tops of the plants in my hands and blasted them. now multiply that by 12 plants, some with multiple branches. I got a couple of funny looks from the nieghbor- whatever man! It did not take very long. Consequently my arm was covered in creepy crawlies- shudder- So the egg laying has stalled at 520 and the butterflies should be turning around and starting the journey to Mexico very soon. The egg laying doesn't surprise me. I did say that I would just collect until I couldn't find any more eggs, so we'll see what this week brings.
I have found that this little project for the summer takes some time to attend to. Caterpillars eat- a lot- and with eating comes the pooping...They poop a lot! As they get larger so does the poop. Sometimes I can't even see a caterpillar when they hatch from their egg, except for the little hole they eat in the leaf and the tiny dust-like poop. As they grow- so does the poop! If you don't clean the boxes you keep the cats. in before they go into the cat. house, the poop can contamiate everything and the little guys begin to die. I lost 3 cats. today because I was pretty distracted yesterday and thought everything was ok. When I opened the boxes today I found a lot of moldy leaves and I had to search for the very smallest cats. If you decide to jump into this for next summer just remember that you have germs and so do the cats. so wash your hands before nad after handling.
I watched 4 caterpillars pupate (make their chrysalis) this morning and I again missed 3 butterflies emerging. Darn! I keep missing it. That must go very quick. When the butterfly emerges its wings are wrinkled and its abdomen is very swollen. The fluid inside the abdomen is the gently pumped into the wings to expand them. The butterfly then chills out for the next few hours waiting for their wings to harden and they test them out flapping every few minutes until they are strong enough to fly.
A monarch right after it emergered from its chrysalis, note the swollen abdomen.
They will feed soon after they beging flying. During the first part of summer and spring, the butterflies will mate and females lay about 500 eggs over a couple of weeks and then live a couple more weeks after that. I did mention earlier that the monarchs butterflies emerging at this time in the summer go into a period of diapause- they put off mating until next spring when they begin the journey north and then they will die. So this generation will live about 9-10 months.