Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Well my internet has been wonky for a few days so there is a lot to report! Since my last update I have been collecting more eggs at work and home. The caterpillar and egg count is now up to 203!!! I never, never thought I would ever find that many eggs! I have even found 3 swallowtail bytterflies on the one curly parsley plant I have. Alas I cannot find their chrysalis'.

But I digress...So 203 eggs but the real results will be when I release the last butterfly for their journey to Mexico. Yep folks, these butterflies are the last generation to be hatched here and they will put off mating until they reach their overwintering forest in Mexico. Normally only 10% of the eggs laid will mature into butterflies but when people take them in and rear them indoors there is a much hight success rate.

Tonight there are 40 chrysalis' and I think 2 will hatch tomorrow. I just added 7 more 1 inch caterpillars to the caterpillar house yesterday. So in the boxes in the house I have many many caterpillars in differing stages and lots of eggs. So when I add caterpillars to the house I fill it up with more new eggs! more news tomorrow...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Caterpiller Mania!

caterpillar house
cats. eating on both sides of a leaf

monarch caterpillars

The caterpillar house is getting full! There are about 35 little guys in there eating away! The egg + caterpillar count is 170! I have released 13 butterflies. I have noticed that the caterpillars that have been living outside in the caterpillar house eat more, longer and grow much larger than the ones I have raised totally indoors. Hmmm.....

Sunday, July 11, 2010

monarch egg-pindead size

A monarch egg is usually laid on the underside of a milkweed leaf (any species can be used) and is about the size of a pinhead. The eggs can also appear on stems, topside of the leaf and inthe flower cluster. When looking at it with a magnifying lens it is yellow and conical in shape and appears to have ribs. When it is ready to hatch it will have a little black spot in it, that is the caerpillar's head. After it hatches, it eats the egg casing because there are rich nutrients in it. After eating the egg the caterpillar will eat a small hole or ring around the area. That is a good way of seeing where the caterpillars are, but you have to catch the hatchling brfore it gets eaten and that will be very soon after hatching. I look for eggs everyday and take them indoors. I have been very lucky this year that I have found about 9 caterpillars, one was 3rd instar stage and turned into the chrysalis today. Very exciting! As of this evening my total count is 98 eggs, 9 caterpillars and of those 15 are in chrysalis form. The first chrysalis will hatch tomorrow!
monarch chrysalis

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Caterpillar watch 2010

common milkweed
So this year I am taking in borders for the summer. Yep you heard me and I don't even have to cook for them! All I need to do is bring the little guys leaves every day.
This is my 4th year taking in monarch butterfly eggs. The reason why I do it is because I have seen insects eat the eggs before they hatch so if I take the eggs in the house instead of waiting for the eggs to hatch I would be much more successful at releasing adult monarch butterflies. Since they are a realtively threatened species, this helps keep their numbers up.
So where do you start? in late June, I begin checking the undersides of the three species of milkweed that I grow. They seem to favor common milkweed. A few days ago I sat in the car when I pulled up after work on a hot sunny afternoon and I observed a female monarch make her rounds through the garden laying eggs on the milkweed plants.
I bring the eggs in on the leaves and dig out my flat tupperware containers that my sis passed on to me. This way I can stack the boxes without taking a lot of room. I put 1 or 2 pieces of slightly dampened paper towel on the bottom of the box. Airtight boxes are best. The paper towel and the airtight nature of the tupperware keeps the leaves from drying up.
Once the eggs hatch they eat their egg casing first because it is rich in nutrients and they make a hole around it. that is how I know they have hatched and how multiple instars of monarchsI know I have missed many eggs out in the garden. Cleaning the boxes is necessary about every two days at this stage (their poops are really small) Keeping the boxes as clean as possible for their health is very important.
So far, as of today I have collected 47 eggs and found two caterpillars (pretty rare) and tonight I count 6 chrysalis' .