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' .

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