Saturday, May 26, 2012

 I added 51 cats to my caterpillar house today. I placed vases of water covered  in saran wrap (so the cats. don't fall in the water) in the house with common milkweed. 
 I think the cats were happy to move out of the aquarium and into the airy house.
I have about 20 chrysalis so far but they are in the aquarium, They should start hatching in about 8 or 9 days.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Well, I am on my way to a great summer of raising caterpillars! 96 eggs collected already, I even collected a few random eggs on mw that was destined to be food! So luckily I found them before they were eaten! 
The above photo was taken on Friday. this cat is only a couple of hours old and yes, that speck of dust is caterpillar poop! 

Black Swallowtail butterflies that made chrysalis' last summer, waiting to hatch this spring.

These are swamp mw plants just waiting to grow a little larger and the caterpillar house to come out from the garage. When the cats. get big enough, they will go outside into the caterpillar house. 

Black swallowtail caterpillar eggs on dill

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Monarchs Have Arrived!!!!

Well here we go! I have collected 28 eggs so far. I started on May 8th. I normally don't start collecting eggs until late June and things really ramp up in August. This is the earliest I have ever found any eggs. My friend Bob started collecting on the 2nd of May and is now up over 350+. Also the earliest he has ever collected. This is so exciting! The warm weather brought the butterflies here so early! I am going to keep things under control though, no trying to collect hundreds at a time. I want to try raising small "batches" over the long summer and keep the numbers of cats per container smaller. I think over crowding has been a problem for me in the past. 
Last year my final count was 234 healthy butterflies released and  only had to euthanize 2 or three that were deformed when their chrysalis opened. Overall a good record but I think when the population boomed in August, I had too many per container (pre-caterpillar house), When that happens they can die because of cannibalism, bacterial infections and generally unsanitary conditions. That is my goal this year- be more contentious of what the cats need.  So I will keep you updated regularly! 
I am hoping that this weather that has brought a lot of flowers into bloom 4 weeks early, will also nourish them enough that we will have an over all better butterfly season. I have already seen Many red admirals, frittilaries, skippers, mourning cloaks, black swallowtail and a few others. This is a great start! In fact the Chicagoland area was host to an uncommon phenomenon of a red admiral migration. They migrate but not in as many numbers of monarchs and not always in the same area every year. So we were lucky that the late lilac shrubs were in full bloom when they caught the scent of it the red admirals were all over that plant throughout the area. 
I have grown and purchased many new plants for my butterflies. I will be planting about 20 tropical milkweed to accompany the 20 swamp milkweed in the garden. I was very successful at making cuttings from my 1 trop mw that I brought into the greenhouse for the winter. I took regular cuttings and ended up with about 25 plants. Verbena bonnariensis is a must have for any butterfly gardens. It is an annual with skinny but strong stems and clusters of tiny purple flowers. Doesn't sound too appetizing right, well if you are a butterfly this plant is a magnet! Another must have is zinnias! Any zinnias, any size and the brighter the colors the better! My favorite butterfly flower is Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia. It is a rather tall annual, 4-6' so you need a little more room than the average annual. But it is worth it!  The last one I will suggest is Heliotrope, a favorite of all butterflies, the plants can be overwintered in a 3 season room or greenhouse and cuttings are really easy. If you'd like to know more leave me a message! Happy Plantings!