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!