Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Brrrrrr July in Chicago

Well then, temps have not improved yet, this week! So the cat house remains indoors with the heat lamp on it. The cats. are eating and growing like crazy! In fact, they are running out of food. Tonight I will transfer them from the carrot plants inside the cat. house to another container of carrots. Then back into the cat house with the heat lamp on them. Just in case you missed my previous post, these are black swallowtail butterfly cats. They grow a little slower than monarchs and they eat most plants in the carrot/ parsley family. There are a few chrysalis already! Since it is a little late in the season, most of these chrysalis will not hatch until next May or June. There are a lot of butterflies that do this. Half of the brood will hatch 2 weeks after making the chrysalis is made. The rest of them overwinter. In my case, they will overwinter in the cat. house in my garage.

Imagine my shock (and my butterfly friends') when we realized that those chrysalis  were not going to hatch! I was very nervous! Would they overwinter ok? Would the freezing process damage them?  This revelation all happened 2 falls ago. Last spring on the second or third 80 degree+ day, I moved the cat. house out of the  garage and onto the sunny patio. Checking in on them every day, I noticed that the chrysalis' softened up and starred wiggling!  I thought they were going to fall off the inside of the cat. house frame! They all hatched about a week later.

On to the monarchs! I am happy to report that all 25 of my eggs hatched! Since one of the mamma monarchs laid her eggs on a perfectly dreadful looking swamp milkweed, I transferred them all to new tropical milkweed plants. As I was doing this, I came across one egg that looked like it was going to hatch any minute. So I put it on my kitchen counter in a sunny spot and checked on it while I was transferring the others. How did I Know that it was about to hatch?? As you can see in the photo below, there is a black spot on the top of the egg. Pay no attention to the two blemishes on the leaf. There is the reason why I transfer the cats. to new plants. Imagine how big those spots would be to a tiny cat.? I don't know what caused those spots, but a delicate cat. like a monarch shouldn't ingest it. It would be the equivalent of a human eating a giant four foot wide rotten pizza or the like.  

I finally got the Last shot of the monarch life cycle that I have been missing for four years. When a cat. hatches from it's egg, the first meal it eats is egg shell, an excellent source of protein! Mom always said eat your eggs! (I miss eggs) Anyhoo, below is the shot I got! I was very excited~ and instantly regretted not dragging out my tripod! When I was done, I was hot, dripping with sweat and had only a few shots that were fully in focus. So glad I finally have it.

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