Wednesday, September 3, 2014

So a little bit more about my operation: The first step to raising healthy monarch butterflies is to have plenty off food for your caterpillars (cats.)  I prefer feeding them tropical milkweed, an annual in my NW Indiana garden. I plant it in pots so i can easily pick them up and look at the undersides of the leaves for eggs. Don't forget to look at the tops of the leaves and around the flower buds.  Tiny cats. will hide among the buds. I plant about 5 seedlings in each pot. It was suggested to my, by a friend, that the monarchs sometimes like brand new baby plant to lay eggs. I potted up some midseason seedlings and it did the trick. I saw an increase in egg laying immediately. As of tonight my collection total for the summer is 1,157!

Once you know what you are looking for, collecting is easy.

The eggs are very easy to see.

When I bring the eggs in the house, they go right into hatching boxes. These are just plastic storage boxes. They need to be big enough that there is good air in there. Open daily to get fresh air inside. A piece of damp (not wet) paper towel goes on the bottom of the box. You must keep the leaf moist and supple until the egg hatches. 

This season I moved my operation indoors because the weather here has not been favorable to using my cat. house. Plus hubby promised to build a better one for me. So into the tiny utility room they went. I use 10 G aquariums on end to accommodate tall stems of mw and vases with small openings. I prevent cats. from falling into the water by using ones with small opening and I jam a wad of waxpaper in the opening to secure the stems and seal the water.

Sometimes there are too many eggs for my hatching boxes and I have to improvise. This is only temporary, once a box frees up it is sterilized and the eggs are moved up to the larger container. It is so important to not overcrowd the cats. Overcrowding  can cause bacterial contamination that kills. Clean your containers Everyday to prevent this. It will be necessary to move the cats. out of the box to do the cleaning. 
That's all for tonight!

Hello Friends, It seems that I have been neglecting my blog. My apologies. The reason why is incredible. Let's start with last season...I only found 50 monarch eggs in my garden the Whole season (may-Sept). I think back and I only saw about 3 monarchs the whole season. As you can imagine it was depressing.
This year is so much better! I have seen butterflies in my garden almost every day, for weeks! I started collecting eggs in the third week of May and also got a few cats. (caterpillars) from my friend Bob. Since then I have had many batches of caterpillars. I have, as of last night, collected 1153! However as of today I have releases only 211 healthy butterflies. I had A lot of cat. deaths early on and a few diseased butterflies that I had to euthanize. Very sad, I know, but in practical terms if the butterfly is diseased it may spread the disease to others. I do have about 300 cats in play right now so this may help my survival ratio. 

I will write more tonight I promise- I really need to go clean all the cat. containers and aquariums right now. 
 Eggs start off in plastic containers to keep the leaves alive while the egg develops. Once they hatch, they should be given a new leave to feed on because the old one will get moldy, dry out or get consumed.
 These Chrysalids are all hatched now, part of the big batch of 25 on Monday.
 They make their chrysalis in maddening places sometimes
This is what it is all about, releasing healthy monarchs for the migration

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Happy Spring! Or what there is of it. I have not begun cleaning my garden yet, for fear that the cold will kill my perennials. So my spring bulb show is not so pretty this year. I am getting very excited about the monarch butterfly season coming up. I have been hoping and praying that the weather in the southern states has been good enough to give them the population the boost that they need to make this summer really count.
So far the weather has been ok, No tornadoes (or very few), no Texas wildfires, floods or drought....Even though this spring has been very cold, the weather has been mild.

So in the spirit of getting ready for our little friends coming back this spring, I am giving a Butterfly Gardening Workshop tomorrow (April 28)  T at Moraine Valley CC. 6:30-9, $15, you can register by phone! (708) 974-4300. 9000 W College Pkwy, Palos Hills, IL 60465 Easy! Peasy! I will be covering Butterfly Gardening, Monarch Conservation and raising caterpillars at home.

Below are a few photos of a newly designed caterpillar house that a new friend of mine made. It was not hard to build at all! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Winter fatigue is settling in

PhotoWell, friends we are 17 days out from the First Day of Spring. I capitalize it because for me, it is akin to a National Holiday! In Chicago (and elsewhere) this winter has been long, been dark and way more snowy and bitter cold than normal. I neglected getting my caterpillar house into the garage for most of the winter, so time will tell if my 55 black swallowtail b-flies will hatch or not. The photo on the left is from Jan. 5th, the date of the first polar vortex. I am hoping the snow insulated the house enough. All I can do now is wait.  
My hope is that the sheer force of the Earth tilting will force Mother Nature to turn of the snow faucet!
I am also getting very excited for this summer's monarch season. I have been editing last years' photos and I can't wait to see my little friends again! 

One thing that has been keeping me going this winter is giving lectures on creating butterfly gardens and raising monarchs at home. I really love giving these lectures and hopefully to inspire one or two people to raise butterflies. I had my first inquiry after the Porter Co. Flower show. These two lovely ladies are so excited that they wanted to come by in February and "see my operation". Hahahaha, well is it a very small operation but I am hoping for more caterpillars this year. I am looking forward to coaching them when they need it.
I am so very excited about getting permission to register two sites at work as Monarch Waystations! I just got the clearance from the boss, Thanks! Those registrations will got through in the next three weeks. 
What does Monarch Waystation mean, you ask?  You can register your butterfly garden as a Monarch Waystation with the organization The criteria is simple, have a garden of a certain size, have nectaring plants, 2 or more species of milkweed, protection from wind and rain and voila! Your butterfly garden is a registered habitat.  

PhotoI know, I know, the news all over the country has been reporting the sad news of the smallest number of Monarchs to overwinter in Mexico. California has also reported lower than normal numbers of their migrating populations. The one thing I cling to is that we (humans) have only been monitoring these overwintering sites for about 20 years and the migration is probably about 10,000 years old. So as bleak as is looks, there could be improvement if our weather goes back to what we call normal. The most critical piece to the puzzle, this year, will be the spring weather in Texas. All the Monarchs in Mexico have begun mating and they will soon move on to their spring egg laying sites in southern Texas. If we have an upset in the weather as in 2012 and 2013, the Monarchs may be headed for an irreversible disaster to their populations. So please pay attention to the weather forecasts for Texas.