Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hello Monarch Mommas and Pappas!

Well here we are, nearing the end of the monarch season.
Reports to Journey South (aka Journey North) is that the migration has begun in the most northern regions of the summer breeding grounds.
Overnight roosts of many monarchs have been reported in Canada, MN and Wi.
The migration is triggered by the angle of the sun, day length, overnight temps and quality of the milkweed.
Meaning the mw is beginning to die for the season or senesce.
When the migration generation emerges from their pupae they are in a state of diapause.
It is a physical state of sexual dormancy. Mating is an enormous drain of the butterflies, energy.
In order to live through the migration and winter in Mexico, they do not mate until next March.
This however does not mean that our rearing time has come to an end. Last year at this time I collected close to 400 eggs and cats. There is no doubt that those eggs were butterflies destined for Mexico

So, if you have not found any eggs or if you do not have caterpillar fatigue…
I urge you to clean those aphids off your milkweed and give your collection on more week.
I have not found many eggs at home this past week but I have found quite a few at work.
I am hoping that next weeks’  80 degree temps will give me my last hundred eggs.
You can spray the aphids off with your hose or squish them first and rinse your plants.
Be sure to look for eggs first.

At this time of the season, you will probably be seeing a lot of red bugs on your milkweed seed pods.
If you want to save that seed,  go out in the garden with a bucket of soapy water and shake the insects into it.
The soapy water will kill them. These are the nymphs (immature) milkweed bugs.
These insects wait until the seed is almost ready then they devour them.

Sharing mw seed with lots and lots of people is an important part of my monarch conservation efforts.
If you have seed but no one to share it with, I will take the pods.

If you are going to collect seeds to give away, here is a short tutorial…
First, the first pods that will pop open and seeds fly away on the silk will be the lower pods.
Second, the seeds are not ready to harvest until the seeds are coco brown.
So if you are checking pods and they won’t pop open easily they probably are not ready and seeds are still white.
Third, when collecting pods they should only go in Paper bags, plastic will cause the pods to mold and spoil the seeds.
Paper allows them to dry naturally. They can be in the garage in a dry place away from mice.
Fourth, cleaning the seeds is a bit messy but there is a good method that can be used about 3 weeks into the drying process.
Basically, what you will do is, over a paper bag or some container, open the pod a little and grasp the pod at the top to hold the silk in.
Then use your thumb to shuck the seeds off the fluff. After that continue letting the seeds dry in a paper bag. After a while put them in a storage container.
Fifth, sharing your seeds, after they are completely dry, by Thanksgiving, you can package the in small plastic bags, small #1 envelopes or recycled prescription bottles.
This is a great way to reuse those Rx bottles.
You can send your seeds directly to Monarch Watch, they grow mw to sell but they also give away a lot to schools and non profits.
Make sure your seed is cleaned, dried, in a Ziploc bag an sent in tear proof package
Monarch Watch
University of Kansas
2021 Constant Ave
Lawrence, KS 66047

On Sept 21 I will be presenting my Benefits of Biodiversity lecture at work.
On October 5 I will be hosting a Monarch Season Wrap Up session. I would love to have as many monarch mommas and pappas as possible there.
My plan is that we can share our experiences from this season and compare notes. See if we can improve our chances even more next year.
These lectures will be at the Oak View Center in Oak Lawn and more info about them can be found here.

My egg and cat. collection is up to 1800 and 544 butterflies released, I have begun separating the little buggers by size so the cats. don’t eat each other.
I hope my success rate increases.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

August 9th Update...Monarch Watch Update too

I hope you are making it through our dry spell.
I know my grass is suffering but….who cares?
My garden is flourishing. ;)

Monarch Watch/ Dr. Chip Taylor has updated the Monarch Watch Blog about the summer monarch populations.
All reports seem like these past weeks have been an egg laying fest all over the summer breeding grounds.
I have included the text below for your convenience.
There is also info below on how to purchase monarch tags.
If you want to tag your butterflies (hopefully your tagged butterfly will be found in Mexico!)
Order your tags soon, Monarch watch only sells 100,000 per season.

It is not too late to register your garden as a Monarch Waystation!

There are members of our group that have just found their first eggs and cats. in the last week.
I am happy to share that my sis Bridget and hubby Bill found eggs and cats last weekend in Naperville!
This after planting for a couple of years for the butterflies J

Keep looking, the eggs that are being laid now until the end of the season are the Migration Generation,
this is the most critical time for egg collection.
Last night I had a delightful dinner with Lee and Barb & my Dad, we were checking their 5 foot tall (yes, that is what I said 5 foot!!) Swamp Milkweed!
I started looking at the flower buds and boom. 17 more eggs. Look for eggs on tight buds, colored up but not open yet.

As for my experiences this season, I was bringing home lots of eggs and cats. from work and finding 30-50 a day at home. In the last 10 days there has been a lull.
Very few new eggs and cats, Yesterday the eggs started appearing again.
I have released 199 butterflies with about 100 chrysalis’ in the cat. house and still many more eggs coming up.
I am happy to say that I have had very little in the way of cat. deaths and only one Tachnid fly ruined a chrysalis so far.
This is usually due to bringing in large 3-5th instar cats. Just another reason why collecting eggs is important.
I may have a few more of these losses but nothing compared to years past.
Collection is up to 1296, releases 199. However I do not have 1000 cats. in play. There is a certain degree of cannibalism that is hard to avoid.
Other insects… The MW Bugs eggs are starting to hatch, you will see many little red insects with black legs appearing on your seed pods.
If you want to save that seed to share with others and plant yourself (or toss out your car window under the cover  of night…)
you will have to squish these insects. They eat seed pods and seeds.

I saw more than a few swamp mw bugs on that lg swamp last night. They will eat eggs and cats.
Is there anyone out there who has not seen any monarchs or collected cats. yet?
Well that is all for now, If you would like to see pictures that go with this email, refer to my blog.

Have a great day!!

Dolly Foster
Horticulturist, Certified Arborist
Twitter: @Hort4u