Saturday, October 24, 2015

Late October update 10/24

Hello friends, A little update for you: The monarch season, for me, is officially over. Lee released our last for beauties last Sunday. I was feeling under the weather and was sleeping most of the day. Since it was warm and we had held them over and fed them for three days, Lee released them. So another one in the can as they say.
My totals were impressive and sad too. My total number collected (eggs & cats.) was 2254. Most were collected from my garden and with the help of my awesome workers this summer, we collected over 1000 in the gardens at the Oak Lawn Parks. Thank you girls and guys! You were great!
That leaves about 1000 collected at home and this year I offered to foster cats. for a few select friends and relatives who wanted to ease into this. That was about 250. Once those individuals felt more comfortable, they began raising their own by mid Aug. 
My release number was just about 1000. I do not have an exact number because well, sometimes the butterflies gave me the bum's rush at the door of the cat. house. So I would say I am accurate within 1-3%. I lost many cats. to an outbreak of what I think was NPV virus. This is a highly contagious disease that kills very quickly and spreads very quickly. I had a little bit of Tachnid fly, a parasite common to monarchs and I had some O.E. parasite deaths at the end of the season. This appearance of the parasite O.E. at the end of summer is indicative to the care of monarchs. The spores of the parasite build up over summer on milkweed foliage, to a critical point and it infects many cats as they eat the milkweed. It is very important to wash and dry your leaves as you are feeding. Sometimes the infection is unavoidable. 
I was able to get a hold of 125 tags from Monarch Watch this fall and tagged some butterflies for the first time. That was very cool. Monarch watch makes 100K tags each year with the hopes that volunteers like us will tag monarchs and that a portion of them will be found in Mexico or observed on the way to MX. You can do this too, Go to the Monarch Watch website next summer. 
As of today 10/24 monarchs are arivibg in large groups at the sanctuary in central Mx. The huricane Patricia seems to have spared the biosphere of any heavy winds and rains. The storm is now moving through TX and the rain there put monarchs at risk. Time will tell, but instinct will hopefully make some of the monarchs pause and rest on one place fir a few days. 
A few items I have found for you this week...
If you are an Illinois resident, this link is to a petition to Pass SB1742 to create the Roadside Monarch Habitat Fund in Illinois. 
If your Tropical milkweed is planted in pots, it can be saved over the winter.
If you have been saving your seed, then you may not want to consider doing this. The seeds germinate easily and the plants grow quickly.
However, if you anticipate needing a plethora of plants for yourself or to share next year, you can save your plants a few ways:
1.     Repot your plants, trimming the roots and giving them fresh soil. Cut your plants down completely. Keep them in your house under grow lights
a.      By repotting with fresh soil you will reduce the appearance of fungus gnats- if they do appear, water with a 50/50 mix of water and hydrogen peroxide. One or two waterings should kill them
2.     Take cuttings of your trop. mw stems and root them in soil in the house, make sure to clean the stems with 5% bleach solution, pat dry, recut, plant.
3.     If your trop mw is in larger pots, you can try to keep it over the winter in your garage. Attached is best, place in a warm corner water once or twice over the winter. Take them outside in April when the weather breaks.
a.      At that time you will want to repot, trim the roots, fresh soil and slow release fertilizer.

As most of you know I have been collecting a saving seeds and sharing seeds for many years. I just received info on how to catch the seeds before the pods pop!
If you can get a hold of a few organza gift pouches, you can tie these over your mw pods (the small ones) wait for them to pop and cut the stem off with the bag.
I like this one, because it looks big enough to fit over a large cluster of trop. mw pods.
You can slow down the opening of common mw pods, by placing a rubber band around the pods to prevent opening. See the photo below.
All this does is ensure that you don’t miss the seeds when the pods pop. It does not hurt the plant or the ripening of the seeds in any way.

This is an interesting article on the many uses of milkweed:
This link is too a recently  released document discussing the long view of monarch recovery,
I found an article/ publication from Michigan State University Extension on planting for pollinators.
A link to an article out of Washing State, a group of volunteers got together and planted a butterfly habitat on a local college campus:
And just for fun…. The newest Winnie the Pooh story in a long time is all about saving the bees!

Please don’t forget to report your releases in our Google Doc. The results are building!
I can’t wait to see our total number of released monarchs. Thank you, let’s keep it going!
Again this is just for us, so we can see how many monarchs we have released as a group.

Please remember to sterilize all your tools, containers, vases, clippers etc. that you have been using for raising your monarchs.
Put everything you can into the dishwasher and clean everything else with bleach. The OE parasite spores can live over the winter. So sterilizing is very important.

Well, I don’t know about you but I miss my caterpillars but am thankful for a break! That’s why I love living in a region with 4 seasons ;)
Back to working on the house.
Don’t hesitate to email me with questions!

Have a great weekend!

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