Monday, March 7, 2016

Post # 2 / 2016, Feb. 12th

Well, I was waiting to write to you about the official monarch count in Mexico. 
However…. They have not come in yet. And I don’t know why. So we wait.
They are very fortunate that there have been no severe storms in central Mexico this winter.
There have been preliminary numbers floating around the ol’ interweb but they are not the official numbers.
Monarch Watch uses the World Wildlife Federation count in their record keeping and research.
The California numbers are in and they are up. This is a very good thing for the west coast population.
They have had some help!
Inmates at Walla Walla Penitentiary have been helping Washington State Entomologist Dr. David James track the migration pattern of the monarch down the coast to the over wintering grounds in Southern Cali.
Several of their migration tags have been located in Cali in the area of Santa Cruz and Monterey.
Very exciting for all those involved. These are two nice articles and video about the program.

I cannot express in words how excited I am for this year!
I can’t wait for the monarchs to return, I am doing education in several places to get people prepared and we will be having a Monarch Fest at the Oak Lawn Park District!
Here are a few upcoming public classes I am giving…
Winter Sowing & Seed Collecting:
Oak View Center at the Oak Lawn Parks: Mon. Feb 29th 6:30pm-9:30pm.
pre registration required.
Butterfly Gardening: Griffith Indiana Library: Mon. March 21 starting at 7pm,
Easy Pruning for the Gardener: Oak View Center at the Oak Lawn Parks: Mon. Mar. 28th 6:30pm-9:30pm.
Butterfly Gardening Workshop (all three lectures in one place!): Joliet JR. College: Sat. April 9th: 9am-12pm
Here is the brochure for spring classes, reg info inside.
Butterfly Gardening Workshop (all three lectures in one place): Oak Lawn Park District: Mon. April 18th 6pm-9pm at the Oak View Center,
pre registration required.
Succulent Social Hour: Bring a friend! Plant a pot of adorable little plants! Have a few snax! Friday May 13th 7-9pm at the Oak View Center
Openhouse at Dolly’s home, Late June- Date TBA
Butterfly Gardening and Demo: Internatl’ Friendship gardens in Michigan City: Sun, Aug 21 2:00pm- a great event! All outdoors, demo, conversation and plant sale.
Monarch Fest in Oak Lawn: at the Oak View Center: Sat. Sept 17th 2-5pm free educational and family fun event including monarch tagging, plant sale and kids activities (shhh! It’s a secret but the kids will be doing something super fun with our Artist in Residence!!!!)
Monarch Season Wrap Party: Early October date TBA
Seed Cleaning and Storage: November at the Oak Lawn Parks…date TBA
I hope to see you all  sometime this year. It is always nice to put names a faces together.
Getting prepared for this year rearing season….
Now is a good time to Winter Sow your milkweed seeds. If you need seeds send me a SASE and I will send you a few.
Come to my WS lecture to learn how to grow seeds at home outside in winter! Yes you can!
Also a good time to go over your supplies for taking care of your caterpillars this summer.
A few changes I will be making this year, I will be cutting a ventilation hole in my rearing boxes. Then covering the holes with parasitoid proof screening.
You can find this fabric here by the yard if you are interested.
I am going to do this because I think that airflow or lack of it, is one of my biggest problems. How do you do this?
Cut a hole in the top or sides of your boxes, glue the screening in and go over the edges with silicone caulk.
A few of you have already done this, so share with me what you did with a few pictures. I will share it with the group.
Consider increasing your air flow in the containers with your cats. It will improve your survival rate.
Always learning and changing this for the better is a great way to improve this hobby, passion…obsession...what have you :p

I will be growing trop mw in 6” pots on the ledge of my deck again this year. I loved having my eggs at eye level!
However, I won’t let those plants go to bloom or seed because they wilted, a lot.
So I will reserve the blooming to the very large pots. I got a little frustrated last year because I was waiting for seeds and struggling with the pots drying out daily yada yada.
Lee has said he will make another cat. house for me this summer. We need more room to spread the cats. out to minimize disease.
He is constantly thinking of ways to improve the design.  I can’t wait to see what he has planned this year. I am hoping to bring one to the Monarch Fest.
Another new thing for this year; cleaning the cat house.
I had problems cleaning out the new cat. house last year because of the design. I could not easily rinse out the frass like I had with the previous design.
This year I will try vacuuming it out. I bought a tiny shop vac last fall thinking I could clean the fluff from my mw seeds. Hahahaha, silly me. Not enough horsepower on that one. More like pony power!
So I will use it for the frass. If you do this too, make sure you thoroughly look for stray cats. first. I had to do that when I was washing with the hose.
Then every few days wipe down as much of the surfaces inside the cat. house with bleach water.
As for cleaning the mw, I was using Lee’s big shop vac and the dust collecting system he has attached to it for wood working. I used it until we noticed that the floss fragments and becomes airborne. Those bits of floss are not going to look good trapped in the finish of our woodwork.
Since we will be using the garage for varnishing the wood work for the house….well let’s just say I have lots of floss on my tongue in my future.. I may try fire again.
Other changes, I have procured a bunch of small organza gift bags and will use them around my seed pods this summer so the trop mw seeds don’t fly. I lost a lot of seed to that last summer.
I will have these available for purchase at my lectures and Monarch Fest.
The Uof I Extension is hosting a seed exchange in Chicago next weekend. I will be there with mw seeds and native pollinator flower seeds. Here are the details:

4th Annual Southside Organic Gardeners Seed Swap
Saturday Feb 20, 2016 from 10 – 11:30 am
U of I Extension office, 9415 S. Western Ave, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL
Co-hosted with Abe Lentner, featuring guest speaker, Josh Tate who will share his methods for intensive vertical urban farming.  Bring your seeds, envelopes and a marker. Extension will supply limited materials.

A new article on a blog about Dr. Chip talking about planting habitats, you might enjoy it…
The Monarch Joint Venture ( BTW the Field Museum is now a member) has made another fantastic handout for all of us to print off and distribute.
This one deals with teaching people about the best time of the year to mow fields and meadows to benefit the monarch
Here is a link to their webpage and all of the other handouts they have made.

Check out my website, I have added some content and will add more soon.
Well enough for now, I will be in touch next weekend.
Have  a great weekend and Happy Valentin’s Day Friends!

Dolly Foster, Horticulturist
“Horton Ergo Sum”

Monarch Mommas & Papas #5

I have some info for you on preparing for the upcoming Monarch Season. 
Some people express concern about how to find monarch eggs. 
It can be tricky. When I started out I had no ideas what I was looking for. 
I would wait until I saw little caterpillars and then they woulds disappear. 
Darn Spiders!  
I then learned about collecting eggs to protect them. The first step is to learn what you are looking for. 
Eggs are layed by the female monarch only on milkweed plants usually on the underside of a leaf. 
However, I have found eggs on the top of leaves, on stems and even on Flowerbuds!
So, don't forget to look there too.

I came across this video on Youtube a while back and it popped up on Facebook recently. 
It is a bit long. It was made in 2013 when the population was in jeopardy so it is a bit sad at the beginning
Keep that in mind- the video is 3 years old.  you can fast forward to 2:09 to view the info.
The info on how to collect eggs is spot on.  
The series is pretty good too. If I can't answer a question for you, maybe Mr. Lund can.
I will post some egg photos on my blog today that you can save to you phone and use as reference. 

One of the things that Mr. Lund states in the video is monarch eggs have a 10% chance in the wild to make it to the wing. 
This figure, while not wholly inaccurate, is believed by researchers to be  closer to 2-3% survival. 

He also says in his video that you can find eggs in the wild and take them home, raise them...
My experience the last few summers and talking with many other gardeners, is we have been finding more at home than 
out on roadsides and fields. There are many more predators out in the wild. 
So if you can plant native mw at home common if you have there room, swamp if you don't. 
Plant tropical in pots. 

I will be selling milkweed at the Oak Lawn Earth Day event and OL Monarch Fest... more about that later. 
If you'd like some seeds, let me know. 

Have a great week! enjoy the warm temps this week,
14 days until spring! 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

2016 Winter Monarch Population-MX

This info came out last week Feb 26th. This is really good news but we need to plant more habitat. 

The WWF states that the numbers in Mexico have risen to 3 1/2x the number of last year. 
We did it, we made a difference! 
The butterflies are occupying 10 acres! Last year if you remember the butterflies occupied only 2.8 acres and increase of 69% from the year before which was 1.6 acres. 
An acre is just over 40,000 square feet. 
What does this mean? Well I will ponder that and so can you, send me your thoughts. I will send another post this weekend. 
Have a great day! PLANT MILKWEED!!!

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