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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Up the Monarch Nursery Trail

In my last post (a month ago!!!) I predicted I'd be seeing more Monarch butterflies, along with caterpillars and chrysalides, as we progressed in to August.  Well I'm happy to report that my predictions were correct.

During the week I clipped some leaves that had eggs on and brought them inside. (If you click on the images, you can see a larger version to see the eggs)  This method was suggested by members of a Facebook group, but I found that the leaves shriveled very quickly and went crisp before the eggs had hatched.

Once the eggs were hatched I added fresh leaves each day, but it's a lot of work keeping the container clean and I was terrified I was going to throw out a hatchling with the frass (caterpillar poop) and crispy leaves. In addition, the tiny hatchlings seem bound and determined to escape.  They were all over the place!

Now those caterpillars have grown a bit, I have transferred them to milkweed clippings in water picks, like the ones in the photo below. I think this is my preferred method.  If I can find stems with eggs and small caterpillars on them, I can cut out the first step above.

Giving them fresh milkweed is just a case of taking new cuttings and placing them in picks right next to the ones already there.  The caterpillars move over to the fresh leaves pretty quickly and then I can just remove the old ones.

The photo above was taken through the back door, with a bird screen on it, so it's not a great shot.  But do you see anything strange about this photo?

See that little flash of orange in the center of the photo?

There it is again - top left.  A Queen butterfly!  She was flitting around the milkweed as I was collecting clippings and when I went in to get my camera to try and get a photo of her, I couldn't believe when she started laying eggs on the stems I had left on the table!

See her little gift in the middle of the leaf?  

If you look at the enlarged version of this pic, you can see there's a tiny caterpillar on here too.  Not sure if it's a Monarch or a Queen.

So here I go on the Monarch Nursery trail again.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.


Rock rose said...

What a wonderful nursery you have going there. I admire your dedication. I get lots of Queens in my garden but few Monarchs and am not sure I ever see the caterpillars. They are usually on the blue mist flower.

Misti said...

Too funny about the queen!

Did you put a lid over the container? I poked holes in mine and they kept the things moist for the five days before they hatched. I've got five chrysalides now (started with 8 cats, two disappeared and one died). Once I get these released I hope to raise at least one more batch if I can!

Happy monarch and queen raising!

Jayne said...

Hi Misti, I had a paper towel, held in place by an elastic band to cover the container. But I found it difficult to get the band off without running the risk of jerking the contents of the container all over. Plus I noticed the caterpillars weren't staying on the leaves, they were climbing the sides of the container as if to escape. Now I have them on the cuttings they stay there, munching away, until they've chewed it down to a stump. then I put a fresh one next to them, with the leaves touching and they move over to the new one within an hour or so.

Denise inVA said...

I love that you are doing this Jayne and look forward to their progress. I bought a milkweed plant for the first time and am eager for it to be used by our fluttery friends.