Thursday, July 12, 2018

Triumph and Tragedy part II

This has been a very sad and exhausting week for me, and my butterfly project.
As of my writing earlier this week, I believed that the cause of my caterpillars sickness was pesticide poisoning, now I believe it was NPV, which is virus that is fairly common in caterpillars, and can wipe out any critter that comes in contact with it.  I will not go into detail about it here, but I encourage you to look it up, and familiarize yourself with signs and symptoms if you are raising large numbers of caterpillars in captivity.
I ended up contacting the U of M Monarch lab, and here is what I learned....

 Raising large numbers of caterpillars in captivity can be deadly if too many are too close together.  It’s recommended that cats are kept in individual containers, or no more than 2-3 together, to minimize contamination if one becomes ill.
  Any caterpillar that shows any signs of illness, green goo, poor appetite, unexplained behavior (IE writhing as though in pain) should immediately be removed and isolated if not already.
 Anything that that caterpillar may have touched, enclosures, milkweed, other cats, even a handlers hands needs to be carefully sterilized before any further use.
 Also remove any Chrysalides that are in the enclosure as the adult butterfly can carry the virus, and spread it wherever it lands....YIKES!
NPV and other viruses are fairly common in caterpillar populations, and anyone that is raising large numbers of caterpillars should expect to deal with it at some point.

So I learned a very sad, hard lesson.  After having to freeze about 2 dozen caterpillars, including 3 that were in J’s and spending several hours disinfecting  three enclosures with bleach, and giving away about a dozen caterpillars to a fellow butterfly lady I hope I am past this crisis.  I am frustrated, and a little scared to start up operation again, but I will be much more careful in the future, and vigilant in my watch for any trouble.

So, will let you know what happens next!  Stay tuned.
#save the monarch

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Triumph and tragedy July 10

A lot has happened in my Monarch quest since my last post!  I was out of town for 2 weekends over the holiday, and had to take my babies with me the first weekend, and leave them in the care of my capable daughter the second weekend.  The first weekend was spent with family in Iowa, where I spent time caterpillar/egg hunting with grand nephews and grand niece.  I came home with several additions to my menagerie.   The next weekend was spent at a cabin near Bemidji Mn, where I was also able to SAVE the Monarchs one caterpillar at a time!  I discovered a small clearing near our cabin that had recently been mowed, which sadly probably destroyed caterpillars and eggs, but there were many tiny plants beginning to grow back, and mama Monarch flitting from plant to plant laying her bounty.  There were eggs and baby caterpillars on nearly every plant.  Again I returned home to add to my ever growing caterpillar family!
Here's the tragedy part of the weekend; before we left I grabbed some milkweed from a spot I'd never picked before, and by Sunday afternoon I had 2 large cats that were vomiting up green goo (never a good thing)  I've written in past blogs about viruses and infections from wasps etc..... I really wasn't sure what was happening, and I euthanized 4 big caterpillars. So I turned to my Facebook group for advice, a couple people said it sounded like pesticide poisoning.  That hadn't occurred to me!  SO LESSON LEARNED....don't pick unfamiliar milkweed, even if it is nearby and easy to get to, AND you're never so experienced that you don't need help from others sometimes!  So, Monday AM bright and early I went to get fresh Milkweed, threw out all the stuff that was in my big enclosure, then moved the surviving cats to the fresh Milkweed and they almost immediately came back to life!  I still lost 3 more that I think were just to sick to recover, time will tell if the others will recover, but they seem to be acting and eating normally again!

Another first for me....I had a caterpillar that was on the side of my glass aquarium, and it looked like it was planning to try to spin it's Chrysalis there, I knew that the Chrysalis would be deformed on one side, so I pulled it off.  THE Caterpillar curled up on the bottom of the enclosure and I was sure I'd killed it, but nature (and the caterpillar) had other ideas, and much to my astonishment it spun on the bottom of the aquarium!  Yes, it's still deformed, but I didn't even know that was possible.  I hung it up, and so far it seems like it may develop normally.  Again, time will tell if it ecloses and is able to fly, I'll report on that next blog! To be continued.....
Eggs saved from my neighbors yard
5 huge boquets of milkweed saved from certain destruction!
One more triumph....
There is a house in my neighborhood that has milkweed in their yard. ...a lot of milkweed!  Last year at the end of July they cut it down, and I drove by one day and it was all in the trash!  I almost stopped and knocked on their door, but didn't ..... fast forward to this year, I watched those milkweed begin to grow again.  This time when they cut them down again in early June I stopped and pleaded with them to not cut them mid season. I saved 7 5th in star cats out of the destroyed pile of dead milkweed,  3 weeks later, end of June, they cut them again, so today (July 10) I stopped again, knocked on the door and asked if I could pull it for them, before they could weedwack it again.   I saved 35 eggs, 3 large cats, and 16 babies!

So it's been a very busy week of triumphs and tragedy in my caterpillar kingdom.  I may be in over my head with trying to SAVE all these caterpillars, but I'll do my best to give them a better shot at surviving then I believe they would have had otherwise.  So as always I continue to SAVE the Monarch

Sunday, July 1, 2018

July 1. Update

We are only a month or so into the season and I have already raised and released nearly 50 butterflies!  There was a few days that I didn't find anything as the first generation (in Minnesota) were busy mating and laying eggs, now I expect to find many more in the next two months as we head toward the Super Monarch generation that will migrate south to Mexico.

Last year I had only released 2 butterflies by now, and a total of 75.  This year I'm expecting to triple that number! 

A few people have asked me about tagging. Tagging begins mid to late August. Remember the current butterflies mate, lay eggs and die, so tagging them now does not serve any real purpose except to see if my released butterflies return to my own yard to lay eggs.   Even then the odds of me seeing the female laying eggs in my garden is slim.   So right now the significance of my releasing 50 plus healthy adults (almost 75% female) is that there are that many monarchs out there reproducing.   So I continue to believe that those of us that are back yard scientists, just out there raising Monarchs in a safe environment are adding numbers to the population and making a difference to SAVE the Monarchs!!  So keep up the good work. If this year is any indication the numbers are up and our efforts are helping.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Chrysalides a plenty!

Well this season is off to an amazing start. I will have butterflies hatching daily for the next several weeks. I'm hoping at least some of the females will return to lay eggs in my garden.
There seems to be a lull in the action temporarily until this new generation gets out and lays more eggs.  I've joined two Facebook pages (Welcome to those who have found this blog through facebook) raising MONARCH butterflies, And Minnesota MONARCH crusaders.  These fellow MONARCH lovers are doing great work for the cause, and it's a great resource to get questions answered by MONARCH lovers with a wealth of experience in the field.  Amazing photos and videos posted.... check it out!
I'll post more next week as all these butterflies begin to eclose. My favorite time of the year!  Until next time...,
Save the monarch!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

June 8

 The Monarch caterpillar season is going strong already!  Every time I check plants for caterpillars I'm finding them.  IT's been several years since that has happened, so what is different about this year?  I'm not a scientist, but as with everything, it must have to do with climate.    We can only speculate what it will mean for the Super Monarch population in August.
AS of the writing of this blog I have 1 Chrysalis, 1 in a J, 11 eggs and more caterpillars than I can count.   Finding food, cleaning out frass and keeping track of babies and eggs takes many hours every day, but it's so much fun to watch the process and feel like my small caterpillar farm is making a difference.
AS always if you're experienced at this, or new to the idea, or thinking about joining the crusade, do some research before you get in over your head.   It takes a lot of time and commitment and a bit of ingenuity  to be a help for these beautiful butterflies. I am always willing to help, give advice, share ideas with newbies and there's lots of information online.
It's going to be a great summer!!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Welcome to the 2018 Monarch season!

Welcome to the 2018 Monarch season!,

I have had several friends telling me that they have seen Monarchs around and I found several eggs in one of my favorite patches, as well as in my garden!
This is much earlier than in some years, so I am hopeful and encouraged what that means for the season and the population!

When I start to get excited about my caterpillars I often wake up with ideas on how best and easiest to raise them. Last year I created a habitat for my big cats out of an old aquarium, this year I created a habitat for my babies using a shoebox, florist tubes (available online or at bachmans) and a pop up cage that I purchased on Amazon  I will include pictures below.  The really nice thing about this is it is completely portable if I need to take babies with me if I'm out of town.

So go out and Save the Monarch!
The Monarch Lady

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

last blog of the season...

It was a good year for the Monarch.  My final numbers were very encouraging.  I raised 75 Monarchs.  Of those I released 71, and tagged 39.  I had 3 caterpillars die before reaching Chrysalis stage.  So if you consider the odds of those nearly 80 caterpillars born/living in the wild only 2-3 would survive, I have done my best to help the population.
I had 2 butterflies "fall" at the very end of the season, and I've included the picture I took of those butterflies.  I believe that the butterflies sometimes fall after eclosing (emerging) if the temperature is too cold for them to cling to the chrysalis.  Last year I lost 4 of my last butterflies that hatched.  This year I only lost 2, because I moved the Chrysalis so that if the butterfly fell it could climb back up to a hanging position before doing permanent damage to the wings.  It has been shown that if the butterfly has something that it can crawl on such as mesh, or even paper towels that it will right itself.  The butterflies in the below picture fell in a glass container, that they were unable to crawl on the glass, therefor the wings dry as shown in the picture, and the butterfly is never able to fly.  That is also why it's imperative that when raising Monarchs that the butterfly is left to completely dry it's wings before it is disturbed.
If you are interested in trying to follow any of my tagged butterflies the website is and my tags are XUL200-XUL239  They usually begin reporting found butterflies around Feb. or March. 
So until next season....Save the Monarch