ButterflyLady29
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2017 Saving Monarch Butterflies by raising caterpillars

Since this hasn't been started for 2017 I'll be the first.

I saw a few tiny little caterpillars on some potted milkweed a few days ago. Yesterday I looked again and didn't find anything except a few nibbled spots on the leaves. So today I looked again with scissors and a container in hand. I found several nibbled spots and only about 10 very tiny caterpillars. I saw several eggs and a female butterfly flitting about the milkweed patch. I found 2 large caterpillars on a plant in the back yard.

The large caterpillars are now in the butterfly habitat and the tiny ones are in a plastic mayo jar. I don't dare put the tiny ones in with the large ones because large caterpillars will eat small ones if they happen to be on a leaf they are eating. Also the tiny ones are so small they would get lost and possibly be crushed in the habitat.

I really hope I don't mess with the life cycle of the little ones too much if they are in a shady area outside. In a couple days they should be large enough to live in the other habitat.

The wasps and spiders have been taking more that their share of this years caterpillars of all species. I had a Giant Swallowtail laying eggs on my citrus trees and haven't found any caterpillars. And a couple days ago I saw a crab spider feeding on a caterpillar that was 3 times larger than itself. Yesterday I saw an assassin bug nymph on one milkweed plant.

Now I am drinking a bottle of ginger pop so I have a bottle in which to put a cut milkweed stalk in. I'll need another for the second habitat.

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applestar
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Re: 2017 Saving Monarch Butterflies by raising caterpillars

Oooh that's so great! I'm glad there are other folks who are doing this :D

I'm having trouble keeping up with my garden chores, so I wasn't going to take care of them this year and let nature take its course. Although I AM eradicating Milkweed tussock moth caterpillar hatchings -- they completely strip a plant of all leaves with their mass-feeding.

...but now I'm feeling like I'm not doing enough... haha it's weird to not be collecting eggs and cats :| I will do what you did and try to pay attention to their survival rate before giving up on helping them.
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ButterflyLady29
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Re: 2017 Saving Monarch Butterflies by raising caterpillars

I don't have time to deal with them either but after seeing that so many had vanished off my plants I decided I will have to make the time to care for them. This morning I filled a small pan with sand and set the pop bottle in the middle of it. I cut one of the plants the rabbits kept eating and stuck it in the bottle. I miscalculated the height of the habitat and had to bend the stalk over to fit. I haven't checked the 2 large ones since putting the stalk in there so I'll have to go out and check them soon. But I figure they can find new plants on their own in the wild, they shouldn't have any problem finding that stalk in the tiny habitat.

I should go to my other property and check on those eggs. But this is one of those days where I don't feel like doing much more than holding down the couch. They won't be hatching for a few more days anyway.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: 2017 Saving Monarch Butterflies by raising caterpillars

I need to start doing this. I have noticed that the monarch and swallowtail caterpillars when they hatch out have a very high mortality rate.
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applestar
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Re: 2017 Saving Monarch Butterflies by raising caterpillars

Many of my common milkweeds are giants -- 6-7 feet tall. Most are about 4-5 feet. Individual leaves that are a foot long.

Hmm... I need to think about how to do this to make my workload easier.

I might try the "sleeve" method. You make big sleeve/tube out of tulle with drawstring top and bottom and slip this over the Milkweed with caterpillar(cat)/egg on the leaves, making sure there are no obvious predator inside of course. Question is do I have time to make the sleeves.

For home-made habitats, some people use the useless-for-tomato cages and wrap with tulle.
Last year(?) I used the giant pop up laundry hamper, cutting a bunch of milkweed with cats on them and putting them underneath.

...there's an answer in there somewhere.
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applestar
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Re: 2017 Saving Monarch Butterflies by raising caterpillars

Arrgh. Can't do it. I am hoping for the best.

I see them every day -- Monarch butterflies and caterpillars. I saw one hanging in a J to make a chrysalis a couple of days ago. I'm starting to see brightly colored freshly eclosed butterflies as well. Hopefully ones that grew up in my garden.

Since yesterday, there have been two males, making territorial sweeps and holding aerial battles, then separating and sweeping their individual patterns....
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applestar
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Re: 2017 Saving Monarch Butterflies by raising caterpillars

Yay! :clap: Took this picture around 2pm and you can see it was ready to eclose today. Maybe if I look out the window now, I will see it flying around...? Image

Image
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applestar
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Re: 2017 Saving Monarch Butterflies by raising caterpillars

Taken today at 11:30am. It was cloudy and so cold yesterday, temps didn't get above 60's. Today's high was 75°F but already down to 72°F ...hopefully it did eclose this afternoon and got to soak up what warmth it could in the sun.

Image
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applestar
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Re: 2017 Saving Monarch Butterflies by raising caterpillars

45°F this morning! No wonder he was taking so long to come out!

Image

Went to check as soon as I went outside and took the left two photos at 7:50am this morning. 51°F at that time.

By 10:30, he had climbed to the top of the Yucca leaf but the area was still in shade, so I moved him to the Sedum flower to get some energizing drink after the long eclosure and warm up in the sun.

I think of this as long time because when raised indoors in temperature stable-warmer environment, that first translucent chrysalis stage I posted would have meant it would have been out within the next couple of hours, 6 hours at most.

It does make me reconsider the indoor vs. outdoor caterpillar/butterfly raising habitat. Some people have argued that coddling them indoors would weaken them.
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