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applestar
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Our 2010 Monarch Project is well underway

As of this morning, we've raised 61 caterpillars to chrysalises with two more 5th instars ready to pupate and tagged and released 17 butterflies with two more to release later today, and 3 butterflies eclosed this morning to be released tomorrow. We may be able to top our last year's count of 76.

Fall migration of N.American Monarch butterflies have already started and the northern-most Monarchs are heading south. We only have about a month to go since I believe in NJ, the migration passes through around mid to late September with roosting sites being sighted around Cape May Point as late as the first few days of Oct.

This is the busiest time and I'm loving every minute of it! :-)

We also released one Black Swallowtail butterfly with 4 more chrysalises to go... Oh! Correction, one eclosed this morning! Also another late 3rd instar caterpillar was found on the celery so we're raising it on carrot tops.

DD8 wants to see a hornworm change into a sphinx moth, but so far the ones I've found on the tomatoes in our garden have been infested by braconid wasps. She was disappointed, though not creeped out since she's already seen it a few times, to discover wasp larvae emerging from the caterpillar's back. The first 1/2 dozen or so turned into dozens and they pupated on it's back. BIL found another younger -- 3rd or 4th instar? -- hornworm while he was tending the grill yesterday while we were visiting so we've brought it home, and I found another 5th instar at home on the hot peppers. so we'll see how these will do, though the 5th instar is not eating well and I have my doubts.

In addition to the Monarch butterflies, our garden is being regularly visited by Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Red Admirals, Red Spotted Purples, Pearl Crescents, Silver Spotted skippers as well as smaller un ID'd skippers and hairstreaks. Rarer visitors are Fritillaries, Viceroys, and Common Buckeyes.

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applestar
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Do you ever see tagged Monarchs when they start flying through?

I guess I couldn't expect ours to go cross country in your direction since ours are more likely to follow the Cape May Point funnel, down the Atlantic Coast line, THEN split into the Florida-Across the Gulf of Mexico group and Turn right in Georgia and Around the Gulf Coast group.

But the idea that butterflies we raised might stop at your farm on their way to Mexico is kind of neat. 8) :D

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gixxerific
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That is cool that you do that. I don't think I ever will but still...

I think of you a lot while outside. There are so many butterflies and moths that roll through here. Tons and tons of them. I have no idea what any of them are but I think to myself if Apple was here she could tell me. :wink: :D

I think about taking some pics to see if you could ID them. One of these day's life is crazy around here. 8)

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applestar
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Aw -- thanks, Gixx. :D Post your photos when you have them. I'd love to see what kinds of butterflies and moths you have in your garden. :wink:

Our Hot Pepper Killer (not the one that couldn't be found but the one I discovered in my New Hot Pepper Bed) hornworm burrowed under the paper towels and started shredding them a few days ago:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8020.jpg[/img]
This morning, it successfully pupated ! DD8 was so happy -- and intrigued 8):
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8078.jpg[/img]
You can see the looped hook/tail in the near end of the pupa.

Here are the photos of Monarch Project rearing set up for this year:
Eggs and 1st Instars:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8013.jpg[/img]
2nd~3rd Instars:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8015.jpg[/img]
3rd~4th Instars:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8016.jpg[/img]
4th~5th Instars/Chrysalises/Newly Eclosed Butterflies:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8019.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8001.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image5481.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8032.jpg[/img]
Tagged and ready to release Monarch butterflies:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8010.jpg[/img]

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applestar
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This evening's Monarch total is 53 butterflies out of 79 chrysalises. :()

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rainbowgardener
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What a wonderful thing you are doing!

I just checked my one swallowtail caterpillar that is on the parsley under row cover. Until now every time I looked it was in a different spot, so I figured it was moving around happily eating parsley (there's plenty for it). Right now it is in the same spot it was yesterday afternoon. Last night the temp went down into low 50's, so maybe it is just still cold.

Mine is looking just like the "full grown caterpillar" in these photos

https://www.pbase.com/rcm1840/lifecycleofblsw

it is not looking like the pre-pupal one. Do you have any idea how long they take to go through the stages?
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applestar
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On the average, 10~12 days from egg to chrysalis and 10~12 days from chrysalis to butterfly. Black Swallowtails will overwinter late in the season as brown chrysalises. When it's ready to pupate, it'll scruch into an upside-down J after tethering itself to an upright stick or branch.

Monarchs secure their tail end and hang upside down, but BSTs secure their tail end but remain upright and use a pair of strong silks to keep from falling back. 8) Outdoors, they usually travel -- sometimes quite a distance away like 15~20ft or even 40ft :shock: -- away from their food source to find their pupating place.

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rainbowgardener
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Later yesterday AM when I looked at it, it had moved from the parsley to one of the sticks propping up the row cover, so I thought that must be it, getting ready to pupate. Yesterday evening when I looked, I had trouble finding it for awhile. It had moved to a different stick... for some reason decided the first stick didn't really meet its requirements. Just checked now and it is still there and definitely getting more scrunched up into that pupa shape and I think I can see some silk securing the tail end. So I guess it doesn't care too much that it is only a few inches from the parsley.

So if it develops one of those brown chrysalises, should I just leave it there where it is, a little bit protected under the row cover, or should I bring it in for the winter?
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rainbowgardener
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So yup, it did turn itself into a brown chrysalis. So what do you think about where it would best survive the winter, leave it where it is under the row cover or bring it in and put it in a jar or something?
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applestar
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That's interesting. The BST cats we're raising inside are making green chrysalises on the parsley stems. OK, I have to consider that it made the brown chrysalis because it was on a brown stick. If going to keep the bed covered, leave it there and see what happens in the next 10~14 days. Especially sheltered under cover, it may eclose and manage to enjoy the last frost free week or so... or we might have balmy fall days. You never know.

Obviously, they overwinter outside fine in nature, but if you want to ensure its survival, I would bring it inside at that point and put it in a large mouthed container -- butterflies can eclose in containers as small as a 1-qt. deli container, but something a little bit bigger would give it a bit more room. I've been using clear plastic pretzel tubs -- about 1/2 gal, I would guess.

Line it with some paper towels, plop the stick inside (cut to fit if necessary) or tape the stick to the side, then cover with a tulle or window screen rubber-banded in place. A cool room, basement, or garage would be OK. They overwinter fine downstairs at my house. Last winter, I made the mistake of leaving the container with one last chrysalis in a upstairs room where the sun pours in the window during the winter months and the poor fellow eclosed in February. It only lived for about a week :(. It's a good idea to mist occasionally so someplace convenient -- maybe at your seed starting station in the basement.

I think the BST's are egg dumping -- a last burst of ovipositing before it's too late. I found something like 2 dozen eggs on the carrots I'm leaving to overwinter/go to seed yesterday. I brought them all in.... Not entirely sure if this was a bright idea because I don't know if I have enough carrot family plants in the garden to feed them. Worst case, I can go buy some organic carrots with tops. I'm also seeing some dill sprouting, so maybe all is not lost. I wonder if they eat cilantro? I have those sprouting too.

BTW, we're up to 58 butterflies out of 89 chrysalises. :()

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rainbowgardener
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Thanks so much Apple, for all the good information. I should go check my carrots, see if they have eggs, but maybe not.

The carrots are in the bed where the tomatoes were that was wrapped in deer netting. When I took the tomatoes out, I opened up the deer netting and the ground hog promptly started nibbling the carrot tops off. So I closed it all up again, but that may keep butterflies off it... oh well, the butterflies wouldn't come to it anyway if the carrots have no tops!

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applestar
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As of today, 98 butterflies out of 108 chrysalises. 16 more Monarch caterpillars to go. (But we also have over a dozen more Black Swallowtail caterpillars, as well as another Silver Spotted Skipper caterpillar, 7 Woolybear caterpillars, and that Hornworm pupa.... :wink:)

Also today, another Monarch butterfly that appeared to be infected with OE spores eclosed today -- A chance to play with the microscope. 8)

Here are some photos:

Testing for OE. Small black dots are OE spores, larger shapes are the Monarchs scales from the abdomen. This one's definitely infected and has been euthanized in the freezer :cry:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/20100921_081408009.jpg[/img] [img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/20100921_081805405.jpg[/img]

As long as I had the microscope on, I decided we could look at some other things:
A broken off Monarch butterfly wingtip at 200X:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/20100921_131340154.jpg[/img] [img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/20100921_131432608.jpg[/img] [img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/20100921_131425556.jpg[/img]

DDs released a Black Swallowtail and a Silver Spotted Skipper and got some of their wingscales on their hands. A chance to take samples and take a look:

Black Swallowtail wingscales. We were lucky to find a blue one under the 'scope:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/20100921_132743845.jpg[/img] [img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/20100921_132817234.jpg[/img]

Silver Spotted Skipper wingscales. Very different and smaller compared to the others. We found a white scale, presumably from the white spot:
[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/20100921_131805614.jpg[/img] [img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/20100921_131938677.jpg[/img]

I didn't take photos but the owner of the broken wingtip was still out in the garden even though he was released yesterday. I could see his wing had become more tattered where his wingtip had broken off and today, he was having trouble flying. I was able to catch him with bare hands while he sipped from the Goldenrods in full bloom over the sedum. Tucking him in a glassine envelope and putting him in the fridge to calm him, I retrieved his wingtip from the microscope samples (I'm SO glad I didn't tape it down), assembled the Crazy Glue and the rest of the "butterfly wing repair kit" and put back his wing tip as best I could. I set him back on a sunny Goldenrod plume after another chill in the fridge while the glue set. He seemed content to spread his wings and sip. I hope he makes it. :bouncey:

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applestar
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Here's a photo of 2 male Eastern Black Swallowtails we released on 10/13. I guess I uploaded the photo to Photobucket and forgot to post it. :roll:

[img]https://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll272/applesbucket/Image8219.jpg[/img]

Another one eclosed yesterday. But I don't know what to do with it. We're expecting freezing temps tonight -- forecast is 29ºF ....

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