User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Continuing adventures from ...
Subject: 2015 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars


I was actually contemplating NOT doing this project this year because I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the other garden chores and projects, plus I have been discouraged for the past couple of years that they are not coming back to my garden in the numbers they used to.

I did find a large-ish caterpillar a few days ago -- I thought it was about 3rd instar, and I couldn't leave it out there among all the predators/Garden Patrol. Where there is one... So I looked around but couldn't find even one more.

But then I saw a female Monarch sipping from the Joe Pye Weed which has just started to bloom, and she started laying eggs... Then I found out I couldn't help myself :lol:

Image
1 newly hatched 1st instar and 7 eggs

This morning, however, the caterpillar I thought was only a 3rd instar, 4th at most, had turned into a chrysalis. Either I'm out of practice, or else it being so early in the season, this one is not destined for diapose and migration so it's a smaller specimen.

Image

This morning, I found 2 more babies and 8 more eggs:

Image

...and there was a female fluttering around, though this may be the same one as yesterday. She was looking pretty tattered, though still nervous and would not let me take a photo.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Susan W
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1859
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:46 pm
Location: Memphis, TN

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

I'm trying to focus on the Monarchs again, here in the MidSouth. As it happens, I'm talking about monarchs, life cycle, pollinators, plants etc (especially pertaining to our urban yards) in a couple of weeks at a garden club -neighborhood near me. Time to pull together info, resources and all that!
From my experience, comments at the farmers market, checking lists from butterfly counts in W Tennessee etc, few monarchs are around before mid August. Mid Aug-Sept is when we see activity, and signs of the migrants headed south. Curious that we see few in the northern migration. In checking Journey North and other resources, the butterflies funnel up through TX, especially Austin area, most head north into the midwest and some on to Canada. Some go E from TX then up the eastern states, literally bypassing Arkansas, W TN and more.
One can't blame lack of spring sightings on lack of habitat around here. Aside from yard plantings, there are numerous wildlife areas in the region and more.
Later this month a woman from Monarch Joint Venture (MN based) is giving a workshop and talk. If I don't get to the workshop will go to the talk. Perhaps some light will be shed on all of this.
Have fun!
Susan

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

I read recently that the reason you aren't supposed to release hand reared Monarchs is that after a few years they adapt to the captive environment. I personally don't know but there has been some research done on the subject. Here is a good article from the xerces society about it: https://www.xerces.org/wp-content/upload ... ct2015.pdf

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Wow I'll have to try to read that tomorrow when I'm not so sleepy. But you present a dilemma.

There's no way as many caterpillars will survive to become butterflies in my garden if I don't bring them inside to rear in protected environment, because I have a fairly full complement of Garden Patrol creatures outside.

Even when I'm a little late finding them until later instars -- I had some devastating losses from 3rd instars on up when tacnid flies oozed out of them when they were 5th instars and nearly ready to turn into chrysalises.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Susan W
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1859
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:46 pm
Location: Memphis, TN

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Oh my! Looks like several things going on here, as expected.
I read through the Xerces org report. They are not fond of the commercially raised butterfly cats. One can buy the cats, or chilled butterflies for release (weddings, parties). Common sense tells us that is a prime way for pathogens to set in and spread.

Picking off the eggs/cats from one's yard plants is a bit different. I haven't started on the swallowtails, but think it's time. It looks like a number aren't making it to full maturity and going into their next stage. Getting a few monarch eggs/cats, rearing and releasing will be in my plan, if and when!

As mentioned above, I am signed up for the workshop that is part of Monarch Joint Venture, U of MN. This is the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, citizen science.
There are a couple of sites I get in the inbox, and good for those of us East of the Rockies, and interested in the monarchs.

Monarch Butterfly Garden is in MN. It's one fellow, I think, sending e-notes on the monarch raising.
Texas Butterfly Ranch. I like this one, in Austin (?) TX. Most of our monarchs funnel through that area, and they usually have good info and links.
Monarch Joint Venture. Just signed in.
Journey North . This has the maps and monarch sightings.
Have fun!
Susan

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

I'm not fond of commercially raised and shipped and released elsewhere butterflies myself. Any time you mass raise then transport any animal (or even plants) you open a window for disease to be introduced. And I've raised caterpillars myself, one year on a large scale with over 100 caterpillars all in their individual containers. I know the dilemma surrounding them. I've watched the ever vigilant wasps clean them off the milkweed plants. I've seen those flies change a lovely chrysalis into a brown/green oozing mass. And I question some of the research. I agree that collecting and raising your own caterpillars is quite a different story than going into the field then transporting those caterpillars who knows how far to some lab then releasing them from the lab area. I haven't raised my own the past few years because work interfered and I've seen my visitor numbers dwindle down to near zero this year. Is it the weather? Is it the number of predators? Is it overwintering habitat loss? I wish I had the answers.

I intend to raise more if I find the eggs or larvae. Last year I bought one of those mesh tube butterfly habitat houses. I just haven't had the time to check my milkweed plants. And meanwhile I keep looking at the research.

This article from Discover brings up some of the concerns about even small numbers of caterpillars reared in captivity.
https://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/ ... -to-death/
They talk about temperatures, lighting, and milkweed quality preventing the caterpillars from getting their environmental cues to prepare to migrate and delay their life cycle.

I have considered building a Monarch house. It would consist of some sort of framework with fabric netting or screen over the frame which could be set over a potted milkweed plant. If the "roof" is also the same sort of screen material then the caterpillars would have the exposure to the natural temperatures and lighting. The main difference is that the caterpillars would be protected from young birds and hungry wasps. It would have to have a door or a flap for easy watering of the plants and to release the mature butterflies. Also it would have to allow for close monitoring of the population.

Susan W
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1859
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:46 pm
Location: Memphis, TN

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Interesting discussion and comments, BL. Thank you! You had about 100? Yikes!
As indicated my experience in the past couple of years limited, and plan to keep it that way. I'm using the mesh pop up laundry hamper. Last year added a mesh small pet carrier and can zip closed. This good as when the cats get ready to move on, they MOVE! I did just order a cat raising cage, and presume mesh with zippers.

In this discussion figured time to do something about the swallowtail cats. I had seen a couple of smaller ones. Well, notice a number but think they are something's lunch before reaching maturity. I got one of the qt size parsley pots to put in the hamper, on a saucer over paper toweling. There was a mid sized cat already on it chomping away! Then found a couple more smaller ones on parsley leaves. To augment the one growing pot, harvested a few stalks to put in small vase (inkwell), and kept stumbling on more cats! I think there are 7 now in the hamper. Hampers/cages kept outside, sheltered so they have real air and light, but sheltered from hot direct sun and heavy rain. In a couple of days will move a couple of the larger ones to the totally zip up pet carrier.

No monarchs sighted yet, spare one last month.
Have fun!
Susan

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

I'm glad most of the issues and criticism have to do with commercial use of Monarchs for festivities rather than the citizen efforts to save them.

When I was releasing them with children, I was so careful to protect the butterflies and demonstration caterpillars from mis- and over-handling. The children understood that it was a rare privilege to participate and be a part of the start of their long and rigorous migration.

I'm happy to be among caring folks who are making an effort to help keep this and other species going.

...that said, I'm embarrassed to report that the first one eclosed before I was completely set up and relocate the chrysalis to a proper eclosure cage :oops: At least my instincts were spot on and I securely stood the container on its end for sufficient wing-room last night, just in case. It's a small female. I will release her or move her to a larger holding cage (yep pop up laundry hampers are great) before she gets too active.
image.jpeg
You might be able to see that two more caterpillars managed to turn into chrysalises in this -- in appropriate -- container :roll: , and other babies -- hatched and/or molted into 2nd and possibly 3rd instars from the eggs and first instars I collected -- are starting to eat well. :D (Key to community rearing, btw, is to COUNT THEM at least one a day.)

-- I found three 5th and one 4th instar caterpillars on a couple of milkweeds outside by the pond :shock: . (Milkweeds that I have been avoiding approaching so as not to disturb the frogs and the tadpoles too much :| ) I didn't get the chance to bring them in yesterday and I'm not sure if I will at this point -- so often they are already parasitized by the awful tachnid fly.

SusanW do you make efforts to protect the chrysalis you find? I might do that if they have already changed by the time I get back to them.

-- I also saw another female laying eggs yesterday. It's going to get very busy around here.... :-()
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

New hatchlings are so tiny I can hardly see them unless I'm up close, but they can be found by looking for newly chewed through small hole in a leaf. If the hole is still oozing white sap, the babies are typically somewhere nearby.

Image
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

ButterflyLady29 wrote:I haven't raised my own the past few years because work interfered and I've seen my visitor numbers dwindle down to near zero this year. Is it the weather? Is it the number of predators? Is it overwintering habitat loss? I wish I had the answers.

I intend to raise more if I find the eggs or larvae. Last year I bought one of those mesh tube butterfly habitat houses. I just haven't had the time to check my milkweed plants.
When we started several years ago, every year, the number of Monarchs returning to our garden and eggs and caterpillars we found increased exponentially. I don't know what makes them come back here -- I don't know if the answers have been discovered. But, each year, we released roughly double the numbers from previous year. ... until the disaster at the wintering grounds in Mexico.

"MY group" probably divides into two groups -- ones that head west and follow the inland corridor to the Texas funnel, and ones that fly the coastal route, flying down to Cape May and over the Delaware Bay, on down to Florida, then split again into subgroups that fly along the Gulf coast to Texas and some that winter in Florida (and maybe some that actually fly across the Gulf Of Mexico).

My layperson thinking is that the population that instinctively returned to our garden was one of the severely affected casualties -- It would make sense that they wintered in close approximation to each other. And it has taken this long for the survivors to increase in numbers again.

SO, I think you will have more visitors returning if you resume raising and releasing them again.

ButterflyLady29 wrote:And meanwhile I keep looking at the research. This article from Discover brings up some of the concerns about even small numbers of caterpillars reared in captivity.
https://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/ ... -to-death/
They talk about temperatures, lighting, and milkweed quality preventing the caterpillars from getting their environmental cues to prepare to migrate and delay their life cycle.

I have considered building a Monarch house. It would consist of some sort of framework with fabric netting or screen over the frame which could be set over a potted milkweed plant. If the "roof" is also the same sort of screen material then the caterpillars would have the exposure to the natural temperatures and lighting. The main difference is that the caterpillars would be protected from young birds and hungry wasps. It would have to have a door or a flap for easy watering of the plants and to release the mature butterflies. Also it would have to allow for close monitoring of the population.
We have a 2-person pop up mesh tent and also have used a pop up beach cabana when we had so many to release at once and were releasing them with children. This allowed them to enter the "butterfly tent" and for a time, feed the butterflies with pre-flight ration of nectaring flowers they picked as well as cotton swabs dipped in melon flavored Gatorade that was the recommended supplemental food.

I have extra large pop-up laundry hampers as well as smaller hampers and a couple of those zip-top butterfly raising cages. But if you are handy and good seamstress, I'm sure you could build customized protective enclosures that fit your needs perfectly.

I'm not sure I entirely agree about environmental skewing of their instincts since here at least, there have always been wild stragglers that migrate through or eclosed in the garden close to first frost. Once cooler weather arrive with early fall, ones that are raised and eclose in the house stay warmer than the outside night temps which would slow their development down -- I don't believe they mature faster in cooler temps.

...Light quality -- I suppose it could be different if they are bring raised in an enclosed space with no natural light -- I always set them up by the southeast window where they get filtered sun. Most of the later fall ones have been huge migration-ready specimens.

...milkweed quality... Hm. I haven't run out of my own supply since the first year. I intentionally feed them yellowed common milkweed as well as fresher ones from protected microclimates, and other milkweed leaves including honeyvine which remain greenest and freshest until frost.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Yes, over 100. My daughter and I spent hours every day cleaning containers, checking caterpillars and feeding them. We ordered tags and tagged quite a few. I don't know if they made it to Mexico or not. The paperwork ended up in her homeschool file and was lost in the house somewhere before the next spring. I haven't seen those kinds of numbers since. Part of it is my fault. I limed the back yard and my previous stand of 6 foot tall milkweed (over 50 plants) never came back. I have some plants in the front yard and had 18 eclose on the same day last year. But I've seen only 2 butterflies here all summer, one a few days ago. The latest sighting was a male so no eggs from him.

The large numbers were kept in a shed with skylights, windows, and where the door was left open most of the time. Other years I've kept them in the north window in the kitchen.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Oooh. What a bummer about your milkweed stand. I didn't know they are sensitive to lime.

Well, I hope you'll get your chance. I think there's still time -- here, August is prime month. They will continue to lay eggs until it's too late -- as late as 3rd week of September.

I found these babies this morning... But I decided not to TRY to find every single one like I have before. I was saying exactly this to myself, and that I don't really want to feel overwhelmed, turning it into a chore... And looked up to see a female Monarch laying eggs. :roll: :lol:

Image

I did release the small female yesterday -- I wonder if that was her I saw this morning....

tags -- I'm thinking I might not tag them this year. That is another, significant and time consuming task, including keeping track of which ones eclosed first, wing-dried, and are ready to be tagged, plus when I tag them, I feel compelled to take photos of each one before releasing, adding on yet another step. :>
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

I haven't checked the maps or the relevant forums and discussion groups at all this year, but it just occurred to me -- I wonder if the severe cold temperatures that dipped along the central states this spring are affecting the Monarch numbers and arrival time? I believe we had relatively milder temperatures in comparison here.

I really should go take a look... But that's another way I get time-sucked so I'm kind of avoiding.... :P
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

There's a lot of environmental info you record too if you go through Project Monarch Watch. Temperature, sunny or cloudy, wind, etc for the date you tag the butterflies. At least it was on the sheet when we did our project.

Also, we learned that if the newly hatched caterpillar doesn't eat it's entire egg shell it doesn't survive to become a butterfly. And that those parasitic flies lay eggs inside the caterpillars when they are very small. I had records of every caterpillar of when it was collected, what instar it was in, when it shed it's skin, and a lot of other info. Each was in an individually numbered container. A lot more work than most people would do but it was our little project. Toward the end of the season we kept a group in an aquarium. We were getting tired of recording the info but I don't think you could ever get tired of witnessing the transformation of caterpillar to chrysalis and chrysalis to butterfly. And then comes that oh so dramatic moment of watching your butterfly take it's first flight! And yes, the pictures! I think I used 5 rolls of film (36 exposures) on that project. Of course some were of my daughter holding newly emerged butterflies. It was a wonderful and memorable summer.

I checked a few plants yesterday. Nothing. Well, there are Milkweed tussock moth caterpillars, Milkweed bugs, Milkweed beetles, various bees, Cabbage butterflies, and a few flies hanging around there. But no signs of any Monarchs.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Seriously, hats off to you and your daughter for doing the individual container rearing. I just couldn't. :roll: :oops:

In my garden, milkweed tussock moth caterpillars emerge just before the Monarch arrival. I try to get rid of of them as soon as they hatch when they are all still on the same leaf, but of course sometimes that's not possible. If I don't catch them in time, they can denude the entire plant -- I think I found that out 2nd year.

I caught them early this year and spotted and eliminated at least 4 lower leaf hatchlings and caught up with a mob of them on two or three plants which I took care of by wrapping the entire plant in a big clothing store shopping bag and shaking them off. I found a few stragglers that had managed to escape my carnage later on. I think that was earlier in July.

So at this time, I haven't seen any tussock moth caterpillars... except one younger instar that I saw very recently and eliminated from the blackberry -- I have no clue where it had come from since as far as I know there are no milkweed in that area.

Do you suppose the fact that you are seeing some still means Monarchs will come along later?
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

All of the above including the yellow oleander aphids. :x
I also get these, but tussock moth caterpillars are the only ones I go all out to eliminate because they eat up the precious leaves and also damage the quality of the remaining leaves.

Subject: 2014Backyard bird and butterfly (and dragonfly too) watching
applestar wrote:I had thought that this was a Parenthesis ladybeetle/ladybug on the corn.
Image

But it started to bother me that it seems much bigger and lacking some specific colorations.
Finally realized it's a "Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle"
https://bugguide.net/node/view/2970

I'm *hoping* this is a pupa on a common milkweed. I'll have to keep an eye on it because it looks awfully similar to a Colorado potato beetle pupa, but the large black head/thorax makes me think otherwise.

...Hmm... Looking at the lifecycle illustrations on the bugguide link, this is the larva.
Image

...and this little one which is 1/2 the size of the larva -- and which I thought was a ladybug for sure this time :roll: -- is actually a newly emerged from pupa beetle:
Image
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

I've never had a problem with the Tussock moths denuding entire plants. Maybe because I have so many plants and the wasps or whatever quickly pick off the Tussock moth caterpillars. I'll start with 20 or so and over the weeks the numbers decrease rapidly.

I seriously doubt I'll see any Monarch caterpillars this year. There's just not enough time for them to mature before the typical first fall frost.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

04ECFD30-88C7-4D3A-91BF-A5ABA04048D9.JPG
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

They grow up so fast! :D

Image
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Susan W
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1859
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:46 pm
Location: Memphis, TN

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Perhaps obvious to some, but trying to figure (in general) the cycle pattern on the monarch. There are 4 sometimes 5 cycles from Mexico and back. We think of them mating upon leaving Mexico, and 1st egg laying may be in TX. Go though cycle, all the while traveling north (or NE). The last one in the cycle born to fly, is larger doesn't mate, is going south.

Now in mid August Apple is seeing them laying eggs in NJ, and my group hasn't show up in the midsouth. Where are the ones in NJ now coming from? BL in OH, where are you in the cycle?

No one answer of course, just general patterns.
Have fun!
Susan

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Good point Susan -- I was wondering that too. First Monarchs usually arrive in this area around late June/early July, and I sometimes find eggs and caterpillars from that laying, usually not very many.

Main and multiple egg laying generally occur in late July through August and into September. I was gathering leaves for the munchers this afternoon and saw a female laying eggs again. She looked fresh not tattered so she must have recently eclosed.

Among the leaves I gathered, found 2 freshly molted 3rd instars, 1 tiny hatchling, and 1 egg. Saw a 5th instar that I left outside.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

#2 and #3 eclosed today -- a male and a female. The male took off right away when I released them, but the female took time to take in some nourishment. :D

Image

I found something like 10 more mostly 5th instars outside. 7 of them were clustered on these nearly denuded milkweed with no other plants very close by -- I estimated that they will run out of food before they are ready to change.

Image

So I brought out my giant pop up hamper and put it over the plants, then cut off the other three plants with one caterpillar each that were in scattered other locations and stuck them all under the hamper. This way they will all have enough to eat before turning into chrysalises, and hopefully, they will do so by going up to the top of the hamper.

Image

I wasn't able to tightly close the bottom due to the pond and stuff, which means they can crawl out from the open bottom and wander off, and also predators (like mice maybe?) could get in from the base. But I will check over the next couple of days, and relocate hamper to save all the ones that have made chrysalises inside the hamper.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

"It's" working.... :()

Image

I added a few more cut off plants with a 4-5th instar on them, too, and added an extra stalk with unoccupied leaves for insurance yesterday.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

That is BEAUTIFUL!!!!! I am so very jealous! Not one single Monarch caterpillar on any of my plants this year.

LIcenter
Senior Member
Posts: 269
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2014 2:23 pm
Location: Long Island, NY Zone 7a/6b-ish

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Fascinating to say the least! Monarchs are just starting to show up here.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Busy, busy, busy! :-()

Removed and isolated one female that eclosed yesterday (#5F) early this morning before sunup, just before ALL these others eclosed. :()

Two of them had to be isolated --
- One (#10) fell off as it eclosed, while still wing-crumpled, which might mean it (haven't verified sex) might be infected with OE though I didn't see any other symptoms prior to this -- I"ll examine it later after its wings are dry enough to handle.
- And the other one (#13F) had a suspicious sunken spot while still a chrysalis which could have meant it was infested by tachnid fly maggots.
These two eclosed BEFORE #6-9 and #11. They were all females.

Image

DD released #5F after sunrise and put her on the garlic chive blossoms in case she was thirsty/hungry/ :D


#13F was not tachinid-infested, but had an oedema (?) that did not drain properly -- it has dried into a bump and may cause some imbalance in weight distribution, but since tagged butterflies learn to fly, I hope this wont affect her too much.

Image
...I'm thinking maybe a hungry 5th instar caterpillar nibbled on her chrysalis before it hardened. :?:
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Yep, I definitely have to look for and buy a fabric mesh pop up hamper before next year.

I found my little mesh butterfly habitat. Right now it holds a horned-tailed caterpillar that I found feasting on the Trumpet Vine I was pulling out. I've got to find some sort of container that I can fill with water that will hold trumpet vine branches yet not tip easily so I can put the whole set-up in a sheltered area outside.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Heavy, wide bottomed bud vase works. I also find those plastic test tube like things with rubber caps used for long-stemmed roses work really well. I couldnt remember where I put them, though, so Ive been using empty vitamin bottles. I put a round plastic takeout container lid that fit perfectly in the bottom of the zipped butterfly cages for stability.

Outside, that hamper worked like a charm. They really DO instinctively climb to the top (in fact, bottom) of the hamper to hang in J and make chrysalises. One more caterpillar roaming about, then I can put this hamper in a protected place with some kind of solid or mesh to cover the open bottom (open top) to keep out any nasties.

Image
-- I released #10F.

Inside, I decided the first butterfly cage has reached maximum occupancy, and put the next group of 4th and 5th instars in the 2nd cage.

Image
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

I finally have EGGS!!!! Watched a female laying eggs on milkweed in my pollinator habitat! And I checked to make sure it really was laying eggs! I can't believe it, it's so very late in the season that I had given up all hope of seeing any this year. So my daughter and I went to the store and bought a pop up mesh hamper. I got a rectangular shaped one and plan on using a sheer curtain to close the opening. I just need to find a good place to set it outside. Oh wait, I have an outdoor table out back that has only a pot of geraniums setting on it. That should work.

I tentatively identified my little horned tail caterpillar as a Hummingbird Clearwing moth caterpillar. Hmmm, found it on a trumpet vine which is not one of their listed food sources.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Trumpet vine or trumpet honeysuckle? We raised a Snowberry Clearwing that uses the honeysuckle -- green, horned tail, spots along the side. Turns pink just before pupating. It turned into a Bumblebee mimic clear-winged moth.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Subject: Caterpillar and Pupae ID
applestar wrote:The caterpillar is Snowberry Clearwing moth
:arrow: https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/spec ... s-diffinis
applestar wrote:Lonicera sempervirens (scarlet/coral honeysuckle) -- great hummingbird attractor. Cardinals seem to like nesting in it. It seems to be evergreen here in Zone 6/7 border against a SE wall. Also hosts clearwing moth (also known as bumblebee moth) caterpillars.
Image
We raised and overwintered this one as pupa last year. (Kids named it "Bumble")
...I don't know what the pupae might be... Were they under the honeysuckle?
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

6 butterflies in the cage this morning. Released the three females from yesterday since they were getting feisty and disturbing the newly eclosed ones who just wanted to hang quietly and stretch and dry their wings. At least one male eclosed this morning, maybe two -- that might be why they were a bit more anxious.

Image
You can see the orange/black/brown spatters on the paper towel-lined eclosing cage floor where the eclosed butterflies expelled their excess body fluids after completely pumping up their wings.

I was concerned to see the black spots on the remaining chrysalises, especially the line of black spots on the one close-up, but surface spots are nothing to be concerned about according to this website
:arrow: OE in Monarch Butterfly Pupae

...and in any case, When I thought about it, I realized these spots are probably wing scales smeared from the ones that had been agitating to be released.

Four made chrysalises this morning -- two on leaves and had to be taped up to the top of the cage :roll: +9 more 4th and 5th instar caterpillars in this 2nd cage
Image
(and a few more youngsters in other containers) :D
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Three from yesterday, three this morning, including another male -- so of course they started flapping around right away and the two males from yesterday kept zeroing in on the females. This cage is too small for 6 Monarchs to flap around and have the males challenging each other :roll: so I released them all as soon as I could.

Opened the zippered half-cover -- EVERYBODY OUT! ...of course almost every butterfly including this male went down to the bottom and fluttered everywhere EXCEPT to the open half of the ceiling. Finally one flew out -- and the rest? Nope. I had to coax them out with a blooming mint sprig. So far, including this morning's 6, we've raised and released 21 butterflies.

Image

I moved the outside hamper to the teak patio table over a doubled piece of floating cover. Pulled the hamper handles through the table slats and bungeed them underneath so it should be secure. But one of the caterpillars that was hanging out on the side of the mesh hamper got stung through the mesh by "something" -- it didn't look good, but I've isolated it in a container just in case it will recover. We will see. They are safer once they get up to the solid nylon ceiling (bottom) of the hamper and hang in chrysalis. I learned the hard way before that, in outdoor enclosures, if they try to make chrysalises on a mesh/screened surface, they should be protected with a solid film and later re-located to an interior chrysalis hanger or a solid surface because wasps can sting the caterpillars hanging in J or the chrysalis through the open mesh.

...and yes, the messy paper towels were bothering me, too. :o I took this opportunity to replace them with new sheets. :wink:

...oh and found a whole bunch more just hatched first instars... :-()
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Well, I'm a bit leery of using a mesh hamper for caterpillars now. Left the one outside in the rain last night (but still protected from the wind and it doesn't hold water) and this morning the caterpillar is stiff and just hanging by it's back "legs". (Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans, not trumpet honeysuckle) It wasn't cooked by the sun either, the spot was still shady.

Do you keep yours on a covered porch or something? Unless I set up a tarp over my greenhouse frame I don't have any place where it would be protected from the rain.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

When a caterpillar is hanging limp, it's usually infected by bacteria like Bt. They will turn brown and mushy, then black. One of outdoor dangers. An older instar brought inside can display this, too -- then its easier to tell because they generally have a massive diarrhea first. The bacteria could have been introduced by wind drift or by another insect -- or in this case, conceivably by a hummingbird -- from a sprayed.dusted plant. You know that Bt corn pollen will also infect caterpillars as well, right?

They can also be stung by a wasp through the mesh -- the wasp thinks she found an easy prey and stings first, not realizing she can't carry the caterpillar off through the mesh. Other predators like assassin bugs and soldier beetles could be present under the mesh, too, even ants -- sometimes they are tending/protecting the aphids and will attack the caterpillars.

Rain in and of itself shouldn't be a problem as long as the hamper/mesh is secure snd doesn't blow around too much if rain is accompanied by gusty wind.

Bummer this one didn't make it. :(
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Some of the caterpillars I *resisted* collecting and left in the garden to grow up on their own ... :)

Image
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Susan W
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1859
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:46 pm
Location: Memphis, TN

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

The monarchs are arriving here! There have been a few in the area, now my yard. One was busy laying eggs alternating with eating yesterday. She preferred the tropical milkweed blooms for eating. MW plants are here and there. I'm not putting any more out for the market, and have a number of swamp and tropical in pots on various shelves, plus the ones I've planted in large containers. The one female or several are locating the plants, as there are eggs!

I pulled a couple of leaves and sprigs with eggs and set aside in one mesh container. I use bud vases or flower picks to hold the stems. When they are eggs and small larva using the pop up laundry hamper with a cloth over the top. As they get bigger will go into the butterfly cages. These are the 15" square, zipper on side. 2 of those occupied now by swallowtail chrysalis and some wee baby cats. A 3rd has the 2 giant swallowtails (now chrysalis). The swallowtails are moving on through. 2 eclosed yesterday AM, and another this AM. Oops, don't think this one may make it. Checked again, and its forewings were stuck to chrysalis shell. I knocked loose, but doesn't look good.
Have fun!
Susan

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

I was wrong. It is alive. Just looked very dead hanging there all limp like that. It was like that for a couple days then "woke up" and ate nearly the whole branch of leaves. I put a small pot of sandy soil in the cage since they require soil to pupate in. I had to give it a fresh branch today.
Attachments
0829161633a.jpg

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27647
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

So, Trumpet Vine Sphinx?

Species Paratrea plebeja - Plebeian Sphinx - Hodges#7793 - BugGuide.Net
https://bugguide.net/node/view/4152

Is it bigger? It might have been molting.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

ButterflyLady29
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1031
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:12 am
Location: central Ohio

Re: 2016 Saving Monarch Butterflies By Raising Caterpillars

Pooh, yes, that's it. The blue "horn" on the tail is a sure identifier. I misidentified it. And yes, it's much bigger. Just never had one seem so dead for so long.

Oh well, it's good practice for raising Monarchs this way. I started raising caterpillars by using tomato worms. I killed several at the beginning.

Return to “Wildlife - Gardening with Local Critters in Mind”