monarch butterflies--tiffy, anyone?

greylady_gardenerJuly 23, 2010

tiffy, I have already sent you and e-mail but wanted to let you know in case you were wondering who was sending you an e-mail titled 'monarch cats'

anyway I have the cutest little cats and they will be feeding not only on the volunteer milkweed that showed up in my garden a few years ago, but I wondered if I could also cut some of the leaves of my WS milkweed--'soulmate' and a plant from WS seeds of 'milkmaid' that turned out to be pink but certainly welcome anyway! :) I was hoping that it wouldn't upset them to 'change their diet' :) or at least to add to it.

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They will be happy to get some of your Soulmate or Milkmaid. They are the ones mine eat, and at times I feed them some of the tropical milkweed Currassavica. As long as it's an Asclepias, they will munch away!!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 10:30AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I am jealous of you guys - no Monarchs at all in the gardens here yet. I am starting to wonder if they will make it here at all, although I know they are scattered throughout the northeast US (and Canada obviously). I've got plenty of milkweed - 5 or 6 different species to feed caterpillars, just no Monarchs.

I am raising some Black Swallowtails this year though.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 11:39AM
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thank you both. :) I am so happy to finally have some babies. I had lots of monarchs last year and didn't see a thing as far as eggs and babies, but this year I haven't seen any monarchs. I asked DH if he had seen any and he had so that is why I went out and looked for eggs. What a surprise to find eggs!!
Even better surprise this morning as I found another baby on a leaf....I didn't even know there was another egg on it. :) It is extremely tiny and not moving so I am keeping an eye on it.

Good to know that I can feed them some of the other leaves. I have several nice plants of them in the back yard.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 12:07PM
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Keep checking those plants. I haven't seen any and were it not for my DD seeing one while I was at work, I would not have been checking the plants for eggs and cats. Just brought in another two so now have 7 in the house.

I'm hoping some will be in crysalis form when I leave to visit my parents in late August. My 85 year old father is failing in health and told me he'd love to 'release' a Monarch. I need for that to happen this year.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 1:06PM
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I found my first "cat" several weeks ago. It did seem early, but this year is all mixed up.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 4:13PM
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wow!! Don that is a huge cat!!
My guys are so tiny that it was hard to get a good pic. I have three of them and only the pics of the smallest and the medium ones downloaded from my camera. the pic of the largest--which is really only a tad bigger than the medium one, didn't download from my camera. I hate that it chooses what it thinks is a duplicate and then doesn't download it. anyway enough of that. I want to show you my they are :) I hope you can see them.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 9:58PM
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well I did post again and apologize for the pics not showing up but that post disappeared. if you highlight the links and then click search when it shows up in the search box, it will take you to the pics.
I will try and post them again if anyone is interested and can't see them. :)
they really are cute!!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 10:06PM
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have it figured out now and here is one :)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 10:24PM
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Argh!! You folks have THE Asclepias I've been trying to germinate for the last couple of years. Hopefully this year I'll have more luck. I have a whole area I'd like to fill with those.

I found a couple on some plants I didn't check and they were the size of your's Don. :O) They are munching away next to the little ones right now. Great to have them again this year since last year was a bust with the weather being so wet and cold.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 10:47PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Greylady, aren't those little guys cute! Do you have your milkweed stalk in water? When they are that small, they don't eat very much, and I would only feed them a leaf or two. By the time they're 5th instar they will be much bigger, eat much more and poop a lot! I raised and released 19 Monarchs 2 years ago, and it was so much fun. Had the best luck when I collected them as eggs.

Last year, we had such a cool rainy summer I saw only a couple Monarchs and didn't find any eggs. :( This year they are also scarce. Tiffy - good point though - it's certainly possible a female has wandered through and laid some eggs without my notice. Tomorrow I will check the Milkweed more thoroughly, have only casually looked a couple times.

Meanwhile, this is first time I've raised Black Swallowtails, and got 4 of those about to pupate in the fish tank, and a couple smaller caterpillars munching away on some dill in the salad boxes.

The link below is my photo album from raising Monarchs 2 years ago - I would love to raise a few this summer!

Here is a link that might be useful: Raising Monarchs

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 10:54PM
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terrene, thanks for the link to your album. Loved the pics and it also got me thinking of a few questions. I see you raised yours' in rigid salad containers but can't see what type of holes you put in them. I went out last night and got some containers. I put lots of holes in them --probably overkill LOL, but I was so worried about suffocating them. I leave the lid off most of the time but wanted it on at night when I am not there. Also I see that you have your chrysalis on some sort of paper and have them outside to eclose--are they taped on the side of your house?
Mine were all gathered as eggs. A couple of them seemed to just dry up and disappear, but a nice surprise was finding a baby on one the morning after I cut a little branch and brought it in to put on a vase (so that I could put fresh leaves in with them in the morning)It must have just hatched as it was extremely tiny.
I have seen swallowtails other years but this year, just like the monarch, I haven't seen one. Maybe another year I will hope for the chance to raise them. My dill is so tiny this year....will try and plant more next year so they have a better chance of finding it.

tiffy, I hope you do have the chance to take some to your father so he can see them eclose and be able to release them. How long does it take for them to get to the stage of forming the chrysalis and then how long after that before they are ready to eclose?

If it doesn't pour today, I am going to go and look for more eggs. I haven't looked very thoroughly at the plants in the garden out back. One of the eggs I found on the plants out front was on a plant that was only about three inches tall! Funny they would make the effort to go to such a short plant when the garden is full of full sized tall plants.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 8:39AM
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Can't remember the time from egg to crysalis but I do know the time from crysalis to eclosing is about 7 to 10 days for me.

I know what you mean about them laying on new plants. I have a dozen new plants from winter sowing this past winter. They are in the veggie garden and Maman Monarch went and laid a few eggs on them. :O)

This is a photo of the top of one of my terrariums filled with crysalis in 2008.

This is the type of terrarium I use. Precious, our cat likes to watch them, but this year I have to keep an eye on things because we have a new furball, Kirk, who thinks they are toys...

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 11:08AM
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I just went out to mow the lawn,and was looking over my milk weed, and low and behold, YES,I have Monarch Cats,OMYGOSH, I can not even begin to tell you how excited I am.
So, oK, I cut the milk weed plant with the cats on them, put all into a terrarium,well, first I layed down some paper towels,( I don't know why) I just did.
Then , I placed the milk weed with the cats insdie, I put in a heavy duty branch,a few of the cats are pretty big, a few no so much,what should I use for a cover?Will screen work, how often should I put in fresh milk weed?
I really have no clue as to what to do, I am just SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, excited,You guys are the first to hear this.
Oh, should I bring them inside?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 4:47PM
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Carol you are as cute as one of them!!! I really have to meet you in person one day. LOL!! You crack me up! So sweet!

Yes screen will work. Just don't create a hothouse environment.
Put in fresh milkweed at least twice a day if they are big, at least once a day if they are small. Gauge how much they eat and only take what you need from the plant plus a couple of extra leaves. If you look at the bottom of the terrarium Precious is staring at, I use floral foam to place my stem cuttings in with just a dab of water where I insert the stem.

I keep mine inside the house out of direct sunlight but in bright natural light.

My first year I only reared 13 to see what it was like and learn slowly. You might like to do the same. :O)

Glad we have more 'helpers' out there!!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 5:13PM
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I am screaming over here tiffy!
I was so upset when I wentout this morning,so many weeds in my new bed,and tall grass like you would not believe.
So I got a cup-o-jo-,and decided I needed to just walk around a bit, look things over,I was gonna mow the lawn, but, naaaaaaaa
As I am looking at the milk weed,OMGosh, there were 2 very large cats on it, I yelled at Wayne, you gotta see this, I have been waiting for this day!!!
So we are both examining all the milk weed,I think there are 5, maybe 6, cats.
I am so excited, you would think I gave birth to the babies.
You have been therem you know.
I was wondering what you had on the bottom, I imagin that would keep the milk weed fresher longer.
Do you think I should put the bigger of the 6, into their own home?

A few years ago, Wayne was on his way to work,very early in the morning,at one point,he pulled over, and watched well over 100 monarchs flitting about, he said it was pure magic,he wished I could have seen it, as I wish.
The next day, there were just a few, he told the guys at work, they did not believe him, silly, why would you make up a story like that.

I think I will check out the butterfly forum,
Thank you tiffy,for all the help you give, on so many things, what would this forum be with out you.
I would LOVE to meet you one day too. :0)
Today, life is amazing!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 5:47PM
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How exciting for you!!!! I know how you feel. I too am so excited I can't stop looking at them. They are growing fast and it seems every time I look at them they are bigger.
I went out this afternoon again and found 7 more eggs. No cats at all. The whole patch is alive with so many wasps, spiders, bees, etc., that I would think that they wouldn't last long if they did hatch out there.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 6:38PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi guys! It is very fun to see the enthusiasm on this thread. Congrats on all your eggs and cats!

Greylady, I used the salad boxes for WSing as well and used a soldering iron to make holes on bottom and top. I tried a drill but the soldering iron makes holes with smoother edges (so as not to cut the caterpillar if you have one that is in a "wandering" mood). You can use plastic boxes, aquariums, pop-up mesh containers, etc. and some people on the butterfly forum have used paper lunch bags to raise cats!

I laid a paper towel on the bottom of the salad box so the cats have a safe surface to munch and for ease of cleaning. I taped a paper towel to the lid of the salad box and that's where the Monarchs would climb up and pupate when they were ready. You wouldn't believe how firmly the chrysalid is attached to the paper towel. Then it is easy to move the paper towel if desired, to a larger enclosure to eclose (I have a 10 gallon aquarium tank with a screen top), and sometimes I would tape the paper towel to the sliding glass door or the side of the house. It is easy to tell when the Monarch is getting ready to eclose because the chrysalid turns clear about 24 hours before and you can see the butterfly inside. So amazing! When they eclose, they cling to the chrysalid or the paper towel, or sometimes a stick or branch if you provide one, to expand and exercise their wings.

Approx. timeline if I recall correctly -

Day 1 - egg laid
Day 4 - egg hatches into teeny caterpillar
Day 4-14 - Caterpillar goes through 5 instars (stages of growth)
Day 14 - caterpillar pupates
Day 24-28 - butterfly ecloses

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 9:48PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Some more thoughts - be careful of having any open water in the container - the cats can fall in the water and drown. Some people use floral pics or as Tiffy did, floral foam. You could also use a glass with some press n seal on top and poke the stalks through the plastic. I generally don't use any water, just make sure they have fresh leaves daily.

When they get big they eat and poop a lot, and depending how many cats you are feeding, you may be collecting leaves and cleaning the container 2 or 3 times per day!

Monarchs are susceptible to some predators, parasites, and diseases - I would estimate my success rate was about 50% - about half of eggs/caterpillars collected ended up eclosing into healthy butterflies. Sometimes eggs don't hatch. A couple cats turned black and shriveled up and died. One butterfly eclosed with deformed wings and I had to euthanize it. I also accidentally dumped a little cat into the compost bin. :( Stuff does happen. I had most success with collecting eggs as soon as possible after they were laid.

It's a thrilling moment to release a beautiful, fresh healthy butterfly and watch it fly to freedom!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 10:07PM
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terren, Thank you for so much detail, I am watching them very close,I did find one of the florest tubes, I put some milk weed stem in it.I will also put some in some water with a tight cover.
That is poop, in the bottom?OMGosh,it is soooooooooooo big, for such little guys,clean it every day, correct?
You are right, we are all excited over here,and I can't wait to experiance the thrilling moment,when we can release a fresh,healthy butterfly to freedom,loved that.
Oh, is the poop good to use as a fertilizer?Can one just sprinkle it on a plant?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 10:55PM
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Up date,
They survived over night.
Going out now to collect some fresh food for them, I may mix up some wild M.W., along with what I WSed.(hey you guys,remember me saying I thought I did not have any milk weed,then finding I did, and now look, I have CATS)life is good.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 10:21AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Good going Carol, my experience was that the cats would eat a variety of milkweed leaves - I fed them from common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), swamp milkweed (A. incarnata), and tropical (A. curassavica). Usually I clean out the poop daily, except when they are tiny then the poop just looks like a little black pepper. The most I had in one container was 5 big cats, and that was about the max I could deal with - had to feed and clean out the container several times per day. I just throw the poop and withered leaves out under the shrubbery but the garden or compost would be fine too.

If you are raising caterpillars of different ages, I would try to group them approx. by age. Somebody mentioned over on the butterfly forum that a big cat can accidentally eat a little cat or an egg - if they're hanging out on a leaf the caterpillar is munching.

As of yesterday, I still haven't found any Monarch eggs... :(

Some pics -

The caterpillars sometimes like to eat the green milkweed pods too -

Two of these chrysalises are getting ready to eclose -

These 3 Monarchs are siblings who eclosed around the same time. Ther're drying their wings inside on a branch, because the weather was drizzly outside -

Took this pic this morning - my cat is very curious about the Black swallowtail caterpillar that is crawling around the tank looking for a place to pupate -

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 1:21PM
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Wondeful pictures terrene,thank you.
I have four cats,two have been hanging around on top of the screen all day, have not even come down to eat,are they getting ready to do something?
The other two, are busy, munching away.
I used their droppings, on my hosta seedlings,I figured, it can't hurt. :0)
Are any of you interested in my updates?I don't wanna hog the thread.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 6:35PM
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cAROL - hog the thread! hog the thread! It reminds me of my mom when she'd "raise" a monarch.
Keep letting us know what's happening, okay? I'm really enjoying this thread. All the milkweed plants my mother grew when I was half my present age are still coming up every year. Based on all the excitement on this forum post I checked them this afternoon to see if there was any livestock on the leaves but haven't seen anything so far.
Next season's obssession may well be monarchs (that is, if there's any time left after winter sowing).

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 6:51PM
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I love the updates so please don't stop! :) I plan to make my own updates also so be ready for that :)
I took a pic of my biggest guy this afternoon...he is probably an inch and a tiny bit and getting 'chubby'. the littlest one is still very tiny and the middle one has been hiding in the folds of two leaves that curled around each other. I do know he is fine though as I do occassionally see his little feelers poke out the edge of the leaf.

terrene, I love the monarchs on the branches! Fun pic. :)
Your kitty reminds me of our little kitty that is gone now. She had the same colours. Her name was 'Shorty' (my son named her when he was 11)
I hope you will keep us updated on the progress of your BS cat.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 7:00PM
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Thank you guys & gals,I am glad you are all interested, as I am having so much fun, watching these little ones.
Wayne took the screen off one of his new windows(of his Man Cave) to place over the terrarium,he is going to make a permenant top, from some older screen, but now it seems, two may be pupating,on the screen,any way, we think that is what is going on, I hope they are not sick or someting, they have not eaten all day,( 2 of them),and are content to stay on the screen, I will keep you posted as to what we find in the AM.
Oh, I did put in a dish of water, for the milkweed, I put a piece of stick and seal, over the dish,put a few holes in it, and inserted the milk weed,it is still nice and fresh this evening,no wilting,I also put in some wild milkweed.
If some of you have not tryed raising them I will tell you, you can actually See them, munching on the leaves,really!So cool.
Well, thats it for today, boys and girls,tune in tomorrow, and I hope to have something new to share with you.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 8:51PM
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Tuesday update.
Yep, cats # 1&2,putated,I sat in wonderment, as I watched him,move, all of a sudden, you could see that he was turning green,in no time at all, he was compleatly enclosed in all green garb.
Here is an update from day 1.
Day 1.July 25th, Discoved cats on milkweed,Brought in 4.

Day 2. July 26th,cat's 1&2, climbed to top pf screen, stayed all day, did not eat, were very still.
This evening,cat # 1,is starting to putate,now, how exciting is THAT!

Day 3. July 27th,cat # 2 putating.You can actually see the movements,and he is turning green. So Cool!

July 27th,Cat # 3,,2,pm, just climbed to top of screen, being very still, must be getting ready to putate.

graylady, I don't know how much time you have, but if at all possiable, watch your cats closely,you will not want to miss one stage they go through, and they enclose VERY FAST.

More to come,are you all as excited as I am?

OMGosh, I forgot to tell you, there is a few more tiny,tiny,cats out there,andI saw the female lay an egg, I was gathering up some milk weed,when I saw her land, she had her back side turned down and under,only stayed there for a few seconds, so I lifted up the leaf,and there was the tennyist, tinyest egg, just one.
Should I bring in the baby one do you think?Not the egg, the little guy.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 2:17PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Isn't that amazing, how they transform themselves? I think it's very exciting. I have 4 BST caterpillars that have pupated, and one that is in the process right now. The Black Swallowtails pupate more slowly, and their chrysalides look like a piece of stick, and can be green or brown, whereas the Monarch looks like a green jewel.

I would bring in the tiny caterpillars as well as the egg. The ideal time to collect them is immediately after you've seen the eggs laid. There are parasitic wasps and diseases that can affect the caterpillars even though they might look normal at first. When you get a fresh egg, you are minimizing the chances of this. And there are insect predators that will eat the eggs and caterpillars. Birds and mammals, however, find Monarchs distasteful because of the toxins that are transferred to the caterpillar and then the butterfly from the Asclepias leaves.

If I were you, I would collect and raise as many as you have the energy, containers, and milkweed leaves for! I don't know how they do it, but there are some posters on the butterfly forum that raise many butterflies and moths of many different species.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 2:56PM
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I was going to go out and get the little guys,and rescue the eggs, but we may not be here to take care of them,one of the pupates( right?) seems like it did not finish,I can still see its black head,I hope it will be ok.
The B.S you are caring for sound like as much fun,that is a beautiful butterfly.
graylady will be chiming in soon as well,can't wait to hear what she has to say.
cat # 3 is still quiet,I think tomorrow she will pupate.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 4:03PM
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Great stuff Carol!!

How are yours doing Lois?

The big ones I brought in have formed their chrysalis and a third one will be doing it tonight. Other than that we have 14 other cats in the house and I spotted more to bring in.

I usually stop when I get close to going to my parents' for my summer stress - reliever, but I planted some Milkweed in their gardens last year so plan on ploughing right through this year and rear as many as I can. :O)

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 5:11PM
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This might explain why we see the Monarchs much later and sometimes not at all.

Here is a link that might be useful: U. of Guelph Research.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 5:17PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Tiffy that is very interesting that Monarchs fly over the Appalachian mountains from the midwest to the east coast. Their migration routes are amazing. They seem like such fragile and delicate creatures and yet obviously they fly long distances over mountain chains, bodies of water, etc. I'm sure that many die along the way, but some will always make it.

I'm hoping that a few will be flying over the mountains and find my little gardens soon!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 7:41PM
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newbie_in_nj(6b E/Central NJ)

Carol, sometimes the shell of the head gets stuck at the top of the chrysalis. It can be left, I guess, but I carefully removed it after the chrysalis hardened when it happened with one of my Monarchs last year. I think you just have to wait for it to eclose to see if it was an incomplete closure or just a piece of dried shell that won't affect it at all.

Isn't that green jewel speckled with gold dots just the most beautiful thing? People are enthralled when I showed them off in the past. You end up being like a new parent forcing people to look at baby pictures!

I'm so jealous of you guys. Not a single Monarch sighting this year and I've checked the milkweed continuously for eggs and cats. Nada so far. I get my hopes up when I see a leaf munched but the only munching going on is from ever present slugs who get their just desserts after ingesting milkweed...LOL.

Good luck and enjoy the wonderful experience.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 9:31PM
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Is milkweed poison to slugs?

Up date:
Three cats have putated,cat# 4, still very quiet, just hanging around the top of the scree.
It is so beautiful, to see them hanging like that,just waiting,to start a new life.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 10:43AM
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Milkweed is poisonous to everything but Monarchs. :O) I first started growing this plant because I knew the deers wouldn't eat it. Yup, then I let a bunch of caterpillars eat it!! Now that makes sense, eh?? LOL!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 4:33PM
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All 4 have putated(is that the right word?):0)
I guess now it is a waiting game, right?
I found a milkweed at Lows today, the bright orange one, she said to grow it in sand,I have very rich soil, what do you guys think I shoulsd do?It is not a very big plant,I sure don't wanna lose it.

I also bought 4 new echinacea,I will have to let you know later the names, I am beat.
This is the first I have really been out since I had my surgery, and I had a ball, went to 4 nurserys,and had to buy someting at every one, ha ha,I HADE TO!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, so nice to know the deer will not eat the milkweed We have way to many deer out here, I love seeing them, BUT,I love my plants as well.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 8:35PM
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so good to read all the updates everyone. :) I have been MIA for a couple of days....not actually missing but just didn't have what it took to post. Not because of the cats though. They have been a good distraction from other things. Not that they have been without worry too LOL. The tiniest guy had me so upset the other day. I had not seen him for most of the afternoon on Tuesday, and then found a shrivelled up black 'thing' yesterday morning. I was so upset. I thought I had lost him and threw the leaf out with what I thought was his little black shrivelled up body on it. The other two were eating like little pigs and looking bigger by the minute. All was well with them when I went to bed last night. I even found a teensy little guy that must have just hatched (in another container). I spent a rotten night sleep wise and was up about 3 a.m. so of course had to check on them. They seemed fine and I also saw that yet another baby had hatched so my count was up to five!! :)
Anyway when I got up (again) this morning I did my beeline to check on them and the largest one was laying there limply and looking all shrunken and shrivelled. I nearly bawled I was so upset. After staring in disbelief for a minute or two, I moved the leaf and his head made a slight movement. I was encouraged but not much as his little feelers were all droopy. I was very busy for a while and then an hour and a bit later went back to look and he was moving a bit more and his little feelers were perked right up. I was so happy I talked to him and told him to keep up the good work and hang in there. Shortly after that I looked again before having to go out for the day and there he was looking totally normal and munching on a leaf!! Not only that but I then realized that I could see something similar to what I had seen and thrown away as my little 'dead' was just was his molted skin!! then my eye caught the other TWO guys munching happily away. What I thought had been my dead baby was just his molted skin and he was fine....he must have been in a curled up leaf. WOW again!! I was so happy to see them all looking so happy and healthy. I gave them all a fresh leaf and had to go out for the day.
tonight all seems well and I found another tiny little baby!! count up to six! :)
I did get to come home for a bit in the middle of the day and as I got out of the van, I saw a beautiful monarch flitting around the milkweed. She was hopping from leaf to leaf, so maybe she was laying eggs. I hope to have the time to go out tomorrow and check the leaves for eggs.
well it seems I have rambled on for a while now so should go and get something accomplished before bed. Such a busy day and I am so tired...hope I sound somewhat coherent :)
Keep up the updates cAROL tiffy and terrene. It is so much fun to hear how all the babies are coming along. Mine are probably a ways from the pupa stage. The largest one is about two inches long. How much larger will he get before he pupates?
I will try and get some more pics tomorrow and hope that my camera will let me put them on the computer (and not tell me they are duplicates so it won't download them)

terrene--I had to look up what the pupa for the black swallowtail looked like. When you said it looked like a stick, I was very curious.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 10:45PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi guys, glad your babies are doing well, we wanna see pics! Carol, the word is pupate, with a "p". :) The chrysalis (or chyrsalid) is also called the pupa. The orange milkweed is Asclepias tuberosa, it is native to dry prairies, roadsides, etc. It does prefer lean or sandy soil, and needs well-drained conditions. Very drought-tolerant. I think there's a sub-species that will grow better in clay, not sure where you would get that. Try to put it in a dry sunny spot in your yard.

Greylady, isn't it fun to watch the caterpillars. When they molt, they are usually quiet and inactive for about 12-24 hours. Apparently they shouldn't be disturbed during this time. They shed the skin, as you saw, and then usually eat it, and then go back to munching their leaves.

The Black Swallowtail pupa looks kinda like a stick, a leaf, a piece of wood chip? Very different from the Monarch. It can also be either brown or green, depending on the background. They camouflage themselves! It's pretty cool. I have 5 BST's that are in chrysalises, and one more little guy that is still a caterpillar. They are fun, but I'm still wishing for some Monarchs. Nothing yet. Send some of your guys our way when you release them please!

Here's some pics of my BST babies, hope nobody minds that they're not Monarchs.

This pic was taken 11 days ago, when the first four guys were still caterpillars - they just finished molting, and you can see the skin for 2 of them in the lower left.

Just took this pic this morning, 2 BST chrysalises. 1 is brown and 1 is green, to best match the background. You can see the thin string or silk then attach themselves with on the brown one. They pupated all over the place in the fish tank, 2 on sticks, 2 on the sides of the tank, and 1 on the screen top!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 9:36AM
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Good morning every one,
This is all so interesting, don't you think.
graylady,I am so happy you are back, never having raised any babies, I was so surprised to know that shead their skin(?)and then eat it!
Next year, when I bring in some eggs, I will know what to look for as they grow.If yours are 2 inches now, I would think they will be getting to pupate,so start watching,mine were at least 2 inches, one,a little larger.

terren,if I had seen the BST,pupate in the woods, I never would have thought it was going to be a beautiful butterfly,thank you for showing this to us.Yes, I can see the silk thread they are hanging from, and to think they camoufloge themselfs, how cool is that.Now, we both wait,
About 14 days till they enclose(?),can't wait to see that.
Yesterday, we stopped at a ladys house who has a plant sale, she had found a very large crysalis of someting in her yard, not knowing what it was, she scoupped it up,and put it in a jar, she went and got the jar,when she took the lid off, it had opened, what a surprise to every one, she said she found it in her potato bed,it is somekind of humming bird moth,we think, very pretty,she said she kills the cats on her tomato plants, we explained to her they were phynx humming bird moths, and Very pretty, she said from now on,she will pick them off, and let them have 1 tomato plant to eat.
Isn't nautre wonderful you guys,so very much to learn,and enjoy.
Till later,

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 11:10AM
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Just a quick post. I have been so busy today that I haven't cleaned out the lots of poop!! I have to go now and clean them out and get some fresh leaves for them, but wanted to post a pic of them. the pic of the two is the medium and large cats. they look almost the same size in the pic, but that is because the large one is kind of hanging and you can't see all of him. the pic of the single cat shows how much smaller he is than the other two. I also have in another container, several that have hatched in the last day (since Wed. night)
one of them is so tiny that he is very hard to see right now. the lacey leaves are really the only indication right off that there is anything in there :)

again...please excuse the 'poop'

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 7:38PM
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cAROL I meant to say that I had heard that they do eat the skin that they molt, but neither of mine did. That's what was so scary. I thought that the crumpled, flat black stuff was the little one that had died and dried up over night. I was glad that I knew what it was the second time as it was a lot bigger.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 7:43PM
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Nice to see everyone and their cats are well.

I have so many in the house right now that tomorrow I am heading to get two or three more terrariums! This is definitely a baby boomer year here for Monarchs. Let me go and count what I have...

Tank 1 has three Chrysalis and 9 adult cats.
Tanks 2 has 14 teenagers.
Tank 3 has 7 infants.
I probably missed some under leaves and in flower clusters.

I found two dead ones in the gardens tonight and felt sad... I wasn't going to bring any more in but after that find, I decided they were all going to come in. My daughter helps out a bit and makes sure they have food during the day. Every morning I wake-up 20 minutes earlier than normal to tend to them and everyone waits for supper when I get home - that is everyone but the Monarch cats!!

Terrene, I want to raise Swallowtails so badly it hurts! Is your host plant the Dill? I've tried Fennel and Rue but they are not going for it.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 8:56PM
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Tiffy, you are very busy,I would not have enough milkweed to feed all of them, unless,I used only the wild, the woods are full of that kind.
It is not work that that is tiring,but it is a keep fresh food in there for them,it is really nice your daughter can help you, she sounds like a kind soul.

Terrene, I was going to ask you the same question,what is their host plant?I have Swallowtails in the yard as well.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 9:15PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Greylady, great to see your cats are healthy and happy! Those big guys probably be pupating soon. Tiffy - wow lots of babies! Sounds like you are a busy butterfly mother this year and will have some to bring for you Dad to enjoy.

Two years ago, I had a bunch of BST cats on the Bronze fennel and 1 on the Dill. I hadn't raised any butterflies at that point, so I was too scared to bring them in. But then the Monarchs started laying eggs, and I read a website by one of the posters on the Butterfly forum (Tdogmom) and it was very encouraging. I "took the plunge" (just as you brave ladies have done - lol).

BST butterflies use plants in the Apiaceae Carrot family. Such as Fennel, Parsley, Dill, Rue, Zizia species (Zizia aptera and Z. aurea), Queen Anne's lace, and in the south a native plant called Mock Bishops weed (Ptilimnium capillaceum). In my garden, they have used the Bronze fennel, Dill, and curly Parsley.

Check out the FAQ on the butterfly forum for more info.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 9:22AM
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Today my largest cat is acting very strangely. I know this is maybe the start of him getting ready to pupate, but it is very strange to see what he is doing. This morning he actually threw himself off the leaf he was on and hit the opposite side of the container with quite a crack. He landed in the corner and was completely curled up like you see caterpillars do. I was afraid he was dead but after several minutes he uncurled and started crawling very quickly around the container. Now he seems to want to climb the wall of the container but it is a very smooth shiny material and he seems to get up a few inches and then stops and comes back down. I got some more milkweed stems and made sure they were long enough to reach the top of the container and put them in there but he is still doing the same thing. I am concerned that he can't reach the top in order to pupate. Am I being concerned for nothing? Are the cats able to climb really smooth shiny surfaces?
so far I am just watching but it is frustrating to think he is having touble. :(

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 2:23PM
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OOPS! that would be ....'trouble' :)

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 2:26PM
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Mine are in a glass container, so it is slippery as well, I put in a few big branches for them to climb on, just in case, I don't think they used them, but, they did make it to the top ok.
I am sure they are fine,can you lift the top and add a branch or two?
Keep us posted will you.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 4:07PM
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How is the little fella doing? Did he finally get up there? Maybe adding those pieces like Carol says could help. I hope he's OK. I know one year I lost a couple to parasites and that was awful. Hope that's not what is happening here. Crossing my fingers and toes.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 6:53PM
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Well after a very frustrating afternoon of watching helplessly, he is finally at the top. Not without help though. I did put the taller stem of leaves in there this afternoon, but finally took the leaf that he kept crawling onto (but it bent under his weight) and caught it between the lid and the container. That finally did it and he was able to get to the top. He tried so hard all day, but he would get about two thirds of the way up and he would fall on his back and have to flip himself over and start all over again. He got up there a couple of hours ago. For several minutes he kept waving his head back and forth, but he has been perfectly still ever since.
I hope that he is okay, but not sure. I am new to this and so nervous!! :)
thank you both for getting back to me. I hope this gets easier :) The tiny ones in the other container *the nursery* are munching away and getting a bit bigger. At least I can see them now without searching for a while.

Did you get more containers today Nicole? I can't imagine having that many at this point, but I guess you are pretty experienced. Maybe by this time next year I will be an 'old hand' at it.

I will keep you posted. I hope I get to watch and take pics of the 'process'

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 7:48PM
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well he finally made it but there have been some glitches! I am running out the door but will be back with questions and a pic of how he looked when I got home from church. I have stared at him almost constantly since last night and early this morning and he chose to finally get on with it as soon as I had to leave. LOL

will be back soon I hope, as I am anxious about some things and will see what you all think.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 1:10PM
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Oh wow, this has been such an education! I am ashamed to admit that I didn't know that monarchs used milkweed! In fact, I've been pulling it out of the ditch in front of our house and throwing it away each year - probably 50 plants each summer. Luckily, it comes back in spades each year, and is found everywhere around my neighborhood anyway. But next year I'll leave it and I'll keep an eye out!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 2:34PM
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fisheggs, I almost ripped mine out this disgust actually as it has been there for several years and although I have seen butterflies on it I have never seen eggs or cats on it. This year is wonderful. The monarch are constantly laying eggs. I went out this morning to gather more leaves and there was a monarch laying eggs. I brought one in but had to go out today so will go and look for the rest tomorrow.

anyway, I am concerned for the cat that pupated this morning. Last night as he formed the J and was hanging there, I could see the little silk pad that he was spinning at the top of the container as the lid is clear. after he had been hanging there for quite a while, the container got bumped and the little guy fell, but the silky stuff got caught on the leaf that was near him. I carefully opened up the top and got the leaf back up to the top (it didn't hit anything it just stopped in mid air)
this morning the silky stuff had turned to a hard (looking) thread instead of the gauzy looking stuff it was last night. this morning he finally turned to the green chrysalis, but now the chrysalis is laying against the side of the container, will this hurt him or destroy his chances at developing properly? I had to tape the leaf that he is on to the top edge of the container. Can I move it to another container? It is in the container with the other two large cats and I need to clean out the container and I am afraid of bumping him and killing him.
I took a pic but am too tired to download it and post it tonight. It has been a long day(week!)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 9:32PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Greylady, sorry to hear you are having a rough time with the first caterpillar. I'm not sure why he would have difficulty climbing the side of your container. The caterpillars haven't had problems climbing up the side of the plastic salad boxes, also up the side of the glass aquarium. For Monarchs, I tape a piece of paper towel under the lid of the salad box. The paper towel has a rough texture and may give them better traction to attach to the top, and it's easy to cut the piece of towel and tape the chrysalis where ever you want.

From what I understand, Monarch chrysalises need to be hanging for the butterfly to eclose properly. If it falls, you can use glue or wax to re-attach a chrysalis. I've never had to do this, but some folks on the butterfly forum have done it. Here is a link to a thread that might be helpful, and you could search the forum for additional info.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 11:13PM
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Graylady,how are things this morning?I hope they are ok.
I just learned another new thing, I did not know their chrysalises are hard,it looks soft.Mine are still hanging around,waiting for their day of morfing(is that the right word?)
Terrene,how are the Swallowtails today?

Tiffy,how are all your babies doing?Will you be taking them to your parents house?How far will you have to travel?
Are they strong enough?I ask, cause we are going to be gone, my neighbor will baby sit them for us,it would be nice if they could come with us, I hate the thought that we will miss it all.
Will you take a pictuer of your dad with them,I am happy, he will be able to have them again,simple things in life bring us joy.If you can't, that is ok, I have my own mental picture of him,with them,nice.:0)

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 10:30AM
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thanks for that link terrene, it seems I have a similar situation with cat #2 (or as one of my granddaughters like to call 'her' 'Katie')
Last night when I went to bed she was inside a curled up leaf lying sideways. I figured she would pupate soon as she had been very still most of the evening. This morning she is curled up but it seems that she is attached to the leaf by her bum like cat #1 (Louie according to DGD)
She is lying flat against the leaf and not hanging. Her pic is below although since taking it she seems to have straightened out a bit.
The other pic is of the chrysalis. I took a new pic of it this morning as the one I took yesterday was a bit blurry. You can see what I was talking about how the thread holding the chrysalis got stretched out and he isn't attached right to the leaf like it should be.
terrene, I am going to try the paper towel under the lid and see if that helps.
cAROL the chrysalis is beautiful with the gold flecks! Wow! It sure is an amazing thing isn't it?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 10:57AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Just1more, the chrysalises get hard, however it takes 24 hours for it to fully harden. According to the link above, they say that it shouldn't be handled during the first 24 hours and then it can be moved if necessary.

Hi Greylady, I have never observed that specific behavior in the caterpillars, however there are some that are too weak or sickly to pupate properly. You might want to post that pic over at the butterfly forum, there is a lot of knowledge over there. Mine usually climbed up to the top of the salad box and pupated on the paper towel. I remember one cat that tried to pupate on a stick in the aquarium, and he turned black and died. Your chrysalis looks okay (I'm no expert though), I think as long as the pupa is hanging firmly the butterfly will be able to cling to it and dry its wings. You could also put some sticks nearby in the containers so they can climb to a stick and hang too.

My Black swallowtail chrysalises are doing great, 2 brown ones and 3 green ones. BSTs take 9-10 days to eclose, faster than Monarchs, so I am expecting the first to eclose in 2-4 days. My babies will be the first! I plan on taking lots of pics.

The one remaining BST caterpillar has been touch and go - it was laying there for what seemed like 2 days, thought for sure I was going to lose it. It is 10 days old and still so tiny! But still alive and still growing???? Anyway, I was feeding it Dill and it seemed to "fail to thrive", and then I switched it to Curly parsley and now it seems happier and looks healthier! More poop and more munching going on...:O)

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 2:16PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

Yesterday the backyard was a fluttering! I had four different kinds of butterflies on one milkweed and no camera. So I grabbed the camera and got a few shots. I will definitely try to raise some next year. My one dill plant died. I wonder if it is too late to plant more for the swallowtails.

This one out my dining room window which overlooks the butterfly garden.

If you look closely on this one, you'll see a monarch on the back of the flower. These two flitted around each other for a long time.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 9:56AM
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bev those are great pics. Fantastic close ups!

I have three monarch chrysalis now and six or seven youngsters at various levels....some so tiny they are hard to see at first until you search around the holes in the leaves. :)
I also have four or five eggs sitting in another container waiting to hatch. This is so much fun and so interesting. I am learning things I never knew before.
I have some liatris that I WS that will hopefully flower next year and add their blooms to the planned butterfly garden. I am going to really concentrate on attracting them and also have lots more WS milkweed and dill etc., to distribute throughout the flowers to encourage the monarchs and swallowtails to lay their eggs.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 9:13PM
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Hello friends,
Wonderful pictures Bev,I will be more active next year as well.
I will be gone for a little bit,and not able to check in on all of you, but just as soon as I can, I will be back, to see what all had happenen in my absence.
Good luck to all of us who are doing our part in raising more butterflies,and to those who will be in the future.
Tiffy, I hope your visit with your dad is a great one,and that he enjoys every min. of watching his cats.
Louis,and Terren,I will be looking in on you when I get back,mine should be opening in the next day or two.
I will give all an update later.
Until then,Happy Gardening,and caregiving to out little ones.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 7:43PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi guys!! Bev, lovely pics, if you decide to raise some next year, you will love it! Greylady, great to hear that you have 3 chrysalises now, way to go! And lots of little guys too. :) Carol, hope you have a nice getaway, I wouldn't expect any of yours to eclose before 10 days, sometimes it takes longer inside than it would outside. This is usually because the temps are cooler inside, esp. if people have air conditioning. Also, I think they are on the "fast track" when outside, gotta get the process done as fast as possible to minimize predation. So I calculate your earliest eclosure date as August 7th. Hope you are back by then.

To be continued....

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 10:51AM
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terrene(5b MA)

...Continuing! I'm breaking up my butterfly news into several posts because there is a lot going on and THIS MORNING HAS BEEN VERY EXCITING!

Three Black Swallowtails eclosed sometime early this morning while I was asleep. Late last night I noticed that the chyrsalises were changing color, darkening, so I knew it would be soon. When I went downstairs this morning, I didn't even notice them, because the tank was up on top of the hutch, to be safe and out of the way. I was paying attention to the "Runt", who is in a container on a shelf of the hutch. He is the little BST cat that STILL hasn't pupated yet and is undersized, but keeps on eating and growing, albeit slowly. (What's up with that???)

Anyway, I noticed a fluttering above me. Three gorgeous Black Swallowtail butterflies, wings fully expanded, and very restless in the tank. Whoa! I am suddenly wide awake now. :) Brought the tank outside to release ASAP.

Some pics...

Here are a couple in the tank. They were fluttering around so much it was hard to get a good picture. The one with blue spots is a female - the yellow is a male.

The first female and male flew out as soon as they could. I tried to assist them up and out of the tank, but it was a clumsy attempt. They flew off quickly. This female, however, was happy to hang out on my hand for about 7 minutes, she was quite tame and it's just fabulous when they rest on your hand for awhile. Then I took her out back and released her near the back garden.

To be continued...

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 11:07AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Okay guys, MORE news. After releasing the beauties above, I went to collect some parsley for the Runt. I picked as fresh a piece as possible, near the base of a large parsley that has gone to seed. Found another BST egg on the parsley! I can't tell you how many times I've looked for eggs or cats, going blind, and found nothing. Looked around some more, found another egg! 2 more BST eggs. :)

And there's more...since I still haven't seen a single Monarch in the gardens, I've been emailing with 2 posters from the butterfly forum, who have an abundance of Monarchs this year. And we're making arrangements for them to mail me Monarch eggs! Sort of like a SASBE for seeds, but this is for butterfly eggs.

X my fingers I'll be raising some Monarchs this year one way or another.

Out now....happy butterflying everybody.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 11:13AM
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Bev,beautiful pictures indeed!

OMGosh,tereen, you really do have a lot going on,congratulations on your sucess,how darn exciting,I feel so bad I will be missing mine.The BST,s are so pretty,

Now, let me tell you how impressed I am that you are getting monarch eggs by mail!
Will they be sent over night?
Sure does feel good eh.
I wish I had a lap top,I am gonna miss all of you.
Keep on goin on,til later,
tiffy must be gone already.She will love reading this when she gets back.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 4:18PM
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Bev you are going to have to try this next year. Those are truly nice photos!

Lois, Let us know when your babies eclose. You are in for a treat!!

Carol, Come back soon.

Terrene!!!!!! WOW!!! We don't have the Black Swallowtails here and I've been trying to attract and raise the Eastern. One day I'll get there. I'm on the lookout for Luna Moth caterpillars right now. raised two a couple of years back and want to get some again. They are so nice.

Weather was calling for a heavy rainfall tonight with thunder and lightning so I went into rescue mode. Found some old tupperware containers, javexed them, drilled holes in the lids (doesn't this remind you of WS containers???), and started getting more cats from the outside. I only had three when the sky broke but will check to see if the others made it tomorrow.

So far inside I have 24 Crysalis, 12 Js, and 13+ cats. Busy, busy, busy!! My human family is tending to themselves but they know this is important to me. :O) We should start releasing on the weekend. I'm excited!

Terrene, If I knew eggs could cross the border quickly and legally and safely, they would be in Mass. now. I hope you get some from 'the trade'.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 8:19PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Carol - if you're still around, bummer you are going to miss your babies eclosing - do you have someone to release them for you?

Tiffy! Lots of Monarch babies!! You must be busy with those little buggers. You are sweet to think of sending eggs, but it is no doubt illegal to do so from Canada to US and the poor things would probably dehydrate before they got here.

The 2 people who are looking for eggs for me live in Mass. and Pennsylvania, so shipping should be 1 day and 2 days. I sent the PA person a flat-rate box along with postage and mailing label. Just like a SASBE! They are going to try to catch the eggs right after laying. I will report back here on the results of this experiment.

I *think* another BST will eclose today. The chrysalis looks like it's darkening, but there's also some funny moldy stuff down by the end where it attached to the top of the screen. (???) Also the Runt is not so runtly anymore - day 15 and he should have pupated by now, but he's almost full size and it looks like he just might make it. :)

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 8:45AM
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Just released the first two. :O)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 1:23PM
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congratulations!! I am thinking that it will feel a bit emotional for me when it happens--I did when the first one formed his chrysalis, so who knows how it will feel to let him go. :)

Just on the run (as usual) but just finished watching number four form his chrysalis--four more good sized cats will do the same very soon.
a couple of tiny ones needing to grow a lot more and of course brought in more eggs today!

terrene--how did you make out with the chrysalis you thought was mouldy?

be back later! :)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 1:42PM
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OK, after watching them like a mother, I missed their flight, but that's OK. I let them dry their wings quite a bit in the house since we have a wicked wind here today. We are suppose to get rain for the next couple of days so I've moved this years 'release' flower container under the veranda so DD can release them out of the rain.

Feel a bit emotional? Heck YEAH!! I actually cried when I let my last 'boy' go in October 2008. Don't tell anyone though as they might think I'm silly...

As of this morning we actually had 67 cats and crysalis in the house. I now know I will have some for my visit to my parents place. :O)

Terrene, Don't fret yet about that crysalis. I've had all kinds of things happen but only lost 3 in the last few years. I do hope it is well. Let us know.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 4:35PM
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This thread has been so enjoyable to find and follow! After growing common milkweed for three years, I have our first cat babies!

We have eight chrysalis right now, one 3rd instar, two 2nd instar, one hatchling/1st instar, and two more eggs found today.

Raising butterflies is just amazing to watch and learn about. My daughters are enjoying it, too. I am nervous about the eclosing. Three of the chrysalis are in a bug box that appears too little, so I am doing to move them to a larger container. The rest are pupating in a big butterfly cylinder that my daughters have.

I am trying to create a little video to share with teachers at my daughters' school, since many do a butterfly unit. So far, we have caught three on video going into the pupae stage--that green dance is amazing! On one website, I read the Monarch cats pupate between 9-11 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. at night. So far, six of the cats have followed this timeline. The other two didn't read this research. :)

Thanks to all who are sharing their amazing caterpillar stories. This is just one more reason I love this forum and winter sowing--I wouldn't have all my milkweed and nectar flowers without either one.

with gratitude,

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 9:58PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi guys! Glad to hear everything's going well. Tiffy, congrats on your first releases. Wow 67! Are you feeling overwhelmed? I am a bit jealous. :-D Hi Norabelle, great to have another WS'er/butterflyer on board, and I'm sure the butterflies are too. I would say "try not to be nervous" but then I get nervous too!

The supposed "moldy" chrysalis was fine - a pretty female eclosed on Friday morning. Then another female eclosed on Saturday morning. All of the first 5 caterpillars have successfully eclosed into beautiful BSTs - 1 male and 4 females. I would have posted more, every step of the way, but didn't want to monopolize the thread and bore you all to tears. :)

Some pics!

Here's the beauty who eclosed on Friday - the one whose chysalis looked a little "moldy" at the tip. Obviously, this didn't make a difference to the butterfly inside.

This is the female who eclosed Saturday - you can see her broken-open chrysalis hanging on the lilac stick.

After about 2 hours, she got very restless and climbed up to the edge of the tank to get some sun, using the paper towel that taped to the edge, and flew off shortly after that -

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 10:13AM
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terrene(5b MA)

More news...

My little Runt put on amazing growth and turned into a big fat caterpillar in the last few days, and is pupating as I type. Should be complete today, 18 days since he hatched, which is much longer than the 15-16 days the other cats took. I worried about and hovered over this little guy but suppose this could be a normal range of time. He was kind of high-maintenance, not thriving until I tried a change of food. He also "stinked" me numerous times and none of the other cats did. BSTs cats have little orange "horns" that they can eject out of their head and expel a stinky smell. It kind of smells like rotten cheese. It is one of their defense mechanisms against predators.

Oh!! Am finaly seeing my first Monarchs the past few days! Brief sightings, a couple times on the Buddleia in front (both times as I was driving out and no camera), and one was flying around the playing field of a nearby school. No eggs in the garden yet though.

I could have Monarch eggs from the nice GWer who lives in Mass. today or tomorrow though. She has offered to drive the eggs over here, worried that they would not survive shipping in the heat. I hope she'll take some WS'n seedlings off of my hands in exchange. :)

Happy butterflying everybody.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 10:20AM
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Hi!! Glad to see another taking the jump to help our little friends out! I must say I was really nervous when our first Monarch eclosed. I thought what was happening wasn't normal but after leaving it be for a few minutes realized that those folded wings had to fit into that crysalis somehow, eh? :O) I let them dry their wings for about an hour and then take them outside - upside down on the finger if they haven't been opening their wings.

My DD released one today when I was at work. All went well. So far we have 3 females and 0 males.

Those are too beautiful. I wish we would get those. Just amazing!! Glad the 'moldy' one was perfect. :O)

All of the cats have either pupated or are doing the J thing. LOL!! So it has actually become quiet time for me. Nice to get some rest.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 4:35PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Tiffy, I think the natural range of the BST goes up into Quebec, maybe not over to Nova Scotia though? That is amazing that you have fed 67 cats - what milkweed did you feed them? Did you have a lot of plants?

Just got 15 Monarch eggs from the lady who lives in Mass this evening! Her H drove the eggs over, and I gave him some little WS plants, and a couple nice perennials I had sitting in pots. I am so excited to get the eggs. Time to raise Monarchs! :)

Meanwhile, the Runt has pupated and found yet another BST egg on the scrawniest little parsley plant this morning. That makes 3 more teeny BSTs - 1 hatchling and 2 eggs. Hope I have enough food left for them.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 8:55PM
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We just get the magnificent Eastern Swallowtail. :O)

The Milkweed they like is the Incarnata. Pinks. They don't go for the whites as much. I have three healthy stands, one which was planted HOS a few years ago and it is blooming non-stop and grows the best leaves. That's the one most of them were born on. After releasing the Monarchs this week, it was amazing to see the new ones head straight for that plant. There;s already eggs on it too!!

I also have about 25 new plants started and in the veggie garden. They are going to be great ones, already having grown to 1.5 feet and some showing buds in their first year. WOW!

Glad to see your eggs made it safely. That was really nice of those folks to do that. Such a good thing. It's nice to know there are such people in our midst. :O)

If you are worried about the BSTs not having enough food, you might want to start scouting out an organic food store? Just an idea.

Hey there Lois, Are all those cats in their crysalis yet??

And Carol... oh Carol... Are you back yet? Did those Monarchs make it into the big blue sky?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 8:31PM
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well it seems I am a bit backed up with the posts. I am amazed at the beauty of the black swallowtails!! I know we have the yellow ones here but don't think I have ever seen the black ones. How fun that someone would send you some monarch eggs terrene. I hope they are all going to do well for you.
tiffy! I am exhaused fussing over my babies. I can't imagine what you must be doing. LOL. and to have already had some releases is amazing.
I am hoping to plant some more seeds of milkweed this week and hope that it has a good start for next year. I want more out the back as I had planned to rip it out of the front garden this year, but had to change plans when I saw the monarchs laying eggs. I would like to confine it to other gardens though, and am now thinking that the area out back that I didn't get to renovating this year will become a total butterfly garden next year with not only milkweed for the monarchs but dill and parsley and other plants for other butterflies.
This morning I got to watch the transformation of two of my guys. I am laying around and vegging as I woke up with a nasty throat and cold! At least it gave me time to sit and watch them turn. amazing! :)that gave me six chrysalis and two big guys about to go. this afternoon they started the frantic wandering and this evening one has made his J and the other is about to, so by tomorrow they should each be in their chrysalis. The very first guy (you know...Louie :))
pupated on the first so today is day ten. I could see him starting to darken this afternoon and tonight it seems I can almost see his wings. He will be eclosing very soon. wow I thought the time would drag waiting for it to happen but the other ones keep you so busy that the time seems to have flown.
I need to get out the camera and take more pics

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 9:10PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Oh that's so exciting Greylady, your first baby is going to eclose, probably tomorrow morning! Hope you can watch and that you get some good pics of him...or her...what if "Louie" turns out to be a "Lois"?? :)

Tiffy, your A. incarnata sounds magnificent. I have heard it can bloom the first year, but mine never have. It's such a beautiful plant in full bloom. Unfortunately I have had problems with wilt on the A. incarnata the past couple years. This year only 1 mature plant returned but I have 8 or 9 nice little WS'n plants (still a little dieback on the tips here and there though).

Well, guys, I am a little overwhelmed here - not only do I have the eggs from nice lady in Mass., I am getting a shipment of eggs tomorrow from the nice lady in Pennsylvania. I will be nervously hovering over the mailbox so they don't sit in there and bake. On top of all this, I found 4 Monarch eggs in the garden today!! Finally they have made it here! When it rains it pours!

Meanwhile the eggs from last night are hatching - at least 4 or 5 today. I am checking them constantly, trying to figure out who's hatched and where the heck they are and who's wandering around and get them on fresh milkweed. Trying to get organized and gotta go prep some more containers. It's butterfly chaos but I'm loving it! 8-O

Here's the lovely lady who came to visit today, and left me the eggs -

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 12:24AM
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What a lot of fun this morning has been....if I didn't have this rotten cold it would maybe have been a 'bit' better though. :)

I have just set my first "TWO" babies free!!
this morning both #1-Louie and #2-Katie were clearly visible in their chrysalises. I was really headachey and feeling rough and kept thinking I should take a pic. Sat for a while and finally decided to go and get the camera. I was gone for probably 30 seconds and came back to find Louie completely out of his chrysalis. I couldn't believe it! (okay I actually squealed)That was about 12 minutes to 8 this morning. He sat drying his wings and not moving much and just under an hour later I got to watch and take pics of Katie coming out her chrysalis!! very cool! they both sat drying for about another hour and then I decided to take them outside to sit on the front porch in the shade and wait for them to fly. Below are some pics of them.
terrene--turns out Louie was appropriately named :), but we have had to change "Katie" to "Kenny" haha

#1 just emerged-Louie

this is #2 just emerging-Kenny

Louie just flexing his wings before flying

Kenny flexing his wings just before flying

they both took off within a few minutes of each other. It was hard to believe it was over!
They settled in the lower branches of the large city owned maple on my front lawn.
what a fun experience. #3 is starting to get the dark streak down the chrysalis which means she is starting. The two that were forming J's last night are now fully in their chrysalises.
Still lots of eggs to hatch and a tiny little guy that just seems to not be doing much growing--going to have to get him moving! :)

Hope all is well with all of you and your butterflies!! :)

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 12:42PM
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WOW Lois!! Those are beautiful! So perfect. Now how come you have two males and I have all the females?? LOL!! You did a great job - clap, clap!

I do hope you feel better soon. Nothing like a cold or something in the summer. UGH!

So what kind of Milkweed is everyone using? I'm a bit perplexed because I thought the Incarnata was the Milkweed which was 'native', but when I look at your container Lois, I see something different. Do you know the botanical name? I'll have to have a talk with my nephew who is a native plant specialist and clear this one up. I may not be growing the milkweed native to my province...

I still haven't released any after the original three but something tells me that we will be busy this weekend. I'll have to take photos. :O)

All the best!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 5:53PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Congrats Greylady!! How exciting! Louie and Kenny are just beautiful. Sorry you aren't feeling well, but this has to give you a lift nonetheless. That is just fantastic that you saw Kenny come out of his chrysalis - coincidentally I saw my 2nd Monarch eclose too! Isn't is fun and addicting?

Tiffy - sounds like you have a fun weekend coming up. Hope the weather is good for the youngsters. Yes take pics, I'd love to see your setup raising so many Monarchs and of course the Monarchs themselves!!

Re: milkweed, it looks like Lois is using Asclepias syriaca, the common Milkweed, which has the fragrant light pink flowers. Is that the one you have tried to winter sow? A. incarnata is also native to North America - both have very large native ranges, but not sure that this includes Nova Scotia.

I am going to use a bunch of different milkweeds for my babies - most are native here, but obviously not the tropical milkweed, which is native to the American tropics.

- A. curassavica (tropical) - have 2 nice patches that are just starting to bloom
- A. incarnata (swamp) - winter sown this year, about a foot tall but bushy and tender
- A. syriaca - grows wild here and there in the yard
- A. verticillata winter-sown 2009. Common name?? It has thin bushy leaves - looks a lot like Amsonia.

I will probably end up using most of it too! See next post...

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 8:59AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Well it's been a Monarch whirlwind around here! The rest of the eggs from the lady in Mass have hatched. A couple have "disappeared" but I've got 10 little cats munching away. Yesterday I hovered over the mailbox, and the box came from the lady in Penn. with 27 caterpillars! Apparently most of the eggs had hatched en route and the cats were swarming the cutting that she had included. On top of these nice gifts from other butterflyers, I have found a total of 6 eggs out in the gardens so far (probably more to come).

I've gone from zero Monarchs to about forty in 3 days! That is approx. the same number I collected in 2008 but it was more spread out over time.

Tiffy, how did you feed them when you had a lot of little guys? They are kinda hard to keep track of. I've been researching over on the Butterfly forum and the Monarchwatch forum, and decided to take cuttings of the tender young tips on the plants, and insert them into a floral foam cube wrapped in plastic. They look like little Milkweed trees! Then put 4-6 little cats on each cutting. Working pretty good so far, except when one of those little guys decides to wander down onto the cube.

Here's a pic with a cutting, with 1st and 2nd instar cats. The 2nd instar came in the mail and he's my biggest Monarch baby right now -

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 12:23PM
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Okay tiffy & terrene - I've been enjoying reading this thread and seeing your pics but now I'm in a complete pickle. I found two monarch cats on my milkweed a half hour ago and have NO IDEA what to do with them. My mother grew milkweed purposely for the monarchs but I didn't live here at the time so I have no clue how to raise them. These little guys are about 1 1/2 inch long.
Can one or both of you tell me what needs to be done? Or do I leave them to fend for themselves since I'm ill-equipped to give them the optimum growing/eating/pupating/eclosing experience? Any help/advice/suggestions welcome!
N. Central CT (2 mi. from MA state line)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 5:05PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hey Gardenweed, 1 1/2 inches is pretty big - they are probably getting close to pupating. Personally, I would leave large caterpillars in the garden as I had the most success with raising Monarchs from eggs. But a couple posters on this thread collected big guys and have had success, for their very first time too, so go for it! They are fun to take care of and will crawl on your hand at that age. And you can watch them pupate and eclose, which is really cool.

If you bring them in, you can put them in any variety of containers and you will need to feed them until they are ready to pupate and clean the container. Below is a link to a website with lots of info, written by Tdogmom who posts on the Butterfly forum. Actually, reading her blog is what gave me that last little push to jump in and try raising them 2 years ago.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 9:23PM
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From zero to 40+ in just a couple of days? When it rains it really pours! I guess we'd better be careful what we wish for eh? I know you can handle it. :O)

If you look at the photo of my furry cat looking at the terrarium with the red top - well I now have 5 of those along with two rubbermaid snap top containers (holes were drilled in the top) on my kitchen table. Look at the bottom of the terrarium and you will see the floral foam. I cut it in sheets about 1.5 inches thick. I don't bother with the plastic but use a syringe to insert water where the stem of the plant will be.

Every day when they are small - twice a day when they are big - I open them up, put the floral foam sideways and shake out the poop into the T. The cats are quite secure on their leaf and never have any fallen off. Then I place the foam on the table and empty the tank's poo content into the garbage. If I feel it's needed, I then clean the container out with javex, but rarely do I ever have to do this. I take note of where every cat is, remove any bare stem, replace with new food, and wish them a good night.

I saw on one site that in labs where they raise Monarchs for research, they simply place paper towel on the bottom, then lay down the leaves, but I can't see how they'd be able to clean things out properly.


I think I just surmised what I do. LOL!! Be patient, try a couple, and see what happens. That's what I did 5 years ago. Oh, and read, read, read.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 9:40PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Gardenweed what do you think you're going to do??

Tiffy you have a good system going. I will use a bigger chunk of floral foam as they get bigger. The plastic is nice on the foam because the poop is easy to brush off and it doesn't get stuck in the foam (or the holes from the stems). Also it holds the moisture in.

Do you lose any cats? I've had several casualties along the way. Several have disappeared or died of natural causes; several subject to my mishaps (one got squished, dropped one on the floor, one got dumped into the compost, very clumsy!). Not all the eggs collected hatch either. My total is somewhere around 38 eggs or cats right now.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 1:34PM
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terrene - I checked when I got home this afternoon and only saw 1 cat on the underside of the milkweed leaf. I looked all around for #2 but didn't see him. A little while later I was walking from the clothesline to the cellar door and a monarch starting circling me, flying around and around. It made me stop and look around. There on a couple of milkweed plants were what look like lots & lots of orange eggs. Is that what they are? Will predators eat them?

I'm trying to get in touch with my neighbor who rescues critters and is very knowledgable. I'm hoping she or her husband can think of a way we can help these guys along.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 4:19PM
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terrene(5b MA)

The orange things you're seeing aren't eggs, they're aphids. Very common on milkweeds. A Monarch egg looks like a little white dot on the underside of a leaf. Oftentimes I noticed that a female Monarch prefers to lay eggs on the growing tips or more tender leaves on the Milkweed plant. Apparently the tender growth is better for small caterpillars. If they have to, they will lay eggs on whatever Milkweed is available, however.

Here's a pic of some eggs I collected from common Milkweed in 2008. There is one egg on each piece of leaf.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 8:18PM
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I find it amazing how few casualties I have. So far this year there's only two cats I've had to euthanize. You could tell they were sick just by their behavior.

My DD released two more yesterday - a male and a female. It was a late afternoon release and they just started flying this morning at 9 am. Today I should be releasing another 6 but am keeping a close eye on one since the crysalis did not form the way it should have.

Hope you get to raise a couple Gardenweed. It's quite the adventure! :O)

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 8:29AM
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Thanks tiffy but it looks as though I'll be observing this year rather than participating. There are 4 cats on various milkweed leaves just outside my kitchen door, off the back of the breezeway where my mom planted the milkweed 40+ years ago. If memory serves me, she used to put the cats in a mayonnaise jar so her grandkids (my son & daughter + my brother's two daughters) could see them on the weekends as they went through the various stages of becoming butterflies. Sure wish I'd paid closer attention back then!

My neighbor who's more knowledgeable than me bird- & insect-wise came over to see them but said to leave them & let Nature take its course. I told her about you folks raising them and she was surprised.

Now that I know what to expect and when, I hope to be better prepared next year. This too will be jotted down in my WS diary! It's been a year for firsts. The hollyhocks, butterfly bushes, poppies, mallow, balloon flower and gaura I WS bloomed 1st year from seeds plus I've got buds on the turtlehead I WS!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 7:17PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi guys, how are everybody's Monarchs doing? Tiffy how are your releases going this weekend?

Gardenweed, if you're interested in rearing some Monarchs next year, you can winter-sow Asclepias incarnata (swamp) and A. curassavica (tropical). Easy peasy from seed and swamp will put on some size in one season, maybe bloom, and tropical grows up here as an annual with a lovely milkweed bloom. I've got seeds if you want some!

Here I'm busy-busy raising 38 little cats - all eggs have hatched and the biggest cat is 3rd instar. I ended up finding 5 eggs outside and then 2 little teeny cats on the tropical milkweed when I was taking cuttings. The Mama monarch was here about 5 or 6 days and then she disappeared. Don't know if another female will wander by but it's getting late in our season.

Here's a pic of one of the cuttings with 6 little cats! Actually there are 8 on this cutting (2 are hidden), all the same age from the lady in Pennsylvania. This is the only cutting with that many cats but they seem happy and I'll separate them when they get bigger.

Here's one of my patches of A. curassavica - it's budding now and will be blooming within a week. This one's growing in partial sun, doing okay.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 3:00PM
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I was able to get a few shots of the cats on the milkweed off the back of my breezeway. They've moved to other, larger plants after devouring all but the stem of the smallest one they could find.

This afternoon when I got home from work I checked and they were all much larger than yesterday.

Thanks for the offer of seeds terrene, but Ive got a huge seed pod on one of the plants that bloomed so I should have plenty.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2010 at 5:41PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi gardenweed, that looks a nice big fat 5th instar caterpillar that will pupate soon. He'll probably disappear and go find a nice hidden place to do that. It looks like you're growing common Milkweed - Asclepias syriaca - which is a great food for Monarchs and has those fabulous fragrant flowers, but it spreads by runners and is best in a naturalized setting. I let mine grow in the little meadow in the way back yard.

Tropical and Swamp milkweed are faster-growing and better-behvaed. Sometimes it's helpful to have a variety of species of milkweed to feed the cats too. If one of my little cats gets fussy, I change the food and that sometimes helps. My little guys are getting bigger but tending this many Monarch caterpillars is a lot of work!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 9:49AM
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Took a few more pics this afternoon. One cat is clinging to the underside of a MW leaf while he chews his way through it from the tip toward the stem.

The milkweed thats growing here was planted roughly 40 years ago by my mom. She wanted to raise the monarch butterflies. I assume the guy who lived next door back then told her she could do it. He was a naturalist and knew SO much about animals, plants, trees, rocks, insects, snakes. He could grow just about anything. He probably gave my mother the milkweed plants or else planted them for her. Theyre growing on a steep slope off my breezeway thats mostly gravel/sand. The soil (if it can be called that) is so poor even the milkweed isnt taking over. A lot of it got yanked out when I had the steps widened earlier this year but I asked the workmen to dig up one plant and stick it in a pot for me since my mother had planted it all those years ago. Thats the plant that has the huge seed pod on it. If the cats look like they're running out of food, I'll carry it round and set it near where they're feeding.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 6:08PM
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WOW!! Great photos Gardenweed!! Got to get some Syriaca seeds. Looks like a great plant!

We've been very busy here. We released 25 since the 8th, but today was our biggest day at 9. My daughter was kept busy and is doing such a fantastic job. She has a real heart for them. :O)

Thursday we leave for my parents home with the remaining crysalis. We should release another five tomorrow and the remainder will be travelling with us. Due to the long trip, I know some will eclose on the way so we have called one of my favourite nurseries to see if we can release there and they are so excited at the thought. It should be a fun time and I'll check you all out around the 29th!! :O)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 8:06PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Gardenweed, great macro shots! I love their little snouts when they're sticking out from a leaf. Very cute. That millkweed you have sounds very special since it came from your mother. That's nice that you made sure a plant was saved. Hope you get lots of seeds and keep the patch going.

Tiffy - how busy you've been with releases. That will be me in another couple weeks and change. :) Your daughter sounds like a true butterflyer. Have a great trip and that's a cool plan to release at a nursery - and it sounds like your parents will be able to enjoy them too.

Meanwhile, I am still busy with all these little cats. Still at a total of 38 Monarch cats, lost a couple, found a couple more. They are getting big and eating and pooping a lot! I tend them 3 times a day. It's quite time-consuming but fun time.

Found 7 more little BST cats (1-3 instar) yesterday on the big old parsley plant that's gone to seed and brought them inside. A female have obviously been coming through and laying eggs. We haven't had measurable rain in over a month and everything is parched here, except for what I've watered (of course, the butterfly plants). This old parsley got watered a little and the cats were gnawing away on the seedheads. Gotta fatten these guys up.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 12:58PM
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tiffy - if I have enough seeds to share you're welcome to some. There's one ginormous seedpod on the plant I had the workmen pot up a couple months ago. I'm keeping my eye on it--the thing is almost 4" long and about an inch in diameter.

Meanwhile, heres todays pics. Two cats are sharing a leaf and #3 has a MW plant all to himself. Theyre getting bigger by the day. Im not sure what happens next but Im keeping my eye on things hoping to photograph the entire process.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 5:51PM
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wow lots of pics and they are all looking so great! good to hear how everyone is doing with their cats and butterflies. gardenweed, it looks like your cats will be ready to pupate very soon. they are big!
terrene, I have tried to feed my cats with my incarnata, but they really aren't interested. they like the good old common syriaca (which is a volunteer in my garden). the little ones like the smaller tender top leaves and as they grow they like the bigger tougher leaves. I have tried off and on to give them the other type but they ignore it if the syriaca is available.
tiffy are you on your way to your parent's? I can just imagine your neighbourhood with all your releases! great idea about releasing some at the nursery along the way.
it has been busy around here. I have released three more since 'Louie and Kenny'. number three turned out to be a female as did the next two....the latest released this morning. I have four chrysalis right now but one seems like is getting ready to eclose and probably will some time tomorrow. there are seven cats about half grown and one tiny little guy that hatched overnight monday.
I have taken some pics but haven't had the time to get them off the camera yet. will post some when I can.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 10:41PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hey guys, have meant to post sooner, but it's been crazy busy with these caterpillars the last few days!! 8-O

Gardenweed, have your cats gone off to pupate? This is not easy to observe in the garden or the wild. Greylady, great to hear your little ones are moving along, aren't they picky, only wanting the A. syriaca. Sometimes mine have been fussy too. I don't have enough of one type of Asclepias to feed all of them, so when they are little I "trained" them to eat a variety - I'll put small cuttings of 2 or 3 species of milkweed and they eventually will eat from all of them.

On Friday I had about 25 5th instar cats I was feeding - OMG it was worse than a newborn baby, I was checking them every 1-2 hours to keep them fed and barely slept. The big piggie caterpillars are munching machines! Thank goodness for those few A. syriaca plants with their BIG leaves, that's what kept all those big cats fed.

This morning's count - 24 chrysalises, 51 Monarchs total! There have been a few Monarchs in the garden and I've collected more eggs and small cats in the past few days.

Some pics! The big leaves on common Milkweed, provided lots of food for the big cats -

This is a tattered older male who thinks the garden is HIS territory, on winter-sown Liatris ligulistylis. Liatris takes a couple years to bloom from seed but it's great for butterflies. This particular species of Liatris is supposed to have special chemicals that attract Monarchs? Anyway, they do seem to like it. -

Oh, the "Runt" eclosed on Saturday morning, he turned out to be a she. had to run out for work, so I put her on Linden tree to warm up in the sun until she was ready to fly. I've also got 12 BST caterpillars in various stages of growth!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 10:24AM
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arbo_retum(z5 ,WinchstrMA)

man oh man, you guys are just the coooolest!! terrene sent me a link from the perennials thread and i have going through all the posting, feeling like i was reading an exciting novel that i didn't want to put down!!

i KNOW how it takes time to unload your camera and then transfer the photos to GW, so plse know that i am SUPER appreciative of all your generous sharing!(and i'm sure there are hundreds of appreciative lurkers as well.) what a breathtaking hobby. Like skydiving, but a lot safer!!
thanks again, and congrats on all your success,

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 8:20PM
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Nice to 'see' you here Mindy!!

What a whirlwind of a year with the Monarchs, and it's not over yet. We started for my parents home early on August 19th and before the halfway mark, 3 Monarchs had eclosed. When we dropped by the nursery we had contacted to release them, we discovered that they had sprayed pesticides just two days before. I was glad they were honest. A lady overheard our conversation and she knew of someone with organic gardens who, as it turned out, was THE best person we could have released our Monarchs to. Such a wonderful person with beautiful gardens. She even called her workplace and told them she couldn't make it that afternoon because she was called on to 'babysit' at the last minute. Too sweet!!

We released over 30 Monarchs with my parents and many other family members. It was such a delight. My mother was constantly heading out to the gardens to see 'if they are still there'. My goddaughter saw two of them eclose and was awed by the whole experience. She released those two herself. :O)

Coming back yesterday we were not empty handed. My parents asked that I take their caterpillars back to Prospect Bay to make sure they stayed safe and got a fair chance. I haven't counted them but there should be over a dozen all at different stages.

My father was happy to see the Monarchs. He often came in from his slow walks telling me how many he had seen, but I think he was most interested in the cats which we gathered and amazed at how quickly and big they grew. Some were in their fifth instar when we left yesterday.

I also bonused on the way home. We dropped by another nursery and they had 50% off perennials. I told my DD to be on the lookout for Milkweed. She first spotted the Tuberosa, so I told her we already had it. Them she comes up with a pot in hand and says, "This one says Milkweed but it sure doesn't look like it." I nearly screamed but gave her a huge hug - it was the one in your photos. One which I've been trying to get for about four years. I believe it to be our native Milkweed as well.

So what is the botanical name of this Milkweed?? I've been given Swamp Milkweed seeds for a few years in trades but it turns out to be Incarnata, so I began to think that Incarnata WAS Swamp M. ARGH!! This is the first time that common names has flustered me. It got to the point that I thought Incarnata was the native Milkweed here but my nephew, who specializes in natives, finally told me it wasn't during my visit. (So good to talk to him as we seem to be from the same branch :O)

OK, I'll let you folks go. Rambling here.

Yep! It's been a great summer!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 7:07AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Mindy, glad you enjoyed our butterfly saga, maybe you will grow some milkweed at the 'retum?

Tiff, I just happened to log on minutes after your post and was excited to read about your trip and how you shared the Monarchs with so many people. So nice that your parents enjoyed them. My father happened to come over the other morning when the Runt had eclosed, so he was able to see her up close. I am confused what milkweeds you are talking about though - what is the species name of the one you got at the nursery? I've always known "swamp milkweed" to be Asclepias incarnata.

Meanwhile, I had a little Monarch trauma last night - 2 of the big cats were in the J position and I banged their container and knocked them off their silk pad and they fell to the bottom of the container. Panic! I did some research on the internet and got them to attach their back feet to a small strip of cheese cloth, and then taped them back up in the hanging position. So far, one looks like it has pupated okay, the other looks a little rough.

Btw, I am officially a Monarch Waystation! Registered last week, and received my certificate the other day. Also ordered the sign, which I plan to put near the A. tuberosa growing next to the sidewalk, so people who pass by can read the sign.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 7:40AM
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Many years ago when our children and families were assembled in Indiana for a niece/cousin's wedding over Labor Day Weekend it was Monarch season. I took the very young grandchildren, five children, six and under out into the pasture where we found cats and put them in jars. Two cats stayed here in Indiana, two went to Greensboro, NC and one to Salem, Oregon. I didn't know enough about Monarchs then and felt guilty when I found out about the different groups and the different migration route patterns. I hope the NC transplants did ok but I don't have much hope that the one transplanted to the West Coast
successfully migrated.

Now I just go out and observe the ones I see in the pasture. I have good luck seeing the cats but am less likely to find eggs or chrysallises.

Love this thread!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 12:34PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

I have been having many black and yellow swallowtails and monarchs in the garden, but have only seen one cat for a few minutes. He was large and when I came back later, he was gone. I have a couple of different milkweeds. Since the butterflies are here, I don't know why i am not getting the cats. Last year I did get the swallowtail cats on the dill and this year I only had one dill plant, but you would think the milkweed would attract more.

Tiffy,love your story. What a great way to share with family. That's something everyone will remember.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 12:52PM
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That's the problem... The nursery simply had it labeled as Milkweed. I think it's Syriaca since I asked for a site which could give me info on Milkweeds at the Butterfly Forum and was given, by Bev :O), the link below. Really helpful.

You see, native plant specialists around here speaks of the Swamp Milkweed as being the native Milkweed, but I think they are referring to the Syriaca (Common Milkweed) since when they see my plants - Incarnata - they say it is not native. I have never seen the so called native Milkweed in Nova Scotia since most are found in clusters deep inside the province. My nephew knows of one area and we have made a date to go see it next summer. :O)

There is no doubt that it looks like Greylady's photos, and in one of your photos too where you call it Common Milkweed.

Anyone ever try to propagate by stem cuttings? The link attached says that it would take 6 to 10 weeks and I am soooo tempted to try it. We have beautiful autumns here and I'm wondering if I would have enough time. If I did it now, it would bring me into October by the time they would root. Our ground sometimes doesn't freeze until mid/late January. I might try it...

I started reporting on Journey South yesterday. Does anyone here do that? Terrene - do you report released ones? Oh, and congrats on the Waystation!!! Is that just an American thing or can Canadians participate? Any requirements?

Any more cats?? Still seeing Monarchs in your gardens? I saw on Journey South that there were still reports coming out of Barrie and a couple more places in Ontario.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 6:53AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Tiffy, isn't that the coolest thing - going on an excursion with your nephew to secret patches of milkweed deep in your province! You will be able to verify what is native to your area if it has planted itself there. Maybe you'll discover a sub species or something! How fascinating. Curious though that you guys up there might be calling A. syriaca "swamp milkweed" as this species does not grow in wetlands, whereas A. incarnata is an obligate wetland plant.

As for cuttings, I have never done this but have read other threads that people successfully root Asclepias cuttings. Definitely worth a try! Of course we tend to start things from seed here on this forum. :0) I started A. syriaca from seed 2 years ago and it is a slow grower.

I've never heard of Journey South? Will check that out. My Monarch babies are going to start eclosing this coming week and I'd be happy to report the releases. Oh, the Waystation is definitely not just an American thing - there are many waystations in Canada.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 11:33AM
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I think I found one of the monarch cats in the photos I posted above. I spotted this on my porch gutter in the shade a few minutes ago. Is this a monarch chrysalis?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 12:16PM
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Gardenweed has arrived in the land of Monarchs!!! Congratulations on your crysalis! Hope you get to see it eclose and dry it's wings. I know I don't 'catch' all caterpillars and often look for crysalis in the gardens but have yet to spot one.

I'll have to check on the Waystation designation Terrene. Sounds interesting.

I started the cuttings last night and did more today. There's over a dozen. I applied some rooting hormone to try and help things along. Did some Buddleias this way this year and it worked well and quickly. Got 50% to root in just 3 weeks. If I get 50% of the Milkweed to root I'll be very happy.

I sent my nephew a photo of the plant I had and he says it is Syriaca and it is the native Milkweed here. I asked where the 'swamp' designation came from and he said it was because it is found mostly along quiet riverbanks but if one examines the soil, it is actually not wet or overly moist. He says he is going to look into the name and it's provincial habitats a bit more just to make sure. I think I've peaked his interest on this one. I'd love to have his job - studying native habitats and populations of certain species of animals and plants as chosen by local universities and governments. WOW! To camp all summer long!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 4:12PM
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Woohoo!! Thanks tiffy! I was 99.9999% positive that's what it was but I couldn't reach my neighbor (who's the knowledgeable one) by phone to ask. She's coming over later to see it. I hope I get to see it eclose but chances are slim since I work F/T. If I start to see activity, I'll haul the big step ladder over so I can climb up & take close-up shots to post.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 5:36PM
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Tony G(5a)

Hi everyone, lots of monarchs this year in Minnesota. Got our first eggs on common milkweed May 24th and it's been a busy summer ever since.

Adding "tropical milkweed" to the garden this year has been was a great addition because when the common milkweed starts to get "undesirable" the tropical is is just starting to bloom. And the adults love the nectar!

I think the BEST addition to the garden though was liatris ligulistylis...there is usually anywhere between 10-25 monarchs fluttering around the backyard since this started blooming in late July. I've never seen anything like it!

I remember seeing a post above where someone recommended "letting nature take it's course" and not raising the monarchs indoors.

The survival rate of monarchs outside is estimated to be 10% and I would say that is a GENEROUS estimate. We have hundreds of eggs in our yard every summer, yet I have never seen a chrysalis. Most of the eggs or caterpillars are devoured before they even get to that point. so save a monarch and bring him/her inside!

Here is a picture of monarchs on liatris taken a few days ago. Enjoy! Tony

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 11:36AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Nice find on the chrysalis Gardenweed! Tiffy I am curious about the results with your cuttings. Common milkweed is slow from seed, perhaps cuttings will grow and bloom faster?

Tony, nice pic of the Monarchs with the Liatris ligulystylis - I winter-sowed it in 2008 (see pic above) and it's blooming for the first time this summer. I don't get nearly as many Monarchs as you do though. You're lucky to get so many!

Well my first Monarch eclosed this morning! The oldest caterpillar from the lady in Pennsylvania. It's been 10 days since she pupated. I was worried about this particular caterpillar because although it appeared healthy it had a deformity in one of its antennae. One was normal, the other was just a stub (see pic). Because this is one of the symptoms of OE, I was worried this caterpillar wouldn't make a healthy butterfly. Well, she came out perfect with 2 normal butterfly antennae!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 6:43PM
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WOW on the Liatris Tony!! I see you are a new member so WELCOME!! Will you be collecting seeds from this Liatris? It has really peeked my interest. :O) Beautiful photo.

You are right about the estimate on the survival rate. It is quite low and that is one of the reasons why I started doing this. Just giving nature a helping hand!

Terrene - I started the cuttings yesterday. We are getting hit severely by one of those heat waves from the south so I hope they can keep hanging on. Gave them lots of water and we'll see if they take.

Some of the cats from my parents home are already making their crysalis. My mother is calling every night to get an update on them. Too sweet!

Oh, and congratulations on that beautiful Monarch!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 8:43PM
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Tony G(5a)

Terrene- You may find better luck with your liatris next year if you have a warmer summer. We've had a much warmer summer this year and way more monarchs than the cool summer of 09.

Tiffy- thanks for the kind welcome. so glad to have stumbled across you and this forum. As for seed collecting, I most likely WILL be collecting seeds from the liatris as well as some of our other butterfly magnets.

I've never collected seeds before but after the success of our butterfly garden this year we would like to expand and also share some of the seeds with family/friends.

If you would like some liatris seeds let me know and I can send some your way after we harvest them :) Tony

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 4:26PM
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Hello every one, I am baaaaaaaack,
WOW, so much has happened while I was away,what a fun read for me when I tuned in this morning,every one is doing so well with all your butterflies,and I am interested,Terrene,in how you got regestered,and what is a "Way Station, and what is OE,symptom?

Look at you Eileen, way to go,your pictures are just wonderful.
And welcome to all you new ones,I am new to raising them myself,

Now, the good news from my end!

I did get to see one , before we left, I could tell something was going to happen, the crysalis looked so much like a monarch,I came into the house, to grab one more thing to put into the car, and BAM!!!Just like that, he-she was half way out,so I watched,and it was fasinating,to see such beauty before my very eyes,slowly come into a new life,I almost wanted to cry.I did get a few pictures,and was able to set it free.
I feel blessed to have seen such a wonder,from a tiny speck,on the underside of a leaf, to a cat,to a crysalis, to a monarach.Life is good.
Tiffy, sounds as though your dad was very pleased.Nice to hear.

The milk weed I have, is the common one,and the one that has the real pretty pink flowers,that smell good,will mine come back next year,or will I need to replant?I will grow more any way, but need to know the name,and if it will come back next year.

Any one wanna hear about my vacation?I can post over on the conversation side.

Missed you all,and was wishing for a lap top.:0)

Be safe all of you in the path of Earl,Tiffy,Eileen, will you be ok?Tiffy, you are really close are you not?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 2:28PM
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Hey all I am just popping in for a minute....wish I could talk but have so much going on has been a terrible few weeks so I have not felt like posting but have tried to keep up with the news of your cats and butterflies.
I am here right now because now I have a sad looking cat and am afraid that I may lose him
he has been lying still since yesterday(just over twenty four hours now) and now seems to be on his side....but moves a bit if I wiggle the container. He shed his skin the other day so it isn't that
not sure what to do....any thoughts anyone?
I don't know what to do

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 4:15PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi guys, great to "see" you cAROL and Greylady! Tiffy, how are the cuttings doing, and are you going to get Earl up there?? Tony, we ARE having a warm summer here, still didn't see my first Monarch until early August. My yard is an "open woodland" I carve out what sunny spots I have in the Back Garden for butterfly plants and a few veggies. I would love to have a much bigger butterfly garden with more host plants! :)

Sorry to hear that things are tough right now Greylady, hope that life improves for you. As for your sick cat, I don't think there's anything you can do - there is some mortality even with the best of operations. If the cat appears to very ill, I would isolate it from the others and put it in its own container, then clean the old container well and get fresh food, just in case it may have something contagious. I'm having a few problems too - it looks like I've got a sick BST cat, a BST that is having trouble pupating, and a Monarch chrysalis that is getting black spots! (Could be OE - Ophryocystis elektroscirrha)

BUT aside from that....I've released 29 healthy Monarchs in the last 3 days! 13 on Wednesday, 12 on Thursday, and 4 today! It's been very hectic...but so cool, to look out on my Buddleia today and see 5 Monarchs nectaring! (all my babies)

cAROL the Monarch Waystation is a program at You can register your yard/school/park or whatever as a waystation is you have the required Milkweed and nectar plants. Very cool!

A couple pics. 9 Monarchs waiting to be released -

This lovely lady is ready for take off!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 6:34PM
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Hi everyone! cAROL welcome back!! I'm keeping an eagle eye on the chrysalis hanging from my rain gutter and it's a good thing--early this morning I saw a daddy-longlegs spider right beside it. I grabbed the broom and oh-so-carefully swept the spider off the gutter. He took off from the broom and quickly climbed up the side of one of my planters. Can't say if he posed a threat or not but I wasn't going to stand there and see him eat the chrysalis + what's inside. Lo & behold, around 4 o'clock this afternoon I saw either the same daddy-longlegs or a different one just a couple of inches from the chrysalis. I'd left the broom close by so I swept the spider away again.

The chrysalis is becoming a darker color so I'm expecting the butterfly to emerge in just a matter of days. The neighbors are on the alert so there are 3 pairs of eyes + two digital cameras at the ready.

Tiffy or Terrene - will the monarch eclose at night?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 6:38PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Gardenweed - very cool! Glad you're chrysalis is doing well. It would be great for you to see the butterfly emerge. They will not eclose at night. Mine have been eclosing in the early morning, finishing up by late morning. This morning they eclosed at the crack of dawn because I woke up at 7:00 and all 4 flew were hanging with wings pretty much expanded. BUT - yours is outside and it may depend on ambient temperature too. The house has been warm inside at night, with the hot weather we've had the last few days.

2 years ago, IIRC, a couple eclosed in late afternoon. But I think morning is the usual time.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 7:17PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

I'm watching the weather report right now, so I'm adding my prayers for everyone's safety.

Without this thread, I wouldn't have known what I was seeing today. I looked out my kitchen window and saw a monarch cat hanging upside down from some native grass. I got so excited, I got my camera and took some pictures, but it was so windy they are a little blurry. I kept checking on him, then had lunch and read the paper. Looked again and he was done - there was the chrysalis.

Now here is my question. Will this eclose, or at this point is it there until spring? Do any monarch hang around as chrysalis for the winter, or do they all head south?

I've had so many monarch butterflies in the yard, but this was only the second cat I've seen.

I appreciate everyone's knowledge here! Thanks.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 10:39PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Bev, the chrysalis will eclose in about 10-14 days. IF it's healthy and hasn't been parasitized, or perhaps found by a predator and eaten, or some other hazards that could befall the chrysalis. However, it's already beaten enormous odds to make it to this stage (as you've noticed - lots little cats, not many make it to pupate). Perhaps next year you can help them along and bring some in to raise? :-D

Monarchs are a tropical species. They can't overwinter in a temperate climate. They can't even fly below approx. 50 degrees F (10 C). In North America, there are 2 primary over-wintering locations - along the coast of California, and some fir forests in the mountains of central Mexico, where they are occasionally exposed to harsh weather, but many still manage to survive.

Black Swallowtails, on the other hand, ARE a temperate species, and many of the chrysalises that I have in my tank right now will probably over-winter with me (in the garage) and eclose next Spring. Amazing that they can survive snow, ice, and freezing temps outside!

(PS. We are pretty smart on this forum, but the real knowledge about b-flies is on the Butterfly forum! :)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 7:56AM
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Tony G(5a)

Just back from the garden this Sun Sep 5....12 monarchs and 1 hummingbird! Last year the monarchs were scarce by this point.

I also still have 4 cats left that are at about instar 3...maybe 4? (I'm not sure how you distinguish) I'm a little worried about what the weather conditions will be when they hatch in late september...hopefully it stays warm enough for them to fly out of the cold frozen tundra!

Can you find 9 monarchs in this picture??? From Monarchs & Liatris

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 12:21PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hey Tony I only see 7...maybe somebody else can see all of them! Gorgeous pic though, the purple Liatris against your sweep of yellow is nice. Also, looks like a nice patch of Zinnias in the background. No wonder the butterflies like your place. If you have lots of sun, I'm jealous...

There is a Monarch pretty regularly on Liatris ligulystylis, also several at a time on the Buddleia 'Black Knight' when it's not too windy. Most or all of them are the butterflies I've been releasing but there could be a migrant coming through too.

My last batch of 8 Monarch cats just pupated today and only one little cat left that just molted to 4th instar. Hope it doesn't get too cold by the time this guy's going to eclose. Maybe we'll have a warm fall!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 3:08PM
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Tony G(5a)

Hi Terrene, I have four that are about to eclose. I'm not too worried about them because we have a pot with 4 tropical milkweed plants that just started blooming, so I can keep the butterflies in our porch a day or two if there's a cold spell.

But yesterday, I found a FIRST instar caterpillar on our outdoor tropical milkweed. I'm definitely worried about that one.

Let's hope the monarch hatches during indian summer! Otherwise, I'm not sure what the options are. If anyone has a good suggestion let me know. I'll keep you posted on the progress of "The Last Minnesota Monarch" Happy Labor Day Everyone :) Tony

Ps....yes, those are "lilliput zinnias" in the background. The monarchs like them a lot. The picture below is of the "come and cut again" variety on the other side of the yard taken a few days ago. I started them from seed and they have lasted a LONG time...on their last legs now though. From Monarchs & Liatris

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 1:52PM
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Nice photo Tony!!! That Monarch on the Zinnia is just so new and handsome! Oh, and I spot 8 Monarchs on that Liatris. :O)

I still have about 30 more Monarchs in Crysalis form. This bunch started to eclose today and will be going for about 10 days.

Hurricane Earl paid a visit and whipped us around for a few hours. The Milkweed stood their ground but I lost a few mature Buddleias. They are broken hard at the base and I'm just crossing my fingers they return next year.

In all that mayhem, we found some tiny caterpillars which had hatched during the storm so Earl 1, Earl 2, earl 3, etc. have come inside the house. There's a total of 6 more so far.

I've released Monarchs as late as October 21st - 3 years ago - during a warm 5 day spell, and hope we get the same this year. My thoughts on this is that at least they are given a better chance at survival than if they were not reared.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 8:07PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

Well, my monarch crysalis was eaten by something. There's a rather large hole on the side of it. I look forward to trying my hand at raising some cats next year. I'll have all winter to read about it.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2010 at 12:25AM
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Oh Bev, so sorry to hear about that. A couple of years ago I thought I would let nature take it's course after raising some for a couple of years. Then one day I saw a Soldier Bug use one of the small caterpillars for food and that changed my mind. Since then I've not been able to leave any Monarch cats 'out there'.

We are now releasing the brood we brought from my parents home in August and now are finding all kinds of little cats on our plants. :O)

I do hope you try to raise them next year and get to release these beauties!!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2010 at 9:01AM
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