Sunday, July 18, 2010

39 and Counting

Hello Fellow Monarch Enthusiasts,

I just wanted to give you a brief update.  Daily, the Monarchs from Wave 3 are emerging, and we are promptly releasing them every evening.  My two year old daughter Laura Ann enjoyed releasing them, and my nine year old son does too.  Yesterday, we released one mail that emerged.  Today, four more emerged - 3 females and one male!  I am so happy to see some more females.  We have had so many males this season.

This evening, we released the four Monarchs, and the kids really enjoyed this.  My little girl waves bye and gives each one a farewell greeting.

Additionallly, I noticed 3 more Queen caterpillars on my outdoor Milkweed plants.  Since they don't eat nearly as much as the Monarchs do, they are no real threat to my Milkweed plants, and I do not bother them.  Hopefully, no predators will get them.

I am hoping to have a good number of Monarchs to release this fall.  Timing is everything.  I sure hope that some of my tagged Monarchs will make it to Mexico and be found by the researchers next Spring.  How very exciting that would be.

So, our total releases to date is 39!  We only have one left from the 3rd wave to emerge.  Then, wave 4 will begin.

Happy Monarching!

Caleb & Janae Warren

Friday, July 16, 2010

Miracle Monarch Makes It!

A few days ago, I reported on an extremely small caterpillar that, while in the J Shape, fell from its perch.  Amazingly, it pupated while laying on its side.  It's rare to see this since a fall usually results in the caterpillar bursting open and dying.  However, this one did not.

Well, yesterday, the little tiny butterfly emerged, and I'm happy to report that the little female is doing fine.  We released her last night along with four of her brothers and sisters.  Today, two more healthy males emerged, and we released them this evening.

(Very small female Monarch the successfully emerged after having pupated while laying on her side!)

Thus far, we have released a total of 34 Monarchs this year.  Six or seven more are still left in this 3rd wave.  We anxiously await to see how they do.

I went ahead and ordered migration tags for my fall batch of Monarchs this year.  I decided to get 100 of them.  We'll see if I can raise that many this fall.  The tags are afixed to the right wing in a specific location.  If they make it to Mexico, they might be caught and their tag information retreaved.  This info is all housed in a main database at the University of Kansas.  Tagging Monarchs is a fun exercise with your children or students and does not harm the butterflies in any way.  For more information or to order your tags, visit

Happy Monarching!

Caleb & Janae Warren

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Miracle Monarch Pupation

Here's an interesting story for you.  One of my recent caterpillars in the 3rd Wave was about to pupate.  He was in the J Shape.  For some reason, he fell from his silk pad.  There was no way for me to reattach him.  So, I simply laid him in a tuperware bowl to see what would heppen.  My 9 year old son and I had a lively discussion about the possibilities.  I told him it was possible for the caterpillar to successfully pupate even though it's on its side.  Well, to our great surprise and wonderment, that's exactly what happened.  The caterpillar successfully shed his 4th instar skin while lying on his side!  I've only seen this happen one other time when I was raising Monarchs in Georgia.

(Monarch caterpillar pupates while lying on its side!)

One unexpected side effect of this is that his chrysalis stuck to the side of the tuperware bowl.  So, I simply stood up the bowl.  We'll see if the butterfly emerges properly or not.

So, this batch of Monarchs has some interesting butterflies in it.  It will be interesting to see if all 14 chrysalises make it.  We'll keep you posted.

Happy Monarching!!!

Caleb & Janae Warren

Pupation - A Critical Time For Monarch Caterpillars

Well, all of the caterpillars from Wave 3 are now in chrysalises.  We currently have 14.  One, however, had difficulty shedding its skin entirely when it pupated.  I waited 24 hours and then I removed it manually.  However, the skin had covered up the cremaster and upper tip of the chrysalis.  This area was weak, soggy and wanted to pull away entirely from the chrysalis.  I carefully removed the skin, tied a piece of thread around the cremaster, and hung it on a nail in our mud room.  I am very uncertain if it will make it or not.  However, I have seen worsely formed chrysalises come out as unscathed beautiful adult Monarchs.  So, we will wait and see.  One lesson from this is the importance of the caterpillar fully shedding the skin when it pupates.  It's a critical time for them.  If they don't, it prevents them from forming properly inside the chrysalis.

(Chrysalis with soft top. This is due to not fully shedding the 4th instar skin at time of pupation. The chrysalis may not properly form due to this.)

As for Wave 4, well they're coming on with a vengence.  They are in the outdoor pavillion, and they are almost ready to pupate now!  Literally overnight, about half of the Milkweed plants have been virtually denuded of leaves!  These guys sure can eat.  I have no idea how many are in there.  I won't have a full count for a while yet.  However, many of them are in instar 4 already!  One thing that I have learned from this is that they mature much faster outdoors than indoors.

Happy Monarching!

Caleb & Janae Warren

Monday, July 5, 2010

Here Comes Caterpillar Wave #3

Well, we are past the bad weather now, and everything is starting to dry off.  I noticed my Blue Vine Milkweed is doing well.  My sidecluster Milkweed plants have bloomed and are attempting to set seed.

One thing I've noticed about Blue Vine Milkweed is that the leaves tend to last longer than those of the Tropical Milkweed plant.  In other words, they do not shrivel quickly after they have been removed from the plant.  That is a real plus when you need to feed the caterpillars apart from a live plant.

This weekend, I released the last three butterflies from batch #2.  So, we started with 50+ caterpillars and ended up raising and releasing 20 adults.  Our total for this year is 27, and our all time grand total is 2,027.

Many of our caterpillars were killed by fire ants.  I am now attempting to poison them and remove them from the area.  Also, the installation of a water mote system around my pavillion has discouraged insects from getting on the pavillion.  Don't forget to put 1-2 capfuls of bleach to further discourage insects and to prevent mosquitos from breeding there.

Of course, we also had numerous caterpillars die due to predatory flies.  When we buy plants from the nursery, most of the caterpillars on them are infected this way.  It's very sad to see them die this way.  So, to have 20 make it to adulthood is not so bad.  In fact, it's a way higher average than would naturally occur in the wild.

So, being totally out of butterflies, I went to the nursery and bought one plant this weekend.  We gathered up a number of caterpillars and put them on the plant.  Interestingly, since we brought it home, we have already had a dozen or more caterpillars die.  Most died no doubt due to bacteria infection.  The shrivled up and turned black.

(Our caterpillar tree.  Numerous cats from the nursery.)

Even though there are so many ways for Monarchs to die, if you get a good pair and are careful to keep things clean, you can normally have a good percentage of success.

Right before I let my last female go, she mated and layed numerous eggs on the Milkweed plants in my outdoor pavillion.  Hopefully, many of them will make it.  I will keep you posted.

Happy Monarching!

Caleb & Janae Warren