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

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