Saturday, April 18, 2015

First Monarch of the 2015 Spring Season Emerges!

April 17th was an exciting day for our family!  Our first monarch butterfly of the 2015 Spring season emerged safely, and it's a girl.  :-)  We have about 30 more chrysali left to emerge, and many many more caterpillars besides.  Truthfully, we are just about out of milkweed leaves.  I've already bought 2 milkweed plants this past Thursday, and the leaves on both of them are just about gone.  (See photo below)

My children had fun releasing the first butterfly of the season.

If all of our caterpillars had made it, we would have between 60-70 chrysali now.  Sadly, predatory flies have really done their damage.  They have killed 30+ caterpillars thus far.  The biggest hurt for us is the waste of milkweed leaves that occurs because of that.  When you consider that each caterpillar eats about 20 milkweed leaves, and you multiply that times 30 caterpillars, this means 600 milkweed leaves were sacrificed for nothing.  We lost 600 leaves and got no butterflies out of it.  That really stinks.  600 milkweed leaves can go along way.  I thought I was starting the season with amble milkweed, but now I'm not so sure.

When we saw how many were being killed by the flies, we immediately started bringing them indoors.  But even then, about 1/2 died.  In the future, all caterpillars will have to come inside in pavilions.  That's the only way to insure theire safety.  They will have to be collected early before their 2nd or 3rd instar to insure their safety.

Well, that's all for now.  More butterflies to come in the upcoming days.  This is the exciting part.

Happy Monarching!

Caleb & Janae Warren

Friday, April 10, 2015

Blue Vine Milkweed To The Rescue

Well, we have had about 10 caterpillars to die because of the predatory flies.  There may be a few more that will before we are through.  It is good that we brought them in when we did.

The caterpillars are going through my milkweed leaves like crazy.  Even my flowers are barely satisfying them.  Then, today, I happened to think about my Blue Vine milkweed which is growing wild in my yard.  It is a wild native species to Texas.  I have to constantly keep it trimmed back.  It will grow right between the wood siding planks on the side of my house if I let it.  I don't have a lot of it right now, but I decided to harvest what I have for the hungry caterpillars.  Below is a picture of them grazing on the blue vine milkweed.

By now, we must have close to 50 caterpillars in there!  Hopefully, I will have enough leaves and flowers to hold out.  I will let you know how it turns out.

(Extra hungry Monarch caterpillars eating Blue Vine milkweed)

Happy Monarching!

Caleb & Janae Warren

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How Milkweed Flowers Can Help You Rear Monarchs

Well, the Monarchs have been coming through the area the last few weeks.  Yesterday, after seeing some predatory flies trying to lay eggs on our caterpillars, we decided to rescue them and bring them inside to safety.  The kids are getting leaves and milkweed flowers for the cats, which brings me to a little helpful tip for you.

If you are raising Monarchs, you know those little caterpillars can have a voracious appetite.  One cat can consume 20 full sized milkweed leaves from birth to chrysalis.  It doesn't take many to decimate even a large milkweed plant.  If you're raising them indoors to protect them, it's not uncommon to run short on milkweed leaves.  How can you get the most out of your plants?

Well, one way is to cut the flowers off and feed them to the caterpillars too.  Yes, they will eat the flowers.  Harvesting the flowers helps you and your plants out in a couple of ways.  First, it stretches out your leaves so they will go farther.  Second, when the flowers are cut off, this sends a signal to the plant to make more flowers.  After a plant flowers and mades seeds, it begins to slow down because it has accomplished its purpose to propagate its species.  Removal of the flowers suspends this "slow down" process and actually stimulates the plant to increase it's production of leaves and flowers.

Feeding milkweed flowers and even green seed pods to my caterpillars has saved me and my Monarchs on numerous occasions.  Give it a try, and you'll no doubt be amazed at how much farther your milkweed plants will go in rearing your monarch caterpillars.

(Can you see the baby Monarch caterpillar on the underside of the leaf?)

(No shortage of milkweed flowers here.)

(Some of the many caterpillars we rescued today.)

Well, back to our story for today.  We have collected some 30-50 Monarch caterpillars and have them in 2 pavillions in our house.  Hopefully, most if not all will make it.  Time to go harvest some leaves and flowers again.

Happy Monarching!

Caleb & Janae Warren