Monday, 19 August 2013

Butterflies 2013

For several years we have been cultivating milkweed to attract monarch butterflies to our yard. Early in July each year, I inspect the undersides of the milkweed leaves for the monarch eggs. If I find any, I take the entire leaf into the house so we can hatch the eggs indoors away from the earwigs and other insects that prey on the eggs. We have had quite a bit of success in past years hatching up to 10 butterflies in one season.

This year monarch butterfly numbers were the lowest in 20 years for an, as yet to be conclusively determined, unknown reason or combination of reasons.

I was only able to find 2 eggs this year in mid-July - a couple of weeks later than usual. An all-time low for our back yard. When Skip and I were away 1.5 weeks ago, they both pupated - transformed from the larva (caterpillar) to the chrysalis. Our kind neighbour not only house-sits when we're away but he also feeds the cat and any monarch caterpillars we have on hand.

Once they pupate (form the chrysalis), it takes a little over a week for the new butterfly to emerge. This morning I thought to check the 'Bug Bottle' and one of the butterflies had hatched!

I had warning last night that it was going to hatch as the chrysalis got darker with the black of the wings starting to show through the chrysalis.

I could see the orange-coloured drops on the bottom of the container which are from when the butterfly first emerges with its crumpled furled wings.
It must have occurred a couple of hours before because its wings were fully unfurled and dried and it was just waiting patiently at the bottom of the container.

There was no way for the butterfly to climb out so I got a stick from the yard so it would have something to climb up. I then lay the stick on top so the butterfly could take its time to ready its wings to fly away. The lack of black spots on the wings indicate that this is a female. Click here to see a male monarch and its spots.
This butterfly was a big one! Its wingspan was about 4" which was surprising because its chrysalis was the smaller of the two.
Here you can see the empty chrysalis on the left and the other one with the curve of the wings starting to show through. The second one will hatch later tonight or tomorrow morning.
It's disappointing that we were only able to hatch two this year but that is two more than if we had let nature take its course in our garden.

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