Friday, 4 August 2017

Pupae #17 - #25

Halfway through July I was finding 5 - 10 eggs every day. They have been through the 5 instars (phases) and have started pupating. Two days ago there were 4 new pupae, 2 new ones yesterday and 7 today.

There are 9 in the foreground and 3 in the background. Picture was taken through the vinyl 'window' on the caterpillar castle so it's not really in focus. I notice a black spot on the tip of one of the pupae. I'm not sure what that is. Hopefully it won't impede its development.
The third larva in the Bug Bottle also pupated while we were out today.
This larva formed a chrysalis today.
I did have one near casualty. The other day, 2 pupae formed on the stem of some milkweed in the castle. I tried to peel one of them off and to my horror, tore the top of its cremaster right off. It left an opening in the top through which I could see it pulsating and some liquid oozing out. Rats! I hadn't waited long enough for the chrysalis to harden. I have isolated it in hopes it will survive.

Today, I checked and the opening in the top seems to have healed over and the beautiful gold spots have developed. My fingers are crossed that it will continue to develop normally. I will glue some type of hanger from the top and let it hang like the others so when it emerges, its wings can unfurl and expand like usual. I am cautiously optimistic. The casing is now very firm so it's safe to handle it.
If I find eggs on the tender leaves at the top of a milkweed plant, I usually lop off the top cluster of leaves and stick the stem in water. The larva then hatches and stays on what I call its 'birth plant' until it has either consumed most of it or the plant is too old or dried out.

Today I checked this one and found 2 larvae! I'm usually concerned that they'll eat each other at this early larval stage but they seem to be getting along OK so I'm leaving well enough alone.
I just cleaned out the bottom of the castle. This is about as frass (poop) free as it ever gets. I added two more big larvae today. Again, the picture is blurry as I took it through the vinyl window.
These guys are a couple of instars away from pupating. Often they'll climb up like this and stay there for hours.

Usually they are just getting ready to shed their skin and advance to the next phase. More than once, I've thought they were dead because they don't eat for move at all for hours, but next time I check, I find the shed skin below and they're moving around again  looking for food.
I have a few florists water reservoirs that help keep milkweed clusters fresher (pictured in the jar on the right). It also makes less work for me as the cats will feed on a cluster for several days.

I keep the milkweed leaves in the fridge so am easily able to provide food for the cats and do so at least once a day. It's keeping me busy and tied to home (other than day trips) but it is so interesting and fun to see the rapid development that it holds my interest. I do feel like I'm making a meaningful contribution to at least this species.

Pupa #10 has started to darken so it will probably emerge tomorrow morning.

Stay tuned...

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