Friday, 25 August 2017

Winding Down

After 12 days of multiple monarch eclosings and releases, today is the first day I didn't have a pupa eclosing. I have released 60 adults, have no eggs, have 4 larvae - three very close to pupating, and 11 remaining pupae. If all goes well, I will have raised and released 75 adults monarchs this year.

On Sunday, Christine brought two of her children over to see my operation. While showing them one of my milkweed patches, Nathan found a larva on a leaf.
After determining that he wanted to take it home, I broke the top part of the plant off and stuck the stem in a reservoir. He named it Jo(e) - (we won't know if it's a boy or a girl 'til it ecloses).
Christine messaged me two days later to say that Jo(e) had pupated so we're all looking forward to seeing it emerge. In the meantime they have found what they think are a couple more eggs which they're raising.

The butterflies emerge before noon. I keep them in the castle for a few more hours so their wings fully expand, dry, and get strong enough for flight. Here you can see an empty casing in the top foreground, a couple of darkening pupae, a larva on the top right, larvae on the floor hidden by milkweed, and 4 adults ready to be released.
Usually I unzip the door and just leave it open for the adults to fly out. More often than not I have to encourage them to leave. Often I take the butterfly to either the echinacea plant or a zinnia. They usually just sit there for a while, sometimes unfurling the proboscis and feeding. Then they fly away.
This is my last larva. It will be 9x this size before it pupates in a week or so.
The whole operation will be wrapped up 10 - 12 days after that, in plenty of time before our trip. If this last guy is still in a pupa when we leave, I have a friend who has agreed to release it.

This has been a very rewarding year for me - far exceeding my expectations. As I only released 4 last year, my goal this year was to really spend time looking for eggs and hopefully release 20 adults. Having 40 hungry caterpillars in various stages kept me hopping a couple of weeks ago - finding enough milkweed to feed them, and keeping the frass cleaned out of their various habitats. But I have really enjoyed feeling like I make a difference in their numbers.

The only down side was that Skip and I couldn't make any mini trips all summer. Next year, I will investigate having a couple of interested friends 'larva-sit' for us so we can have a bit more freedom.

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