Well, here we are. It’s the first day of autumn. How did I celebrate? I went to the dentist to get a gnarly old molar pulled. The tooth was not a good candidate for root canal, so out it came. I’ll spare you the (painful) details. Suffice it to say it’s far enough back where I won’t look too hillbilly-ish when I smile big. *Sigh* Moving on…..
As I bite down on my gauze-wrapped teabag (a good clotting helper, so says the dentist I went to high school with…) I am going through all the pics I snapped since my last post. I really thought I was done with the Monarchs, but on Sept. 3rd, I found 7 more eggs on my milkweed! I took them all inside, and within 3 days, I had these little guys…
During all this, I had a visit from my granddaughter, who decided to draw a picture of the whole Monarch deal:
Here’s the detail…
Then, we made cupcakes…
A good time was had by all!
Anyway….back to the butterflies…
So…these late September butterflies will definitely be going to Mexico. Sexually immature, they will stay in reproductive diapause until it’s time to make the return trip to us here in the north.
So, the butterflies you’ll be seeing next summer in 2017 will be the great-grandchildren of the late September 2016 butterflies. Maybe the great-grandchildren of some of mine…released just yesterday. How amazing is that? Call me silly, but the thought of it nearly brings me to tears. How wise and wonderful nature is. The beauty and perfection of it all.
And to prove it, here are my September butterflies…submitted for your approval…
And my last two…both males.
And my last butterfly of the season. I released him yesterday.
So, that’s it. Summer’s End. But, there’s still plenty to do in the garden.
Whoa! What a month it’s been. I’ve been so busy with Monarch caterpillars and butterflies, that I haven’t had the time (or inclination, really) to post. But, I’m back…with mostly pictures and a few comments to go with them. This will take you through the last couple of weeks and the progress of my butterflies.
First..the last of the Swallowtails:
Even a Summer Azure butterfly came to visit the milkweed flowers:
Meanwhile, back at the rearing cage, my Monarch eggs had hatched, and the first wave of caterpillars had started!
I had to move the newest chrysalides to a different cage because there were just too many, and I didn’t want butterflies emerging over feeding caterpillars. So, a big old Ikea hamper did the trick.
I had 9 chrysalides, and I moved them into the hamper, tying the silk with dental floss, and then tying it to the mesh on top of the hamper.
This worked fine in theory, but in reality I had a hard time moving butterflies out because the top of the hamper opened up & outward, so any intact chrysalides would jiggle all over the place. Not a big deal, but annoying.
Anyway…here’s a video from my instagram of the butterflies that emerged in the hamper. (Mexican music in the background is courtesy of my next door neighbors.)
That was the first wave of monarchs. The SECOND wave? Well, it was more like a tsunami!
Yep. It was pretty crazy. I had to order another screened cage, as the caterpillars varied so much in age. I had to separate them by size so there would be no cannibalism. Yeah, it sounds terrible, but when you have too many caterpillars competing for milkweed (which I ALMOST ran out of…even though I have loads growing in the garden)..some will take the easiest route and eat their smaller cage-mates.
So, I separated the big fatties in one cage, and the smaller ones in the other. Then, when everyone had made their chrysalides, I moved them all to one cage. So, day after day, I’ve had on the average of 5-6 butterflies released.
As I write this post, I let the last 12 butterflies go today. There is only one lonely chrysalis remaining, which will probably eclose tomorrow. These are the butterflies of the last generation. They will be a part of the great migrationto the oyamel fir forests in the state of Michoacan, Mexico.
I have so many videos of these babies, I can’t post them all here. But, you can click the link to my instagram below, or on the sidebar to the right, they’re all there!
I’ve been waiting for my Monarch butterflies to show up, but since I didn’t get any until August last year, I planted some parsley & dill & rue in my yard to see if I could attract black swallowtails in the interim. These plants, along with fennel and wild carrot (AKA Queen Anne’s Lace) are the host plants of black swallowtail caterpillars.
Well, it worked! I’ve raised and released 5 Black Swallowtail butterflies so far. 4 males & 1 female. I’ve been on vacation this past week, and since we haven’t traveled this time (Yes, it’s a “staycation”) I’ve had plenty of time to indulge my gardening/butterfly adventures. Here’s the full deal in chronological order:
Whereas Monarch eggs are oval, Swallowtail eggs are perfectly round, and about the size of the head of a pin. The mama lays them at the tip of the dill plant. Even though I had 3 different host plants, the swallowtails seemed to prefer the dill. I didn’t find any eggs on the rue or the parsley.
Once they hatch, the tiny babies begin to eat like crazy. I gave them rue and parsley to eat because after a while, I really couldn’t stand the smell of dill in my kitchen. I don’t even use it when I cook because it does not exist in my spice rack. ANYway…
The cats go through 4 molts or “instars”. The last one being the chrysalis form. Unlike Monarchs, which look the same through all their instars (they just get bigger & fatter!), Black Swallowtail cats look different in every instar. I couldn’t get a pic of each instar, but here’s a pic from a blog Called “Backyard Biology” (https://bybio.wordpress.com/tag/black-swallowtail/)
The picture above shows two of the cats munching away on dill. That black stuff is their poop or “frass”. Since I had seven caterpillars, I also had a lot of frass. A LOT! I used cling wrap and punched holes in it for the stems so the water wouldn’t get fouled from the poop. And, paper towels on the bottom of the cage, which I changed every day to prevent bacterial contamination.
Wow. It was a lot of work. When I had my Monarchs last year, I only had two, and not at the same time. This was definitely caterpillar overload! Aside from that, the cats just went about their business of eating & pooping, but every time I moved them to clean the cage, out would pop their osmeterium, which is a forked gland they display when they are bothered or perceive danger. I didn’t have my camera handy, so here’s another ‘net pic:
So, this orange-yellow gland pops out and emits a nasty odor. Some people think it smells like pineapple, but I think it smells EXACTLY the same as the statin drugs Lovastatin & Pravastatin (remember, I work in pharmacy). Both of these drugs smell like rotten fruit. Or Black Swallowtail osmeterium stuff. Can you imagine the stinkiness of seven pissed-off caterpillars? It was epic!
After 8-10 days, the majority of my cats were fat & sassy, and ready to go into chrysalis…
One by one, they found a place on the sticks I put in the cage. Two of them actually attached to the screen side of the cage. Two of the chrysalis were bright green…
And the rest were brown…
And, exactly 8 days after the chrysalis, this is what I woke up to in the morning:
There were 4 that emerged at the same time! All males. How could I tell? Black Swallowtail butterflies are sexually dimorphic: the males have yellow banding on the wings, the females have blue on their hind-wings, and are a bit larger than the males. The undersides of the wings on both sexes are nearly identical.
So, I took them outside and released them into the garden. But, I still had 2 more chrysalis to go. At this point, I was kind of over the whole black swallowtail thing. Their voracious appetite for smelly dill plants! Their enormous amounts of poop! Their nasty attitude and stinky-stink glands!
Yep. It was a bit much. Until this happened:
Have you ever seen anything as beautiful as this girl? She’s number 5, and emerged 2 days ago at around 7 in the morning. I took the cage outside about an hour later, opened the cage door, snapped this gorgeous pic, and watched her fly away.
So, that’s it for now. I still have to wait for number 6 to emerge, probably in a day or two. Number 7 just went into chrysalis today, so I’ll have another 8 days to wait. And…I thought I might be done, but…maybe not. I saw one tiny caterpillar on the plants I had put in the vase right before the last two caterpillars went into chrysalis! What the heck. I never even saw the egg! This is the last one for sure!
It has to be, because I have to wash and sterilize the rearing cage. Why?
The Monarchs finally showed up. A month early. If these eggs make it, and hatch, I’ll be up to my knees (figuratively speaking) in caterpillar poop. Again!
At least Monarch caterpillars don’t have stink glands & are adorably cute:
…in time! Well, not TOO far back. Just about a month or so. An update on what’s been growing on. I tried to post sooner, but as always, work got in the way. Stupid work! How dare it interfere with my gardening adventures! But, in order to buy my flowers, I must toil in the pharmacy. I am looking forward to my retirement, which is only another 7 years away! Maybe. Hopefully.
ANYway, let the time warp begin…..
Yep. This was the milkweed patch last month. It is a lot fuller now, but unfortunately, I haven’t had any Monarch eggs yet. Maybe next month?
Last month, my Jackmanii Clematis was in all its glory:
It was PACKED full of blooms. People would actually stop and ask me what I did to get it to bloom like that. When I tell them all I do is I prune the whole shebang down to a 12″ high bundle of sticks in March, and then leave it completely alone, they can’t believe it. Neither can I! But, its glory is short-lived. All the blooms have blown away, and now it’s just green leaves.
The same thing happened to my clems back in the shade garden. Here’s a lovely, misty pic of the seed heads with the early morning sun shining through…
And of course…in honor of my mom, her Black Prince petunias…this time, mixed with pure white :
Here’s a pic of the butterfly garden from a month ago:
And here’s a pic of the naughty squirrel who lives in my eave.
He can’t get into the attic, since the eave is separate from the house, but my guy said he would close up the hole in mid June, which is when baby squirrels (if any) leave the nest. Well, it’s almost mid July, and you guessed it…the squirrel is still living in my eave. And, instead of evicting the squirrel, my guy painted the garage door. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Now…here’s something I tried. I made a garden gif. Not a very good one, but it’s a start. I just need practice. It’s a gif. of my butterfly garden, taken on each Saturday in June. I just have to remember to stand in the same spot when taking pics, so it actually looks like it’s progressing. But anyway…
Gah! I’ll get the hang of it one of these days!
Until then, enjoy my mediocre gif. -making skills, and I leave you with clue to my next post:
I finally got some pics of the babies in the nest. As the pictures progress, you’ll see how fast these babies grew. In little more than a week after my first pics of the babies, they were fully fledged and raring to go.
Yesterday, I noticed that the nest was empty. I know that the parents will often encourage the babies to leave the nest, and then spend the day feeding them on the ground, and teaching them how to hunt worms.
After that? I guess they’re on their own.
Hopefully the parents will come back to this nest to raise a new family. If so, you know I’ll be there with my camera ready!
We have a robin couple raising a family in the bend of our gutter..
I would like to get a picture of the Papa helping to feed the babies, but I never seem to have the camera ready when he comes around. These are the robins that took advantage of the worm festival that happened when my guy dug up the yard. I guess they felt it was a good nesting site…lots of food, water, and the occasional strawberry or slice of orange.
Anyway, I am loving the arrival of warm weather.
My Saturdays are once again spent in the garden. A little slice of heaven!
Here’s a pic of my Mom, back in the old neighborhood.
This photo was taken in 1968, in our backyard, the same year we moved to one of the close-in suburbs. We lived in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, the West Side, and it was getting pretty dangerous even then. We were one of the last white families to leave. After the riots of 1968, we were outta there. Ummm…you don’t want to go into that neighborhood now. It’s ruined. You’d probably get robbed or shot. Or both. But back then, in the early 60’s, it was a wonderful place to grow up. So sad.
But anyway, this past Mother’s day, my daughter & son-in-law, and our darling little one celebrated with a toast to “Grandy” (that’s what my kids called my mom), and a trip to the plant nursery, where we purchased mucho flowers.
Here are just a few…
My granddaughter was very excited, and enjoyed picking out flowers. Then we came home, had some lunch, and she helped me plant:
She did a very good job. one of the things she really loved was smelling the lilacs. I don’t blame her…they smell so delicious. And they look beautiful, too! Here’s a Red Admiral butterfly enjoying some lilac deliciousness…
A carpenter bee came to visit, too…
I cut some lilacs and put them in a little vase…
But the next day they were all droopy & sad -looking. Better to keep them outside & attached to the tree, I guess.
So..that was my Mother’s day. Very nostalgic, full of love and lots of fun!