Sunday, September 25, 2011

Monarch and hummingbird season ~ coming to a close

Here is a little collage I did, showing the stages of the monarch.  I was able to rear 26 monarchs from the eggs stage and 5 from caterpillars that I found!  I tagged 25 of them for their trip to Mexico.  I have 3 that I am trying to keep alive indoors that have bad wings.  Two of those were from ones I reared and one I found trying to fly around in my yard.  Both of it's wings are crinkled up.  I have been feeding them a mix of honey/water on a sponge, applesauce, fresh pineapple, watermelon, and fresh lantanas!  They definitely won't starve to death!  I'm not sure how long that will survive, but I'm willing to find out.

On a recent trip to Kentucky, for my nephew wedding, we visited my niece's grave and released 3 monarchs.  We also left a chrysalis, that was about to hatch, on a nearby shrub.  She was buried on a beautiful hilltop on her grandfather's farm.  She was killed in a car accident six years ago ~ she was only 20 years old.  It was really special being able to release the butterflies there.  I know it meant a lot to my sister and brother-in-law.

Three of my four releases yesterday!  I love it when they hang around for awhile!

The last of my 25 tags.  I guess I'd better order more next year so I don't run out!

This is one with an injured wing, he also has a bad leg.  He seems to like the honey/water mix in the sponge ~ you can see his proboscis sticking in the sponge!

I found 4 full grown caterpillars in my garden when I returned from my trip to Kentucky!
They have already formed their chrysalis'!

The way you can tell if a monarch is male or female is to look for the black spots on the hind wings.
The males have them ~

and the females don't.  The dots emit a chemical that is used during courtship.

This was a great day!  I had six hatch that day!

My cat even gets in on the fun ~ luckily she doesn't try to get them, although I put them where she can't get to them when I'm not home.

This alas ~ is that last photo of a hummingbird for this year.  I haven't seen them all weekend, so I'm guessing they'll headed south for the winter.  Bon voyage... and please come back in the spring!

Have a great fall!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Monarch rearing 2011

 Chrysalis just before hatching becomes clear and you can see the monarch's wings through it!

 The abdomen of the monarch is filled with a fluid that it will pump into it's wings to inflate them.

 I had relocated the chrysalis to a tree branch that I placed in a pot filled with rocks.  It can be a little tricky removing it from where it was initially attached.  You have to be sure to pull at the silk part and not at the cremaster (stem) because it can easily break off.  The chrysalis must hang for the butterfly to form correctly.  You are able to handle the chrysalis a few hours after it is made.
 My first monarch was tagged and release on Monday August 22nd.
Tag # PBM 425
 It's a male!  You can tell be the two dark spots on the hind wings.

 This photo turned out kind of neat.  It was so bright outside that it was hard to get a great photo but with a little playing around on photoshop, I ended up with this! My son was holding the monarch!

Here he is hanging on my butterfly bush.  He hung around for about an hour after being released and then flew way up into the nearby treetops.  I hope he makes it to Mexico!

I still have 5 chrysalis, 5 in "J" formation, and 3 cats that will be close behind.
I also have 14 more cats in varies stages and 3 more eggs.
Hopefully I'll  have reared at least 31 Monarchs in the end ~ more if I find more eggs!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

More wings in my garden!

Not quite sure what's on her beek ~ hope it's not a wort :)

This is my favorite hummer this year!  She's really little, so I'm guessing she was just born this spring.
She is very friendly and hangs around quite a bit ~ at least until her brother comes along and chases her away.  I call her "Tink"!
And last but not least, the buckeyes are starting to show up again!

Monarch rescue ~

Just to preface these next few photos ~ I stopped by a local park with my son two weeks ago to check out the "disc golf" course (a sport he just picked up).  While we were walking around the course, I notice a pond with milkweed growing around it!  I found a couple monarch eggs on one of the plants and decided that we would come back the next day ~ for my son to play on the course and for me to look for more eggs or caterpillars!  We arrived at the park around 11am and found that someone had just weed whacked down all the milkweed plants.  My heart sank ~ I spent the next hour, going around and inspecting all the plants that had been chopped down.  I ended up finding 40 eggs and 1 full grown caterpillar!  I had found a few eggs on my plants at home as well, with a total of 45 eggs.  We were leaving the next evening for vacation so I had my neighbor watch the caterpillar for me and I placed a large sprig of swamp milkweed (with a watering tube)  in the box with the eggs. We returned in 5 days to find 13 eggs had hatched.  Unfortunately, the others didn't.  The large caterpillar had made it's chrysalis the day after we left!  I have written to the park officials concerning the milkweed.  There is such a shortage of monarchs in our area and they are only making the problem worse. 

I cut a small part of the leaf around the eggs and placed them on a damp paper towel.

This is the full grown cat that I found~ and now as it's chrysalis.  I detached it from the lid of the cage and glued it to a tree branch placed in a flowerpot of stones, and set it inside the butterfly observation house.  I'll post a photo of it later when there are more on it!

Here are a few of the cats on the swamp milkweed.

I found 6 more eggs on some milkweed grown along the road yesterday.  My family thinks I'm nuts, but the cats are so vulnerable to bees and birds out in the open like that.

This is one of the newly hatched cats~  I have to use a magnifying glass to get a good look at them!

Please plant milkweed!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A few more shots of the hummingbirds~

The hummingbirds have been quite active lately! 
 The other night, one of the males and a female were putting on quite a show for me.  They were flying around the feeder together, then they would fly straight up in the air and fly right back down.  They would then circle the feeder, take a sip, and head straight back up in the air.  They did this about ten times~  Unfortunately, I couldn't focus my camera on them because they were moving too fast ~ they are so amazing!

This next shot was pure luck!

Oh, I received my tags for tagging monarch this week!!!
Now I just need to find some caterpillars to rear!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Monarchs have finally returned!!!

I was wandering around my yard the other night, working in my gardens and noticed a wonderful surprise ~ a monarch was feeding on my butterfly bush!  I have only seen two males so far and am hoping there are some females close by to start laying eggs on my butterfly weed and milkweed. 

They love that butterfly bush but the also enjoyed some lantana!

I am anxious to rear some 4th generation monarchs ~ these will hatch towards the end of August and later. These are the ones who will migrate to Mexico for the winter.  I tagged a few last year with some tags I received at a Monarch tagging in my town.  I had my garden certified as a Monarch Way Station, so I will have my own tags to use this year!
My tags should arrive in about a week!
Plant some milkweed or butterfly weed in your garden ~ don't let these beautiful butterflies die out!

Happy to see more hummingbirds!

I am so excited that I have a female hummingbird now!  Up until about a month ago, I have only seen two males.  She has been very hard to get a clear photo of until recently.  She and one of the males were playing all day in my gardens.  I purposely wore a red top today, hoping that they would let me get a little closer to them.  It worked ~ Here are some photos of my female rubythroated hummingbird!

Hope you enjoyed the photos!