Friday, July 17, 2009

Pillar Place: Monarch

Flowers and butterflies drift in color, illuminating spring. ~Author Unknown

DD, Dd and I have been taking long walks every morning the past few weeks and yesterday on our walk, we made stops at all the milkweed to look for eggs. We found ONE and were tickled pink.

Later in the day, we ran a few errands, including going to the library. There is a new road behind the library that winds through some milkweed, so we took the long way home, stopping every few feet at various clumps to look for eggs. It was hot, it was humid and the hills were at about a 70 degree angle and I was in flip flops, so it was... interesting to say the least.

But we had some success... we found six more eggs (after looking about about 150 plants with about 10 leaves each... yes, we are dedicated--or insane. You decide).

So, despite the fact there are no eggs (yet) on my own milkweed, Pillar Place: Monarch 2009 has begun.

Meet Kathleen and Karen -- our first "twin" eggs. I've never found two eggs on the same leaf before:

And, just to give you an idea of what we were up against while hanging off hillsides looking underneath all the leaves (because, yes, that's where they lay them so we have to carefully FLIP every leaf to check it) this is the size of the egg as compared to a quarter:

Monarchs are so much easier to raise than swallowtails. We keep them in Gladware that we've punched full of airholes and tape a piece of construction paper on the lid. They eat and then crawl onto the lid to shed their skin, then eat and repeat until it's time to make their pupa, which is ALSO always made on the lid. Unlike swallowtails, they don't stay on their food until they are ready (a rude awakening for me the first year we did them), but they are very predictable and low-maintenance. It's also easier to pick a leaf and put it into the dish instead of having to use floral foam and water to keep them fresh... milkweed is amazingly hardy.

So, now we wait. We prefer to start with eggs since monarchs are a host for a two types of parasitoids: tachinid flies and braconid wasps. These insects lay their eggs ON the caterpillar and the pillar is slowly consumed until, when they go to make their pupa and hang in the "J", the larvae of these critters will emerge (thus killing the pillar). It's impossible to know which of the caterpillars is paratisized, and it's a BAD problem, so we try to catch the pillars before they are.. yanno.. PILLARS.

A small tidbit about monarchs: In December 1995, scientists estimate that 5 to 7 million Monarchs died after a snowstorm hit the overwintering sites. A snowstorm in 1992 killed a similar number. (Source: Monarch Watch)

Eggs hatch about ten days after they are laid. Since we don't know WHEN these were laid, we'll keep you posted on their progress. Currently we have:

Our little family of seven: Jane, Kathleen & Karen, Lenape, Maria, Nancy, Oscar.



Keri Mikulski said...


Can't wait to see the pics. :)

Dru said...

This is so cool. I can't wait to hear and see about their progress.

Have a good day and I hope you find more Monarchs.

Melissa McClone said...

Amazing! I can't believe you found all those! Great job.

Tori Lennox said...

Holy cow! I would so not have the patience to search for something that microscopic!

Anne-Kathrine said...

Wooohooo congrats of finding them. You are def much more patient than me thank god lol. Can't wait to see how everyone turns out!!!!

Brandy said...

I'm glad you searched for and found them! I truly believe y'all are helping nature along.

Have a great day!