Before we left for vacation, I had to line up a few caterpillar sitters! Luckily for me, my two besties also raise caterpillars and took mine in. One took my black swallowtails, the other my monarchs. I also had family coming in twice a day to feed my lizards and cats, and checking the butterfly enclosures for any butterflies that might eclose during our absence and release them.
And three monarchs were born while I was gone! I told my niece she had to name them all for me, so the three that eclosed under her watch (and her mom’s) are named Jack, Sarah, and… Ice Cream.
The rest of my caterpillars went into chrysalis for the most part while I was gone, so I ended up picking up tanks of chrysalis when we got back, except for a few that were younger and were still just little caterpillars. However, my SIL had a bunch of monarch caterpillars that she asked me to take. I now have about 11 caterpillars munching away in the tank!
Since the last update, I have had 11 total butterflies eclose – 8 monarchs and 3 black swallowtails. I named the monarchs (not including Jack, Sarah, and Ice Cream) Fitzgerald, Wilde, Leo, Cordelia, and Oberon. The black swallowtails I named Orion, Bellatrix, and Andromeda.
Cordelia was giving me great anxiety. When monarchs emerge, they generally hang from the chrysalis for an hour or more, to allow their wings to dry. For some reason though, Cordelia had itchy feet and wanted to rush the process. She kept walking across the top of the enclosure, hanging down of course, but since she was just new, she kept falling! Her wings were still wet and she couldn’t move once she fell and she would flail her little legs in the air. I freaked out because if she remained like that, in a crumpled heap, her wings would be malformed and she wouldn’t be able to fly. I would reach in, let her climb on my finger, and then help her back to the top. I did this eight times before she just went to sleep for the night. We made it, and she was able to fly free and high today when I released her.
There is something amazing about a butterfly, and I love when they seem to trust you enough to climb onto your hands and fingers. I know they just assume that my finger is a stick but, it feels like I am truly connected to them in some way, to nature, when they allow that to happen. There is a trick to it by the way – you want to put your finger near their head/front of their body, under their legs and they just latch on. Their little feet feel so sticky, and despite being fragile little things, they have a surprising weight to them, a featherweight, but you know they are there.
So my tally to date is: 14 male monarchs, 8 female monarchs, 6 male black swallowtails, and 4 female. The next wave is coming! Usually the giant monarchs, the ones strong enough to migrate to Texas and Mexico, are being growing right now, and will leave Michigan to head south the end of August and early September. I am looking forward to contributing to that migration and hopefully helping to boost the numbers of these magnificent creatures.