Our Butterfly Project – The Final Update

So here we are. All of my monarchs have grown up and flown away. I have about twelve black swallowtails in chrysalis, and one straggler caterpillar I found the other day outside and brought in before a big storm. I worried it wouldn’t make it, so I have one last lonely caterpillar hanging out.

I think we are all going to miss them, even the cats.

As you can see, two decided my hair looked like a good place to hang out. I was pretty nervous that they were going to get all tangled up in it and get injured lol. I carefully extracted them and they flew away. I think it was a goodbye.

I released my last monarch on September 12. I named her Persephone and she took off before I could get a photo. She was quite large, and I believe she was a super monarch, heading for the south. Hopefully she will return to me next year, that would be pretty cool!

As for the remaining black swallowtails, they can overwinter. On October 1st, I will be putting them in cold storage to protect them until spring.

Next year, I am definitely tagging. So next fall all of you down there in Texas be prepared to check tags on monarchs and see if they came from my house!

The statistics: This summer I released nineteen female monarchs, twenty male monarchs, nine male black swallowtails, and six female black swallowtails (of my own). When Chrissy was gone I released about fifteen butterflies that were hers that she had raised. And I named all of mine – all 54!

Starting from the beginning, July 5th, the first day I released butterflies this summer: Arthur Blue, Barbara, Marion, Jerry, DeWayne, Faye, Janet, Larry, Scarlet, George, Peter, Frank, Captain, Wendy, Penny, Loki, Thor, Odin, Freya, Cavendish, Kerouac, Jack, Sarah, Ice Cream, Fitzgerald, Orion, Wilde, Andromeda, Bellatrix, Cordelia, Leo, Oberon, Juliet, Orlando, Apollo, Soleil, Cielo, Cosmo, Portia, Konane, Leilani, Makani, Skye, Maisie, Millie, Jinx, Winnie, Hazel, Mamie, Guthrie, Percival, Primrose, Whitaker, and finally, Persephone.

I may still end up with a black swallowtail or two but my numbers won’t change too much now. I am already looking forward to next year! Next spring I plan on writing a post on how to do this yourself if you are interested in it. It is easy and inexpensive, and I love it. It never gets old watching a butterfly eclose or waking up to see one had been born overnight. Then setting them free, watching them fly high and wondering where their journey will take them next! And just being part of something that helps out their population is so rewarding. If you are curious about the next step, you can read about it here!

I can’t express how much I enjoyed this. I can’t wait until it all begins again next year!

Butterfly Project – Update #8

So yeah, this will probably be one of my favorite pictures from this summer. Just a boy and a butterfly.

We are getting so near to the end of our butterfly project. It seems odd without tanks of hungry munching caterpillars everywhere. Things are quiet. Not that you could hear them, but.. it just feels quieter. The summer is winding down and that is just one of the signs.

I have stopped bringing in eggs and caterpillars, so this group that I have right now will be the last. After a certain point, I don’t want to raise them if when they eclose there is a chance that it would be too cold to release them. Currently, I have fourteen monarchs in chrysalis. These guys should be the super monarchs, the ones that make the journey south where they will stay for the winter.

For some reason, a bunch of them decided to go into chrysalis in the same area. I wonder if there was a reason behind that?

I also have seven black swallowtails in chrysalis, with four still eating and growing. Black swallowtail chrysalides can overwinter while monarchs can’t, so I am not as concerned with these guys.

As for releases, it was a crazy few weeks! I was watching my sister-in-laws chrysalides and caterpillars while they were on vacation, and while they were gone I released 15 of her butterflies. It was crazy, between hers and mine! Some of them stuck around for photos while others took immediately to the skies.

I did find a little sad one in the yard one morning. I don’t know what happened to it, but it could have been attacked by a bird or a cat or who knows what else. I was walking through the yard, and happened to glance down to see a butterfly with a torn wing crawling across my path. I have a very tender heart for all creatures, and I could not leave it out there to suffer. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but I knew it wasn’t staying out there like that. So, I brought it in and did some googling and decided to keep it for as long it is lived. Here is little Flippy Bohannon. The name is probably a little insensitive since it couldn’t fly, only crawl or flip around, but he lived with us a few days, eating peaches and looking at the sun until he wasn’t anymore. He is buried in our butterfly garden now.

Incidentally, one of the butterflies of my Chrissy’s (my SIL) eclosed and was born without a wing! Just one little wing. She is keeping hers around too, just letting it live its best short life safely in her house.

So things are pretty slow around here for now, but the next update, maybe in two weeks, I will have released all the super monarchs.

The tally: Black Swallowtails – Males: 8, Females: 6 Monarchs – Males: 17 Females: 10

I will make a list of them and their names in my last post, after I release this last group of monarchs. I can’t believe summer is almost over!

Our Butterfly Project – Update #7

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.

Our Butterfly Project – (A Brief )Update #6

It’s been a sort of slow week for us with the butterflies. We have caterpillars eating and growing, and a few in chrysalis going through their metamorphosis. I did have one male Black Swallowtail eclose last night, in the evening as the sun was setting so he had to spend the night. I released him first thing this morning and he was ready to go. I named him Kerouac.

It’s also been a sad week. I read some people keep their cats in enclosures outside, so I had some monarch caterpillars outside on the porch, not too hot or too cold, not too sunny or too shady. And something happened to them. I am not sure what although I suspect that someone in the neighborhood sprayed pesticides and it drifted over to our yard. Which is upsetting for many reasons, but it also shows just what these species have to survive through. I moved the survivors into a clean enclosure with all new food and keep checking on them, hoping they pull through. I will bleach and rinse the mesh enclosures today and get them all clean and sanitized for the next group. Update: All but one caterpillar survived!

I haven’t been bringing in any new eggs or caterpillars in the past week or so. We are going on vacation next week and I have to pass on the ones that I have to my friends to take care of for me while I am gone and they have their own as well, so I didn’t want to overwhelm them. When I get back however, I will pick up where I left off, in time for the big migration and super monarchs. The monarchs that eclose in late August and early September will be the monarchs that make the flight south, to Texas and Mexico. I am bummed that I did not get tags this year but I will for sure next year. So Texan friends, keep an eye out next year for my butterflies!

So right now we are in a holding pattern over here. Leslie from Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After suggested little video updates on this project, maybe permanently embedded in the sidebar, and I am considering that, especially with the big migration and big monarchs coming soon.

And this is where we are this week! Slow going right now with some weeks of growth and a week off next week, then big things coming soon!

See my previous updates here!

Update #1

Update #2

Update #3

Update #4

Update #5

Our Butterfly Project – Update #5

Good morning butterflies! Good morning caterpillars! This is a pretty common thing in our house these days, greeting all of our little friends that share our space, however temporarily. Wyatt still remains more in love with the caterpillars than the butterflies, but the magic of a watching a butterfly emerge from the chrysalis then fly away into the wind never gets old to me.

Last week all of our butterflies emerged from their chrysalis! At the time of my last posting, we had 14 monarchs in chrysalis, and 1 black swallowtail. As of today, that group, which I am calling The Toad Hole group after my friend Kelly’s house’s “name”, are all living their lives, free and wild and gathering nectar and hopefully creating more butterflies.

One morning I woke up to 6 butterflies! I actually had to work that morning, but I work for my cousin, and he is working from home these days, so I took them with me to release there. You have to give them some time to allow their wings to dry, and they would be ready while I was working. So, the butterflies went with me. And as a bonus, his daughters were there too, and got to watch and help out.

Although I had to laugh at myself, driving with a car of butterflies. I wonder what they thought, if anything?

So last week was all about these beautiful creatures – releasing them and collecting eggs for the most part.

I am planning on keeping a running tally though for those who are interested of the number of butterflies released, either in the sidebar or somewhere else. Maybe a whole dedicated page? I’ll have to see what works best. I am also hoping to start tagging monarchs, but I need to order the tags today or it won’t happen. If I do, it would be really cool to see if my blog friends down in Texas find any of the monarchs that I release! Tagging happens in the fall, we will see if I can order the tags today, since I think today is the last day to order!

So, the breakdown of butterflies last week:

14 released monarchs : 5 female (Janet, Scarlet, Wendy, Penny, and Freya) 9 male Larry, George, Peter, Frank, Captain, Loki, Odin, Thor, Fenrir.

1 released Black Swallowtail – male, Cavendish

If you are wondering why I am doing this, here is a great article. I can’t imagine a world without butterflies, can you? I remember going to Jack Miner in Canada as a child, and seeing trees just covered in monarchs and thinking it was the most amazing, wonderful, enchanted thing I had seen. I want to take Wyatt one day so he can feel that too.