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.

Currently….

It’s that time again! I’m joining up with Anne in Residence for her monthly Currently..post. This month we are talking about what we are celebrating, collecting, gifting, thinking, and trying!

Celebrating: This one is easy! We are celebrating the addition of our newest family member, born last Friday! My cousin and his wife had their third son on the 28th, named Francis (Frankie) Elias. Frankie is named for our grandfather, and I absolutely love it. He is so darn cute and I can’t wait to meet him! Mom and baby are doing great.

Collecting: Ideas and art for our bedroom refresh that we are starting this month. We loved how the office turned out so much that now we are eyeing other rooms. Our bedroom has not been repainted since we moved in twenty years ago!! It is high time to rectify that. Not only have our tastes changed it’s just been too long. I can’t wait! I already have a few pieces picked out that I want to get but I won’t let myself pull the trigger until we actually start. It will be my reward. This is one that I have in mind. If you follow me here regularly, you will know that I love all things nature and I dig this artist. I bought her fox print for the office, and I kind of like the idea of carrying that idea into another room.

(art by FainaLorah Luna Moth Art Print)

Gifting: Not too much right now? I do have my eyes open for Father’s Day gifts and ideas!

Thinking: About summer and what we want to accomplish – or not accomplish. We want to finish up the bedroom and then sort of spend the rest of the summer without projects except being together, exploring nature, having fires and drinks with family, going on picnics and visiting some of our favorite places. We want a relaxed summer, one that ends with everyday feeling that good kind of tired.

Trying: To encourage butterflies to our yard! Specifically, monarchs. The past few years my friends have all “raised” monarchs to give them more of a fighting chance at survival. This summer, I think Wyatt and I will be joining in. I planted milkweed and all sorts of different plants to entice butterflies, so hopefully we will see some monarch caterpillars hanging out in the garden soon. I am going to have my mom do it too, I think she will like it!

And that is it for this month! Check back next month where we will be discussing what we are currently eatingfeelinggoingordering, and realizing.