Posted in Conservation, Creatures

Guardianship update: 11th August 2018

So much to my surprise, and with a twinge of guilt, at late suppertime yesterday (which was the 10th for folks pondering the time difference), I saw Junior poised in preparation for J already.  Since the four older instar had been out of the incubator for a while, I really didn’t realize how big Junior had grown, especially since the last to form a chrysalis was the biggest 5th instar (and bigger than Junior).  

I knew Junior was close to 5th instar, yet I didn’t realize it was that close!  I’ve read that cooler weather can slow their growth rate, but I don’t know if warmer can make it go quicker.   Still, I may have been wrong and he already was 5th.  The infographic I have on instar states states it takes three days between 4th to 5th instar, and I moved Junior the morning of the 9th. So that’s two days, which means…he was probably 5th and I was still recalling the last’s size as comparison from 4th to 5th.

Looking back at the closeup of Junior on my last update, I remember thinking when I took the picture that Junior’s antennae seemed to have that freshly crooked look that they get just after shedding between instars, but dismissed it at the time.

I had made a comment in my update on the 8th that I thought there would be enough leaves for them all for the night.  Well, there honestly wasn’t much left at all, and I scrambled to transition Junior to the keeper.

Junior certainly ate quite a bit of the leaves in the keeper for the minimal time spent in there, though.  My partner joked Junior resented being the only one in the keeper that wasn’t in chrysalis, and so made short work of getting there.  Since I haven’t kept exact time records, who knows.  I did write to my resident Monarch Expert and asked if they can grow faster in warmer weather.

Given that, I looked closer at the incubator and older update images a short while ago as signs of dawn started creeping into the windows, and I will be moving at least the two larger over soon.  I don’t know if I can wait until Junior’s chrysalis hardens, but I sure hope so.

When they are in J, it’s more likely they could fall off their temporary tether.  It’s one reason why although I like the freebie keeper tank I found, on the other hand I’m already sketching out a wood frame side opening keeper in my mind for next year.  That way I won’t disturb any in J or later stages.  I know I can buy keepers online, but I like to make stuff, and I’ll have all winter to do so.

I’ve read about how to move them in the chrysalis once it has hardened, but I’m not confident at all about that, even if I do put a nice cushy towel underneath just in case as is advised.  Sometimes moving is recommended to do this if a lot of them form near each other, as two emerging at similar times can knock each other about when they are in the unfurling and drying stages.  So far, only two are sort of close, but not terribly so.  I did read that some Guardians have reported older instar munching on chrysalis, and the assumption is the leaves in the keeper had dried out, so they moved on to something moister.  Horrifying if true, but I’ve also now read that if eggs are close together, since larva tend to eat their own egg for the nutrients, they sometimes will start eating another egg nearby for the same reason.  So maybe not so far fetched?

Another point related to the keeper I want to mention, I realized one of the reasons I had been concerned about the smaller instar safety was the X I had cut in the water container barrier screen was larger on one of the plant containers.  So I’ll be cutting another later with the smaller X so the gap isn’t as bad.  I had toyed with the idea at one point of using various center sized washers to cover any gap depending on the plant refresh at the time, but I have plenty of scrap screen still.

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this, but I did the math based on data I read, and we could have our first butterfly to release as early as Thursday.  Time will tell!

Something else I found tonight that may be of interest to anyone interested in Monarch Guardianship was this website page: 10 Common Monarch Diseases, Parasites, and Caterpillar Killers.  So far, I haven’t had cause to be alarmed, but it’s good to know about this sort of thing.  Reading through it also made me glad I only brought in eggs this year.

I know there is/was at least one monarch larvae in our milkweed patch, given the patterns of the eaten leaves.  Yet I still haven’t managed to find it.  Which only made me think of last year when I only saw one larvae at all, and it was quite far along in instar.  I also only recall seeing it that one day when I managed to take a picture.  I tried to find it after, but never managed to do so.  I can’t recall the statistics offhand, but I know the Monarchs have a much better chance of recovery from Guardianship since their guarded eggs and larvae have a much higher survival rate.  Thinking about that sole seen caterpillar last year, and the few eggs I’ve managed to find this year reinforces the notion to me that this is a good thing to do.

Care to share thoughts on this?