Posted in Conservation, Creatures

And we’re off!

Just like the start of a race, I’m feeling a bit frantic trying to get back into the swing of Monarch Guardianship.  I’m pretty confident I’ll find a comfortable stride soon, but I’m not there yet!

Figuring out how best to work with the new keepers; having the various instars right out of the gate, plus the uncertainty of bringing in an older instar has me scrambling.

It’s exciting to be sure, but I keep reaching for my resources to recall what’s supposed to happen when, what to look out for, and overall try to remember if what I’m doing is a best practice or not.  I’m going to try hard to not be lazy and email my mentor unless something really different happens.  So that means, reading up.

My first big mistake was bringing in entire tops because one leaf had an egg on it for the first two finds.  Fortunately I remembered not to do that for the second two egg finds.  Now that they’ve hatched, it was an oh-so-careful process of trying to separate that tight clump of the youngest leaves of the plant to find the newly hatched first instars without squishing same or knocking them off the leaf.

I’m a bit nervous about the 5th instar.  I wasn’t entirely certain it was 5th because it felt a bit on the small side from what I’m used to even though its front filaments seemed the right proportional length for 5th.

Yesterday, it rather quickly moved from the plant top I brought it in on, and it alarmed me a bit because I couldn’t find it visually.  When I opened the keeper, I found it happily nestled in the center most portion of the other plant top I had put there in case it mowed down the one it was brought in on.  There it was, chowing down on the tenderest of leaves that were barely as big as a thumbnail.  It soon moved on to more and more outer leaves on the other cutting, and I was wondering…will it go back and finish off the other plant, or should I get another bit?

When I was getting ready to put it away for the night, there it was on the top, exploring.  That’s when I realized it likely was a 5th, and here it was already thinking to J.  (I’d been moving the incubator and keeper to inside a closet so no chance the cats would get curious in a bad way, and also to help keep artificial light from confusing the Monarchs.)  Not long after, I covered the keeper with a few tea towels to block out light.  If it did J during the night, I didn’t want any chance of jostling it in the morning by taking it out of the closet.

Then today, I got a bit nervous when I took the tea towels off, and it was still just hanging around on the top.  So off I went to look through last year’s records, and also a bit on the net because now I was worried…what if I’d managed to bring in a diseased cat?  It’s one of the reasons I focus on eggs, as there’s less chance overall of them being exposed to a problem.  Eggs too have their issues, of course, but less time outside during their youth, less chance of infection at any stage.

I am so relieved!
“Pfff. You worried for nothing.  I’m fine.”

Welp, apparently I needn’t have worried because what you see to the right happened a bit ago after we’d been in the kitchen making dinner (it’s about ready as I type this, my partner is reminding me).

Honestly, it feels like I’ve cheated somehow.  Unlike what I’m used to, with bringing eggs in and watching all stages, it’s like if all goes well and I am releasing my first butterfly for the season within a week or so…I’ve honestly not done much for it!

This feeling is a bit hammered in by my realizing with the two newly hatched just how LARGE even the smaller keepers are, and even though I’m not terribly concerned they may Houdini their way through the fairly fine mesh…it could happen.

This is interesting to me, because I’d specifically not used the same container as an incubator this year because I had concerns about possible overheating due to it both being glass, and..well…solid glass.  So not much in the way of a breeze getting in to keep them at a more temperate range.

I don’t know that I want to go back to that, but I’m pondering ways to make them “more visible”, I suppose I could say.  I did find which leaf both hatched eggs were on, and cut them off the rest of the tops I’d brought in.  That way they are easier to spot, and less worrisome in one way.

I’m debating if when I go out to water the garden, I’ll bring in some fresher leaves or not.  The two they are on are relatively fine, and they’re not really eating into them much at their first instar size.  So I definitely don’t think they’ll run out of leaf, and should be fine until tomorrow.

I separated them a bit space wise from the leaves of the two as yet unhatched (but I can see their darker wee heads developed, so they may be out tonight or tomorrow).  This way I don’t have to worry about that cannibalism issue, though it is pretty rare unless the leaf or pod they were laid on is really crowded.

Care to share thoughts on this?