Posted in Conservation, Creatures

Our growing foster family.

How many is too many?
Eggs are mostly to the left, save one on the lower right leaf.  The various instars are to the right.

Today brought unexpected finds in searching for younger Monarchs.  Armed with scissors to bring in only the portion of leaves where the eggs are, I set out into the thankfully breezy day.  I had been bringing whole leaves in, but most were wilting beyond optimal use by the time the eggs hatched.  I’ve been using a very fine plant mister to keep everything and everybuggy from drying out.  We hit mid 90°F again like yesterday, but the breeze really took the edge off the heat.

One find that I am more than a little leery of was a second instar.  What troubles me is it has been very still.  I did nudge it oh so gently with a fingernail tip and it seemed to react, so I’m hoping it’s just getting ready to molt to third instar or was still resting from recently growing to second.  I’ve currently got it in the incubator, but I am debating if I should move it to a mini infirmary if it hasn’t moved at all by dusk.  I likely will, and I have a flatter wide topped yogurt container I can use for the night.

What I still can’t believe I noticed without a magnifying glass handy was a first instar on the same plant, but different leaf.  That one was much more active so I’m not worried about it.  I’m still nervous about bringing in cats, but I think confidence will grow will experience.

Speaking of caterpillars brought in, the chrysalis still seems fine.  No odd discoloration or tachinid strings, thankfully.

Aside from them, I found seven eggs before the sun beating down on me made me high tail it back inside despite the lovely breeze.  This doubles the current count of eggs, although I expect some to hatch very soon.  A few of the ones from yesterday and one from today seem a tad bit darker where the head forms at the pointed tip.  As expected, the four second instars were all third today.  With the heat we’ve been having, I expect all of the current to all grown up, ready to take wing and be out of the house by early August at the latest.

We now have twenty-one young Monarchs in our home at one time, which I’m pretty sure beats last year overall without checking.  I’ve been very curious to see how the numbers fall out from year to year as I gain knowledge and experience.

We had discussed yesterday how many might be too much to handle, given what supplies we have on hand and the lack of budget to get much more.  My ballpark guess was about two dozen altogether at any given time, but I honestly just don’t know.  My largest concern is running out of milkweed plant bits, although this year we have even more individual plants than last year.  This is a concern because I use the tops for feeding once the cats get to fourth instar.  At fourth and fifth, they eat through leaves like there’s no tomorrow, so last year I started running out of what I thought were the healthier looking tops.  In the large milkweed patch last year, we had a lot of aphid farms going on, despite my best efforts.  One thing I’m oddly grateful for this year is all the earwigs that have been keeping the aphid farms in check.  I guess, we’ll just have to see how it goes given the difference in aphid numbers.  I do have another source to pull from if need be that does not get treated with pesticide, but it’s clear across town, so not terribly convenient to run out to get some tops to put in the altered mason jars.

We’ve also had a lower yellow leaf issue this year, which I will eventually write about.  It’s party due to weather, but it’s another thing to deal with here.

Again, as I’ve been writing this, a Monarch butterfly is flitting about the milkweed patch I can see just out of my window.  Given how briefly it touched upon a number of plants, I’m not sure if there will be eggs.  I couldn’t even get a clear glimpse of whether it was male or female.  I suppose I’ll find out when we go out to water this evening.

Current Count:

  • 1 chrysalis
  • 4 third instar
  • 1 second instar
  • 1 first instar
  • 14 eggs

Care to share thoughts on this?