Posted in Conservation, Creatures

Improving my Monarch data collection.

Compared to last year, it feels like the flood gates have opened as far as egg and cat finding and that’s brought about some challenges for me related to keeping track of them.  I am aware that there are folks that are raising significantly more than me, and I am amazed at them.  Before I get into organization, here’s a peek at the current older instars in their keeper.

Behold the awesome eating power of late instar caterpillars!
These four are now between their second and third milkweed top sets of leaves just for today’s eating.  The one to the right you see with most of them on it was pretty much gone when I brought in the third early evening.

The other day, I ran out of room in the incubator, and I had one of those “enough is enough” moments.  I pulled out a stack of wide mouth yogurt containers I had held onto thinking they might come in handy for a different sort of garden related project.  But my need to not be driving myself mad sorting through a carpet of leaves to do my count made them an easy choice to use for this instead.  I then sorted out the eggs and earlier instars.  What a difference it has already made!

I have been keeping notes per day as best I can of how many of what, but I still question myself of whether such and such is exactly at X instar.  This may result in some currents counts (past and future) not seeming quite right, but I found a post today that explained at what point each instar is considered a specific one rather than solely going by pictures.  I am going to try to use that as my basis for my count going forward starting today.

Really great news today on one Monarch Guardian issue I’d been pondering.  One of my neighbors mows their milkweed every year when they mow their lawn.  The milkweed, of course, pops back up over time faster than the grass.  One of my concerns this year is how I’m going to keep feeding the Monarchs, especially if I continue to bring in more eggs and cats.  (I keep saying, “Ok, I’ll stop here”, and then find more.)

Today on the way back from breakfast with my partner, I noticed that the neighbor’s milkweed is about the perfect height for putting in the mason jars within the keepers.  I really don’t know these neighbors at all, but after thinking on it for a bit, I put on my wellies and walked over and knocked.

As briefly as I could manage, I introduced myself, and asked if I could ask a few questions if she had time.  I then asked if she knew what Monarch Guardians were, which she did not so I told her about gathering them in the wild to raise and release to help them recover their prior known population numbers.  I then asked if they use herbicide or pesticides, and she said they did not.  At that point, I asked if I could have permission to cut the newly grown milkweed from their property to feed the Monarchs I’m raising, and she said yes!  I thanked her profusely, and let her know I would only be doing this until some time in August when their breeding season in our area is done.

Later today, I walked over and cut my first top to give the now fifth instars, and inside I found two second instar cats.  I brought them back as well.  We had a storm rolling in, so I didn’t linger to check the other plants for eggs or cats.

It is a huge relief to know I have this other resource for milkweed.  I am already up to three dozen Monarchs, and despite my thinking “maybe I really should stop here”, I kinda know I won’t because one of the things I was most worried about, I am not now.

The other, was keeping track of them properly.  There were times with eggs and first instar especially where I found myself going a bit crazy trying to see/find them all in what I was calling the incubator this year.  This starts from eggs at the beginning because sometimes what I think was an egg turns out to be a milkweed sap bubble.  (I really need to get a better magnifying glass.)  I have also been curious if I do have any hatched cannibalism going on, despite spacing them out to try to avoid that.

Now, each of the containers has a clear label with date and how many of whatever stage they were at when I started doing this.  I think only one had six eggs in it, but now I’m sticking to five or below each container per day.

I did take another chance today to try to find some folks here in my city that either already are guardians themselves, might consider it, or might at least start making sure there’s milkweed around here for the Monarchs.  I made a post on a “neighborhood app” called NextDoor (not affiliated, I just utilize it), and I guess time will tell if I find more Monarch supporting folks or not.

Drat.  I just realized I didn’t think to take a picture of the new incubator set up.  Maybe tomorrow, as they’re stowed away in the dark already so the artificial lighting doesn’t disorient them.  Anyhoo…onto the daily count.

Current Count:

  • butterflies released: 1 female, 0 males
  • 0 chrysalis
  • 4 fifth instar
  • 1 fourth instar
  • 1 third instar
  • 8 second instar
  • 17 first instar
  • 5 eggs

Care to share thoughts on this?