Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Monarch Notes... and the Fate of Butterfly "M"

All the little sheets of paper... so I'm trying to compile my notes here.

I also discovered that the videos I took in real time of caterpillars going into the chrysalis and butterflies hatching out are too long for Blogger's video hosting platform. Instead, I will share these videos which someone else (Jude Adamson) has made. You do need to be there to catch the exact moment of transformation. It's worth all the time you sit around! And easy to miss. As far as the actual amount of time that it takes, from what we watched it is two and a half minutes to go in and two minutes to come out.

There doesn't seem to be any rule as to when they transform into pupae. If you see one hanging upside down in a J there may still be hours to go. Or not. So you may just want to bring a sandwich and stick around and watch it. They will twist their little hook up into the webbing to be sure they are secure before transforming. We saw several mid-morning (11:15 am).

For emerging from the crysalis, this seems to be based on temperature. The chiller it gets, the more likely they are to come out in the late morning (10:30 am), as opposed to waking up in the morning to find you have butterflies! To tell when this is about to happen, you want the chrysalis to be really clear so the butterfly looks quite black but then it will get frosted as the chrysalis begins to pull away from the wet butterfly so it can emerge.

By the way, it takes exactly four sheets of Bounty quick-size paper towels to cover the bottom of our large terrarium. So that's pretty perfect!

Okay, notes on dates.

We started with 6 monarch caterpillars on Sat Aug 29.

We found two more outside and they went into the habitat on milkweed stems on Monday; one more went into the habitat on Tuesday. That's 9.

Wed Sep 2 - chrysalises A, B, C

    We woke up to three chrysalises (A, B, C). Those are the three butterflies that emerged Sep 11. Nine days. At that point we think we had 3 chrysalises and 11 caterpillars, but it was starting to be really hard to count. Every time we brought in milkweed we were bringing in caterpillars. They are as tiny as an eyelash when they first hatch.

Sat Sep 5 - chrysalises D, E, F

    We woke up to one more chrysalis (D), two caterpillars hanging upside down (which we watched change into E and F), three very fat caterpillars, one medium, and four small. The three chrysalises that formed that day became the three butterflies that emerged Sep 14. Nine days for those as well.

Mon Sep 7 - chrysalises G, H, I

    Today we had the 6 chrysalises already formed and three caterpillars hanging upside down (those were the very fat caterpillars from yesterday) and 6 caterpillars. The three chrysalises which formed that day (G, H, I) became the three butterflies that emerged Sep 15. Eight days for those guys.

Tue Sep 8

    Today is the day that Zac saw one had fallen (I). And we were down to just 6 caterpillars. By that point, when I was putting stems of old milkweed outside I was putting the caterpillars on them back onto the big plants. And checking to make sure there weren't new caterpillars on the cuttings I was bringing inside.

Thu Sep 10 - chrysalises J, K

    Surprising us, two chrysalises formed on the underside of the wooden lid. We didn't discover them until the day I took the lid off because the first set of butterflies had emerged. I was quite careless with the lid. Later I was shocked to find there were two chrysalises on it! From then on, we were much more careful. They emerged on Sep 21. Eleven days.
Fri Sep 11 - chrysalis L; butterflies A, B, C

    This morning, we had our first three butterflies emerge (A, B, C). We watched one go into its chrysalis in the morning (L) and then walked it over to Kamma's house as a gift. We had eight chrysalises remaining (D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K). They were all over the place. Two chrysalises on the underside of the wooden lid, one on the rim of the aquarium, four on the milkweed stems, and the one that fell (I). And this morning there was also one caterpillar hanging upside down which later fell, climbed back up, fell, climbed back up, and then successfully attached to the wooden lid at the very end of the day. I put the two remaining caterpillars on the milkweed outside.

Sat Sep 12 - chrysalis M

    Our last caterpillar from yesterday, who struggled so much to attach to something, was in a chrysalis when I got up this morning. Hurray!

Mon Sep 14 - butterflies D, E, F

Tue Sep 15 - butterflies G, H, I

Mon Sep 21 - butterflies J, K, L

Tue Sep 22 - butterfly M

    M had a tough time. He didn't emerge until 12:45 pm. At 5:45 pm, he still hadn't taken his maiden flight. It was 66 degrees, so it was warm enough. His wings appear to be fully and correctly formed, but when he flaps them and lets go of the milkweed, he just stumbles and has to grab something again. He catches no air. He did have the instinct to climb to the highest place, but that hasn't helped.

    5:36 pm

    Zac and I watched a video on our options (see below), and decided to put the milkweed stem he was on back into the terrarium and bring it up to the upstairs bathroom, which will be warmer for him than spending the night in the art room / garage. I also put in a dish of Gatorade, even though they don't need to feed on the first day.

    Tomorrow I'll carry the milkweed cutting back outside and we will see if a warmer day makes a difference.

    Raising Monarchs - When Adults Can't Fly (video)

    How to feed Gatorade to butterflies

    How to Safely Release Monarch Butterflies
    really helpful! also includes tagging program participation info

. . .

Wed Sep 23

    All night M sat in the corner and stared out through the glass. All morning long he tried and tried tried to get out of his enclosure. They have the instinct to travel, of course. Today at 3 pm I decided it was warm enough, carried out the terrarium, and set it on the sidewalk. He made a few false starts, so I wasn't sure we would have success. But then he figured it out. And he flew away!

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