Thursday, June 7, 2012

120 Monarchs!!! First hatch today :)

Some of my blogger buddies might not know about my Monarch hatchery. A few years ago I read where the butterfly that always made me smile was in trouble. The bad weather in their winter habitat in Mexico had drastically decreased their numbers.  How a butterfly with delicate wings can fly all the way from northern US down into Mexico is still unbelievable to me.
I read that a monarch egg has only a 1 in 10 chance of making it to the butterfly stage. Even though the monarch caterpillar is toxic and bad tasting to almost all birds, the eggs are eaten by ants,mites,spiders and wasps. In my area it seems a tachinid fly is the biggest problem . The fly lays it's eggs on the tiny monarch caterpillar. It grows inside along with the caterpillar, feeding off of it, and when it's ready to leave it kills the monarch. Unfortunately I have seen this in my hatchery, it often happens when the caterpillar is hanging in it's J form getting ready to change. It's important if you have this happen that you find and remove the fly larvae from your hatchery. I have newspaper in the bottom, and it is always under the paper.

Fly larvae that exited monarch caterpillar. See the telltale slime trail? If it had been still hanging there would have been a string dangling from the cat .  I call it the dreaded death string.

White is the fresh larvae still crawling around, the red is the pupae waiting to hatch into a new bad fly.

 I won't go into all the details here, if you google Monarch Butterfly you can learn all kinds of interesting facts about the life of a Monarch. Here are a couple sites, but there are many more:
for kids:
I'll show you a few pics of my hatchery and all the pretty green with gold chrysalis .

Green chrysalis "growing" butterfies!

Hanging in the J form, getting ready to form the chrysalis. It's pretty gross and amazing at the same time.

These guys eat like pigs! And poop like them too! (see below)

See that dark one? Well it's been dark too many days, and will have to be removed if it doesn't hatch today. Most likely the parasite has killed it, or it just didn't make it for another reason. I've read you never want to let that break open. Rotten eggs don't compare.    Just put it in the trash, carefully!  Hopefully there won't be many of those. Usually just a couple each year.

And...drum roll please!.....First hatch for 2012 pumping up it's wings! Can't tell if it's a boy/girl until it's wings are full and dry. Takes several hours.  I'll release this one this afternoon. I usually wait until they start flapping the wings. Then I take it outside and let it cling onto a tree or bush to warm up in the sun. Sometimes they take right off from my hand! It's a great feeling to see them fly off  :)  

 This one didn't connect very well, so I'm going to tie it with string. I've never had this happen before, so far 3 haven't connected their chrysalis well.  2 fell and I found them on the bottom. This one was wobbling on a teeny thread so I carefully took it down. and will put a string on it and tie up.  If the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis on the ground, it can't hang and pump up it's wings. When they emerge their belly is fat and the wings are tiny and crumpled. They pump the fluid into the wings to stretch them out fully.  There is just a short time to do this before the wings dry. If they can't do that the wings dry all deformed and the butterfly will never fly. 
 (Yes that's caterpillar poop on the right! Only a TINY fraction of what they've produced!)
This is one that fell and I tied up to a branch. I'm not sure what effect the fall will have on the butterfly. It looks ok except for a bit of a flat side. I've also done this with Chrysalis I found outside. You have to very carefully loosen the web like net ABOVE the black "stem". (look closely at the pics above in the hatchery, you can see the stem and the web connected to the board) I use a pin , then tie a thread or string tightly around the black stem. and tie it to a branch in your enclosure. Handle very gently and DO NOT SQUEEZE!
You can see the gold on the chrysalis here. It sparkles! When they hatch it disappears but the black dots remain on the paper like covering.

Whoo boy, now back to the Iris listings. I have about 70 that didn't have listings already typed up so it's slow going.
 This year is so out of whack. Everything is early except me!
I wish we had groc. shopping online. We are out of everything and I don't have time to go get them!

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