Finally! 95+ Monarch Eggs and Caterpillars!
This year's monarch "Rescue, Raise, and Release" project got off to a slow start. Leo built another 4 raised beds, we planted them in colorful annuals, then planted 13 new lilacs and...nothing! We checked the milkweed at least once a day since the end of May, and by the 20th, were getting very discouraged.
Then, on June 22, Leo suggested that we check a milkweed patch just outside of Livingston. Finally!!! We found 6 eggs and rekindled our hope. The search began again in earnest. Between June 22nd and July 5th, we found more milkweed patches and rescued over 95 eggs!!!!! (including 44 in 3 hours on June 27th!) And on June 29th, the monarchs finally found our yard, too!
Here are a few of our favorite photos:
Below is a leaf with 4 eggs - unusual as the monarch usually lays one egg per milkweed plant - primarily because the caterpillar will eat most of the plant as it grows.
These guys are tiny! This newly hatched caterpillar is eating its first meal - the egg. Next to it is a straight pin for scale. AMAZING!
This year, I tried a new technique that is more hygienic and easier to maintain. I had some extra Styrofoam seed starting bases that were the right size for holding floral tubes. I got the Jumbo 40 cell seed starting bases at ParkSeed.com (http://parkseed.com/bio-dome-planting-blocks/p/v1598/) and both the 30T and 7T floral tubes on Amazon. (http://www.amazon.com/Floral-Tube-Pack-Shown-Picture/dp/B008G3OHT8/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1436246431&sr=8-13&keywords=floral+tubes) The Jumbo 40 cell bases can be sterilized in a bleach solution, and the floral tubes can be placed in the silverware basket of the dishwasher and sterilized much faster than the clear cups I used last year.
This allows me to organize the day's rescues into eggs (on the right,) egg hatching (on the left,) and caterpillars (center.) This also allows us to take just the leaf when we find an egg, set aside hatching eggs for possible filming, include larger clusters on milkweed for growing caterpillars, lift the entire tray to vacuum poop beneath it, and quickly mist it daily to keep all of them hydrated.
It also allows me to place fresh milkweed adjacent to milkweed "in use" so the caterpillars can just crawl over by themselves.
The six monarch "castles" are set up on the same plant stand as last year, but in a small bedroom. The room is 72-80 degrees with a small fan running for good air circulation. When the "cats" are large enough and need large milkweed cuttings, I can just set the castles upright instead of on their side. I'm also recording the date, where eggs were found, and details of care on sheets of paper.
We've sadly lost a few already, but we're on target for a 90-95% survival rate versus the 48% on the first batch we rescued last year, so we're learning!
love and many thanks to each and every one of you!
Dorothy & Leo