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Monarch Supporter

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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 8/23/2017, 8:02 am

I was talking to someone at my favorite farm store about milkweed and monarchs this past weekend, and learned something additional that's interestingly relevant to the monarchs preferring young milkweeds: One of the growers on the land adjacent has a field of milkweed that he intentionally mows in June. She said all the monarchs were up there where the milkweed was actively growing -- not down where we were by the farm store where the milkweed had already flowered and were podding along with yellowing leaves on the bottom.

I'm in zone 6A in central Pennsylvania, for anyone who wants to try to extrapolate when to cut back some of their established milkweed to experiment with this.
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Milkweed Growers

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/23/2017, 9:16 pm

OK, so I have 3 of the macrame Tussock moth cats out there on my aging milkweed.  

Question:  Can you keep pinching back milkweed throughout the growing season to ensure "fresh" milkweed for the monarch babies?  I pinch some of them in Spring, but let some go too.  

There are aphids, stupid red milkweed bugs and their babies all over my milkweed.  Ants are farming aphids on my old fashioned milkweed.....and it looks haggard.  One plant is spent with 2 pods.  I am picking those pods.  

How much Nature is OK?  I have to this point let it just go all natural.  And let the pests and stuff take their course like they would in a field....
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 8/23/2017, 11:04 pm

I don't know how much pinching it can tolerate. It sounded like the guy was only doing a single mowing, so the milkweed was only having to grow back once, not multiple times. I recall milkweeds have nice roots that probably store some energy, but not great big fat tubers, so I don't know how many times they can grow back. I don't think I would cut back first year plants since they don't have that much storage yet. I'd guess once a plant makes pods, it's done for the season, whether you take them off or not -- but if something different happens, please share!

Nature has being doing this all without us for awhile, and the other milkweed creatures are, to the best of my knowledge, all native -- and it can be hard to remove one insect without potentially harming the baby monarchs. On the other hand the monarchs could use a little assistance, so intervening on some plants (keeping others as a scientific 'control') is worth trying.

I don't have much experience growing milkweed. I keep trying, though. I've got orange butterfly weed in the front landscape bed that does ok so long as I remember to sprinkle hair and bloodmeal on it just as it comes up (voles or something eat the young shoots to the ground if I don't.) I haven't seen caterpillars on it yet, but the bees like it. With the regular milkweeds I can get low germination inside, but once I plant out the slugs/snails and swamp milkweed beetles mow them down and the grass shades them out. The slugs and snails outnumber me, and the swamp milkweed beetles are too cute (to me) to kill. It looks like only one of last year's swamp milkweeds survived - but no pods so no seeds to make additional plants for next year (and no caterpillars.)
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/24/2017, 9:24 pm

I have decided to let nature take her course.  However, I am gonna move some plants out fro to my crappy clay perennial garden where whey should do just fine.  These pests are also dependent on milkweed.

Sooo.  I will order 4 plants next spring from http://www.butterflybushes.com/. 2 swamp, 2 common (Asclepius incarnate, and syriaca)

And plant them out front.  The dirt is poor.  Milkweed doesn't care!  It's a weed!  And will let nature take it's course....tough.  But it is naturalizing in well.  My monarchs seem to prefer the swamp variety.  We will see!
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  CitizenKate on 8/24/2017, 10:19 pm

The two M caterpillars I found earlier this month disappeared pretty soon after I spotted them. One was found on the ground next to the plant dead. I think a grass spider got it. The other larger one, I last saw had crawled off the plant to the ground and was exploring around the area. I never saw it again. Sad

But then, today, after not being out watering much, since we had been getting rain, I found another MCat. Then on two other of my milkweed plants, I found FIVE MORE. Then this evening, I found another two more that I didn't see this morning.

cheers

I've been tempted to capture one or two of them and raise them indoors, but I don't know the first thing about that. And these plants are still pretty stressed out from the hot July we had, so if I started cutting off the fresh sprouts to feed them indoors, I don't know how much longer the plants would last. For now, I'm letting nature take its course with them. But meanwhile, I gave the plants a good dose of Alaska Fish Fertilizer, in hopes of getting a nice spurt of new leafy growth from them.
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 8/24/2017, 10:41 pm

That's great news, CK! I've got swallowtail caterpillars on my Queen Anne's lace, and my dill, and my carrots, and my parsley... but no MCats yet.

SR, I'm glad yours is naturalizing! I really want to do that by the creek with the swamp milkweed, and turtlehead, and cardinal flower. The jewelweed I associate with that plant combination is there - it feels like the rest of it should work, too. I'd like to be able to establish a more-monarch friendly environment here before I move to another house.

I just don't know how hard to 'attack' the tall grass that seems to be monoculture-ing the area. It out competes 'everything' and feeds the snails (and I'm very allergic to the pollen of that particular grass) - but the mantises like it and it provides a barrier against the guy that mows the lawn (required with the house rental) so I can hide native plantings in it.

I tried to pull out the arrow-leaved tearthumb weed this week. It's native... but nasty. It needs to be out for me to be able to put things in. It's longish and slightly vining, and has fine backwards facing prickles that break off in one's skin, and are nearly invisible. I must have been quite the sight today when I had a one piece stuck to the arm of my sweatshirt, and one to the laces of my boot, and had a Japanese beetle in my hair (didn't find that until I went inside!)
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  CitizenKate on 8/25/2017, 7:15 pm

I'm not sure what's going on, but this morning I got up to check on the MCats, and only was able to spot five of the seven or eight of them I spotted the previous day. This evening after work, I'm now only seeing three of the original bunch, plus a brand newly hatched one, and I also found one egg. I think.

Anyway, they're disappearing fast, so I wonder if the birds are getting them, now that they're big enough for them to see. I'm sure those big fat catties make for a pretty tasty morsel for a hungry bird.

I've decided to try to rescue them. At the rate they're going, I don't think they have a chance out there, so I figure they're better off taking their chances with a newbie butterfly herder. I've got some half-gallon mason jars and some old panty hose to stretch over the lid. Here goes... What a Face
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/25/2017, 9:00 pm

Do it.  Nature is cruel.  I brought mine in, and put sprigs of milkweed in a shallow cup covered by plastic and a rubber band so nobody could drown.  I used a spring up hamper with mesh, but whatever!  

They crysalisized in no time, pooped a lot.  Then they just came alive and I took the thing outside and they were flying around!  They hung out for a while!  

Do it!!!!!
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  countrynaturals on 8/25/2017, 9:04 pm

CitizenKate wrote:I'm not sure what's going on, but this morning I got up to check on the MCats, and only was able to spot five of the seven or eight of them I spotted the previous day.  This evening after work, I'm now only seeing three of the original bunch, plus a brand newly hatched one, and I also found one egg.  I think.

Anyway, they're disappearing fast, so I wonder if the birds are getting them, now that they're big enough for them to see.  I'm sure those big fat catties make for a pretty tasty morsel for a hungry bird.

I've decided to try to rescue them.  At the rate they're going, I don't think they have a chance out there, so I figure they're better off taking their chances with a newbie butterfly herder.  I've got some half-gallon mason jars and some old panty hose to stretch over the lid.  Here goes... What a Face
Good luck, Kate. I had 1 good year and 1 heartbreaking year rescuing Monarchs. This year they didn't come back. Sad
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  trolleydriver on 8/25/2017, 9:37 pm

I saw a monarch in our flower garden today.   Very Happy

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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  CitizenKate on 8/25/2017, 9:53 pm

I made some containers to stand up the milkweed cuttings inside the jars from those little 4oz lidded plastic containers.  They've each got two holes cut into them to hold two cuttings each, and filled with rain water.  That part worked out, and I love it when I can get something done with something I already had around.

Unfortunately, they didn't fit through the mouth of the mason jar, so I ran to Wally World and got a couple of plastic pet cages, made for fish and amphibians.  They're very similar to the little plastic cages made for raising catties.

The egg went into one container by itself.  I had read that hatched catties may eat any eggs they find, so our little egg gets the whole apartment to itself.

Did I say earlier I found one newly hatched Mcat?  Well, Maynard, I later found another FIVE of them.  And who knows how many more, since they seem to know how to stay hidden most of the time.  Five of them are now sharing the other of the two containers I got.

Nowhere to put the big ones, yet.  If they're still there in the morning, I'll put together something for them then.

Sure got blindsided by this little adventure!  Never had in mind to start a butterfly rescue, just wanted to provide a breeding environment for them.  But this is where you really see just how much they're up against for their survival.  I'll post photos later... I'm just so tickled to see my plants swarming with Mcats!
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  CitizenKate on 8/25/2017, 10:36 pm

trolleydriver wrote:I saw a monarch in our flower garden today.   Very Happy
Just seeing one just brightens your day, doesn't it?

In late 2015, I was sitting in my truck in the parking lot at the local regional airport, waiting for someone to arrive on a flight. I happened to see something fluttering about 20 feet in the air, and it was a Monarch. Then I looked a little higher, and saw perhaps a dozen of them. Then, kept searching around in the sky, and before I knew it, I was seeing hundreds, maybe thousands of them, flying at fairly high altitudes, maybe a hundred feet up?

That was the first time I've seen that many since the 1990's, when I was working on the 4th floor of K-State's campus library, I looked out a window one day, and saw nothing but Monarchs filling the grassy annex between six campus buildings. It was such an amazing sight.

These little bugs are such a wondrous thing in nature. I would miss them dearly if they were to leave us.
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/25/2017, 11:26 pm

CitizenKate wrote:
trolleydriver wrote:I saw a monarch in our flower garden today.   Very Happy
Just seeing one just brightens your day, doesn't it?

In late 2015, I was sitting in my truck in the parking lot at the local regional airport, waiting for someone to arrive on a flight.  I happened to see something fluttering about 20 feet in the air, and it was a Monarch.  Then I looked a little higher, and saw perhaps a dozen of them.  Then, kept searching around in the sky, and before I knew it, I was seeing hundreds, maybe thousands of them, flying at fairly high altitudes, maybe a hundred feet up?

That was the first time I've seen that many since the 1990's, when I was working on the 4th floor of K-State's campus library, I looked out a window one day, and saw nothing but Monarchs filling the grassy annex between six campus buildings.  It was such an amazing sight.

These little bugs are such a wondrous thing in nature.  I would miss them dearly if they were to leave us.
Wow!  That is so cool!  I have never seen that before....I don't know...I am trying to do my part.  I need to diversify the location of my milkweeds.  They are really hit up with. Pests: aphids, milkweed bugs, and other stuff not sure...not looking healthy .
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  trolleydriver on 8/26/2017, 2:31 pm

CitizenKate wrote:
trolleydriver wrote:I saw a monarch in our flower garden today.   Very Happy
Just seeing one just brightens your day, doesn't it?
...
Our day got brightened this afternoon when the monarch returned to Mrs TD's flower beds. I was able to capture a few photos.











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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  CitizenKate on 8/26/2017, 6:08 pm

Beautiful Monarch - nice photos, TD!

I also happened to catch a little drama going on between two of the MCats outside on video...
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  sanderson on 8/26/2017, 8:35 pm

TD and Kate, Love your photos/video!

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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  CitizenKate on 8/27/2017, 8:18 pm

I spotted seven more MCats today, this time, on a butterfly weed where I didn't think much was going on.  I knew some butterflies would like it, but wasn't sure it would be all that attractive to the Monarchs, since it's not really a milkweed (though related to it).  I guess I was mistaken about that!



Also, another adult came around, I think to lay more eggs.  She was landing on the undersides of leaves, then holding very still for a few seconds.  She repeated this several times.  I'll go out an check later to see if I can find any.

Also, a couple of surprises from the ones I'm raising indoors... the milkweed cutting I had with the egg on it turned out to have two eggs on it.  And the five itty-bitty MCats I put in one cage together turned out to be seven.

All I can say is... wow.  I thought I'd be lucky to see one or two, but my backyard has turned into a regular maternity hospital for Monarchs.  Shocked
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/27/2017, 9:34 pm

Nice butterfly, TD, and Kate your fighting MCats are funny!  You do have quite the maternity ward going on there!
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  CitizenKate on 8/27/2017, 10:22 pm

I'm finding them amusing in a lot of ways.  Like, the way they ravenously eat away at a leaf, then suddenly just freeze, and not move for an hour.  Except to poop.  "Okay, I'm full, now.  BUUURP!  Nap time."  They are eating, pooping, napping machines.  Just like newborn of any species, I suppose.

This evening, I attempted to get some photos of the little ones I've taken indoors...

I have seven of these inside one enclosure.  They're about 1/2-inch in length now, about double in size from when I brought them in the other night.


Here's the best I could do with my smart phone photographing the egg I brought in.  The second egg I mentioned earlier today turned out not to be an egg, but a baby aphid.  I'm still pretty confident I have one Monarch butterfly egg, though.  I've had this egg for two nights, now, so if it's healthy, it should hatch within the next day or two.
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/28/2017, 8:11 pm

Awww, so cute!
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 8/29/2017, 9:07 am

Thanks for sharing, Kate and TD! It's encouraging to see other's successes. I glanced at my butterflyweed, but didn't see any eaten leaves. I checked my swamp milkweed - Oh! eaten leaves! Smile Oooh-frass! bounce (that's the scientific word for bug poop.) Aww...lotsa cute gray fuzzies, not monarch babies. idk

They will turn into Delicate Swan Tiger Moths (my translation of the scientific name, rather than an accepted common name).
http://bugguide.net/node/view/631672

I think I need more milkweed, and more nectaring plants. I have many bumblebee flowers, but not so many butterfly flowers.
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/29/2017, 8:17 pm

Beautiful!  

I surveyed my milkweed today.  All I see on there is those Tussock moth cats....grrr.  And lots of milkweed bugs, the red and black ones.   thinking 

Do they compete with Monarchs?  Shoule I surveil and pluck out the other guys?
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  CitizenKate on 9/19/2017, 1:39 am

There's been a fair amount of drama with the Monarchs here. It turns out, we have a robust population of Tachinid flies, that have relentlessly attacked and infested probably about 80-85% of all the MCats. I got to see the effects closeup for the first time, and it's not pretty.

But this is where I see that for the Monarchs - or any vulnerable species - it's a numbers game. And I think the Monarchs came out ahead, but just barely.

Last night I found an adult Monarch on my back porch. I think it was newly-hatched from a pupa. It was not moving much, but was slowly flapping its wings and staggering around on foot... otherwise, in pristine condition. Beautiful. This morning, it was still there, but out in the rain during a thunderstorm. When I came home from work today, I found it in a bucket that had collected some rainfall from the night before. I thought it was gone, but I lifted it out, and miraculously, it was still alive, still okay. It crawled around on my hand for a while, then took to the air.

cheers

It landed safely in a tree branch nearby, and was resting there and flapping its wings, last time I saw it.

I think there will probably be more. There were several MCats that reached full size, then disappeared... they may have left the plant to find a safe place to pupate, but I have no idea where they go, so I can't confirm whether they made it or not... Just have to wait and see how many more of them show up after they emerge.
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Re: Monarch Supporter

Post  CitizenKate on 9/19/2017, 1:43 am

Oh - and here are my latest residents in the milkweed plants...



...milkweed tiger moth caterpillars.  Such a spectacular little cutie, but "It grows up to be one of the plainest little brown moths you can imagine." (Quoted from https://hubpages.com/education/furry-caterpillar
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