Saturday, July 14, 2007

My Monarch "Ranch"

Here's a look at my "budget" monarch ranch which opened on Thursday (7/12/07).

It's a covered lasagna pan which comes in a package of 2. I cut an opening in the top cover and then covered the hole with nylon window screen material. I filled the bottom of the pan with pine shavings (used for pet bedding) and also put in a little stick, so the caterpillars can crawl to the top when it's time to make a cocoon.

On Thursday morning I started searching for monarch caterpillars and eggs. I found 1 milkweek leaf with a very tiny caterpillar on it and also a second leaf with 2 eggs.

Yesterday I found another leaf with a much larger caterpillar and 2 more leaves each with a single egg (1 egg was ready to hatch because it was very dark when I found it).

Just to the left of the center vein of this leaf are 2 really tiny (just-hatched-today) caterpillars: one is the little dark bar up near my index finger and the other is the little dark bar between my thumb and index finger.

Now all of the eggs have hatched and I have varying sizes of caterpillars in my ranch.

This is one of the little ones I found on's doubled in size since then!

I'm fortunate to have a large supply of common milkweed leaves right outside the door, so there's a ready supply of food available for these hungry little guys. Did you know they also like to eat the blossoms?

I found this little guy yesterday eating one of the blossoms, so I picked a few more for him today and it looks like he did a good job eating most of what I put in for him.

I learned from Birdchick's blog (on June 18th) about parasitic insects laying their eggs in the larger caterpillars, so to try and avoid this, I'm trying to find as many as I can that are still very tiny or even the unhatched eggs.

Watch for periodic updates on the progress of my monarch ranch.


Mary said...

You are awesome, Ruthie! Please let us know upcoming details!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mary,
I think this is going to be fun. We had one of these when I worked at WBU and customers were just fascinated with it. Mine is on my kitchen counter where I use it as another excuse to avoid other housework!

KGMom said...

This brings back memories--I have not tried monarchs, but when I was a kid, we had silkworms. Through the whole cycle--and then, of course we unwound the cocoon.

Larry said...

That's a cool project.-I might have to read Birdchick's blog once in a while!-Good for you Ruthiej!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Donna,
My brother and I had the silkworm discussion the other day. Did you raise them on mulberry leaves? What did you do with the cocoon after you unwound it?

Hi Larry,
Sharon's post on insect parasites was gross but interesting. I've had this happen to monarch cocoons before, but didn't know why. Blogging is so educational!

Body Soul Spirit said...

I have not seen monarch caterpillars as tiny as you picture. I only found one last year and we cared for it until it flew away.

ABQ-B-Fly Guy said...

Great work helping the Monarch Cats Ruth! Thanks for visiting my blog..glad to find yours! On my daily reading lists! Nice to meet someone who worked at a WBU. It is a great place to work. I wish it was perment, but I am only there until I find a "real" job That will be soon since my money from sale of my comic store is slowly running out.


LauraHinNJ said...

Looks like fun - can't wait to see them grow!

Jennifer said...

How cool! What a good idea for building a "ranch". Be sure to check out my friend Barb's photos at flickr:

RuthieJ said...

Hi Ruth,
I was amazed at how tiny they are also. I've never really worked at this before--actually trying to raise them from eggs. It's going to be an interesting experiment.

Hi Ron,
You're right about WBU--it's not a job where you'll become a millionaire, but it was sure fun to share my "passion" with customers (now I share it via my blog).

Hi Laura,
I found another little one on flowers this morning plus another egg! I think I'm addicted.

Wow Jennifer, those are wonderful pictures from Barb. I really like her "caterpillar condo."

Jayne said...

Oh, now THAT'S cool Ruthie! You are so creative with your ranch. Can't wait to see what happens.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Jayne,
A couple years ago I had purchased a really nice little plastic box with a vented lid (like for hermit crabs or little lizards) that we used at WBU for the monarch project. When I went back to get one of those for myself, I couldn't find any. This twin-pack of lasagna pans caught my eye and for less than $3, I figured I could make it work and so far it has!

nina said...

when they all start growing and munching you'll have to wear ear plugs!
No kidding, last year I walked under a catalpa tree covered with caterpillars and you literally could hear them chewing!

MOM said...

Now I know what was on your island counter the other day, I sure wondered what was going on in there with all those shavings, leaves and twigs. That is a good place to keep an eye on those critters. It will be fun to see the postings as this program progresses. I hope your kitty doesn't get at them if she hears fluttering, chewing, etc, it all might be on the floor one day when you come home from work.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Nina,
I think that munching is kind of when I get a shipment of mealworms and they're all moving around in their newspaper. Kind of freaks a person out if you've never heard it before!

Hi Mom,
That's what it was--the monarch ranch. Penny is always right there when I'm putting in fresh leaves, but I don't think she's interested enough to actually go to the effort of knocking it on the floor, so I'm not too worried.