Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Now Open - Monarch Ranch 2009

As one of my Master Naturalist projects this summer, I'm volunteering at Quarry Hill Nature Center on Wednesday nights collecting data on the numbers of monarch eggs and caterpillars for the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, sponsored by the University of Minnesota.

I'm learning some new things about monarch caterpillars and tonight I brought home these two fourth and fifth instar caterpillars to put in my new monarch ranch. I gave them some fresh milkweed leaves and they're happily munching away.

The monarch activity (and all butterfly activity in general) seems much slower this year than previous years and just this past week, I finally saw several monarch butterflies flitting around my backyard. Since I was adding these two monarch caterpillars to my ranch, I decided to check some of the milkweed in my own backyard after I got home to see if I could find anything and was lucky enough to find these 6 eggs.
I will wait until they hatch and grow a little bit and then add these caterpillars to my monarch ranch. This will be a good start for what I hope will be another successful season of raising, tagging and releasing monarch butterflies in my backyard (aka, Monarch Waystation 1515).


Ruth said...

Our summer has been so cool and wet that I have seen very, very few butterflies so far. I looked for monarch caterpillars yesterday and found none. Last year there were many in July. I have seen only 2 or 3 monarch butterflies.

Anonymous said...

Hurrah the ranch is now open again. I have hardly seen a butterfly in our area, lightening bugs, yes, especially in the corn field across from us. We need some warm nites for them to flash. I'll keep on looking for butterflies.


Kelly said...

Those eggs are so tiny. I guess if you know what to look for you will see them. Very cool....I hope you have great success. It has been very cool around here, and our butterflies are down as well.

Jennifer said...

I'm loving this idea of the master naturalist class... I may call you and talk with you about it. Anyway, here is a picture I took the other day and when I got home, I noticed what I think is an egg on the leaf:

Mel said...

Hola Ruthie,
That's awesome! Thanks for numbering the eggs, I couldn't find them with these eyes, hahaha... wasn't enlarging the pics!

Dana and Daisy said...

i never knew that is what a monarch egg looks like. Thanks for showing me! See, your knowledge is being shared with others!

troutbirder said...

The monarch caterpillars are definitely beautiful in their own way. btw I was a Quarry Hill last week for a hike and checked out your plantings thru the window.

Gaelyn said...

What a very cool project to involved in and to watch.

How's the knitting going?

Red said...

Sounds like they're getting a late start... hope the fall is late too :) They probably know something we don't though.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Ruth,
We've been pretty cool here too--at least for July anyway, but still below in rainfall. Hopefully the butterfly activity will start picking up now that many wildflowers (at least in my backyard) are blooming.

Hi Mom,
I was seeing quite a few fireflies at night too a couple weeks ago when it was warmer, but not so many lately. Hopefully the weather will get back to normal soon so we can see more butterflies.

Hi Kelly,
The eggs are easy to spot after you've identified the first few. They're almost always on the underside of the milkweed leaf and are shaped kind of like a football--with a pointed end. For more information, you can go to the Monarch Watch website -
and click on the "Monarch Biology" link for a close-up picture.

Hi Jennifer,
That's a nice photo of the milkweed flowers and that definitely looks like a monarch egg (I couldn't tell for sure, but it almost looks like a hatched one too). Don't those flower smell delicious?
Somewhere in my e-mails I have a listing of all the states that offer master naturalist programs. I'll send you the link when I find it.

Hi Mel,
Yes, you definitely have to enlarge those pictures--the eggs are soooooo tiny!

Hi Dana,
It's hard to imagine that such a tiny egg can eventually turn into a beautiful monarch, isn't it?

Hi Troutbirder,
The monarchs are quite amazing--especially when you think about their migration to Mexico.

Hi Gaelyn,
It's definitely a very cool project.
I finished my 15th hat today, but I'm one behind for the daily quota. I've been posting pictures as I get the hats done and you can see all of them at this link:

Hi Heidi,
I'm not sure what's going on with the weather, but it's been a very unusual summer here in Minnesota.

dAwN said...

Oh that is so neat! I will have to check out the bottom of milkweed leaves myself! hope to see updates of your caterpillars!

Jayne said...

Can't wait to see this years ranchers Ruthie!

RuthieJ said...

No worries Dawn and Jayne -- there will be updates for sure! I ordered my butterfly tags yesterday, so hopefully they will arrive in time to tag my first hatched monarch butterfly.