Here's Lucille and her two children on the monarch quest. They ride over on their bikes every week, but Lucille admitted to me last week that she's enjoying this project much more than the kids are.
Every week, we fill out a checklist indicating what we find in the field. We tally each plant that's inspected and if eggs or caterpillars are found, that's also tallied. The caterpillars are also categorized by size: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th instar. Here on my clipboard is a lovely 5th instar I found during the monitoring. (This caterpillar went home with me, turned into a chrysalis the next day and I'm now waiting for it to emerge as a monarch butterfly.)
The first few weeks of monitoring in June were great -- the milkweed plants were taller than the surrounding grass and it was easy to get through the field. Now look at it! Some of the grasses and weeds are almost up to my chin! I have to be pretty careful bending over to inspect the milkweed plants lest I get poked in the eye or ear by some foxtails or wild parsnip.
As I've mentioned before, the low numbers of monarch eggs, larva and even butterflies has been disappointing. But there are plenty of other insect sightings in this field to keep things interesting. Lately I've been seeing lots of milkweed beetles doin' the "wild thing," but this is the only time I've ever seen this particular position........and I just couldn't resist taking a picture!
I'm happy to report that my monarch butterfly tagging kit finally arrived in today's mail. My monarch ranch has at least one butterfly scheduled to emerge from its chrysalis early next week, and I hope to share a "how to tag a monarch butterfly" post with you then, so stay tuned!