Thursday, July 22, 2010

Monarch Ranch 2010

It's official! Ruthie's 2010 Monarch Ranch officially opened this evening! As I was mowing the lawn yesterday afternoon. I noticed an abundance of monarch butterflies flitting around the yard and hanging on the underside of milkweed leaves appearing to lay eggs. So tonight when we got home from our after-supper walk with Sophie, I checked a few plants in the front yard to see whether I could find any caterpillars or eggs to stock the ranch.

I found these 2 already hatched caterpillars. I'm betting the big one will probably go into chrysalis stage sometime this weekend.
I also found 12 caterpillar eggs! I like raising the caterpillars from eggs. It takes a little big longer, but I have much more success with raising them to butterflies because there's no chance of any of the caterpillars being parasitized by wasps or flies when they grow up inside my house. If you're wondering exactly what I'm doing with these eggs, it's a moistened washcloth in a pie plate. I just cut off a small portion of the leaf where the egg is laid. The washcloth will keep the leaf moist and also from curling up. Plus, it's much easier to monitor how close the eggs are to hatching when they're visible like this. Once the tiny caterpillar hatches, I just put it (and the little leaf fragment) on a fresh milkweed leaf and the caterpillar will be ready to start eating and growing.

This last picture has nothing to do with the monarch ranch, but when I was editing the photos I found this one on the card in my camera that I had taken a few weeks ago. It's Mrs. Bluebird peeking out of the door of her house. Isn't she cute? Four bluebird babies were successfully fledged from this house.


Susan Gets Native said...

This year was a bumper crop of pipevine swallowtails, with only one Monarch so far. But I hear ya, about raising them inside. Gives them a fighting chance.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Susan,
It seems like it's been a really slow start to butterfly season here in Minnesota. What do your Pipevine caterpillars like for food? Do you find them pretty readily in the wild part of your backyard? I bet your girls love raising them in your house.

Ruth said...

I have seen many Monarchs this year, unlike last year. Is this the generation that will fly south? I cannot believe summer is that far gone already. I will have to check the milkweed in my garden.

Taos Sunflower said...

As always, I love your photos...but that picture of Mrs. Bluebird is too wonderful. Good shot.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

My milkweed patch in the back yard has gotten much bigger this year. I'll have to go out tomorrow and check them again.

Mama Pea said...

I think the propagation of Monarch butterflies owes a lot to you, Ruthie. How many people would go to the lengths that you do to insure more of them having a good chance to make it?

Mrs. Bluebird is, indeed, cute!

Gaelyn said...

Wow, it's hard to believe it's Monarch Ranch season already. Mrs Bluebird looks rather sad that the brood has fledged.

Jayne said...

I am just now starting to see more butterflies here. No Monarchs yet. I did plant my milkweed seed you sent Ruthie, and hope it will thrive where I put it! Looking forward to seeing how your ranch grows!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Ruth,
I've just started seeing the monarchs in the last week or so. I think this is the generation that will fly to Mexico.
End of July already.....yes, it has been another short summer!

Thanks Martie. I was surprised Mrs. Bluebird posed as long as she did. I was fortunate to get that shot!

Good luck Lynne. I'm sure you'll find some interesting things in your milkweed patch (and hopefully no earwigs!)

Thanks Mama Pea. I'm being extremely optimistic this year and ordered 50 tags from MonarchWatch. Last year I raised, tagged and released 23 monarch butterflies and I hope to double that this year (or at least I'm gonna try!)

Hi Gaelyn,
I was surprised at the time already too and didn't even realize it until I sent one of my Master Naturalist classmates information about monarch ranching (she wants to try it with her kids). I was looking at the dates on last years' monarch ranch posts and it dawned on me that it was close to the end of July already!

Glad you got those seeds planted Jayne. Once they establish themselves you'll have a great monarch habitat. Have fun watching for monarchs in your backyard!

Danielle said...

The scary part about this for me is that I swear I just read about your ranch, then realized I must be remembering last year's.... :-) Have fun!

Anonymous said...

YEAH! The ranch is open for another season and I hope you raise a bumper crop of beautiful Monarchs. I'm watching the milkweed on the corner by our place and have yet to see a Monarch. I'll keep on watching.


RuthieJ said...

Hi Danielle,
the post came up on FB too....maybe you saw it there??

Hi Mom,
I found 4 more eggs this afternoon out in the yard.

Mollie said...

Ruth, I have milkweed in my backyard and get the caterpillers. Never knew what the eggs looked like. How do you "raise" the caterpillars when you take them off their branch/leaf? I'd like to do that to keep the birds from finding them first,since I don't get many. This year I have milkpods that I've harvested seeds from and am now growing a number of milkweeds. My backyard has turned into a wildlife habitat instead of the veggie garden it once was. Hope to have more monarchs coming by next year with more host plants.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mollie,
Look for the monarch caterpillar eggs on the underside of the milkweed leaves. They will be shaped like tiny little footballs (sometimes there are other things on the underside of leaves that you might mistake for a monarch egg).

You can just remove the portion of the leaf that the egg is attached to and take it inside your house. They will probably hatch within a few days. Once they hatch, put the small portion of leaf the egg hatched from on another new, fresh milkweed leaf so they can start eating right away. You may want to keep them separate from other bigger caterpillars you're raising to make sure the tiny babies don't get eaten.

Congratulations on improving your backyard habitat! You may want to think about registering it as a Monarch Waystation. Find out more at this website:

Mollie said...

Thanks, Ruth, for all the info! And yes, I will go to the website and see if my backyard qualifies yet. I never heard of Monarch Waystations before. And I might have to go buy some more milkweed (although I'm not sure I bought the original plant)--the ones I've been starting from seed got eaten (mowed) down by something, so I'll have to cover the container with netting, so the little sprouts get a chance to become big milkweed to offer enough food to the caterpillars.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mollie,
If you can wait until next summer, I will send you some milkweed seeds this fall. Common milkweed is the easiest one to grow from seed. I also have some of the swamp white milkweed and just started some of the butterfly weed (milkweed with orange flowers), so I can send you some of those seeds for planting too (I found 3 eggs on the white milkweed leaves too, so I know that monarch butterflies like that in addition to the common milkweed.)