Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hope you're not tired of monarchs yet!

I pulled a few weeds in the garden yesterday afternoon and threw them into the wheelbarrow for Mr. Johnson to dispose of . After dumping the weeds, he came into the house and asked me whether I had noticed the monarch chrysalis on the wheelbarrow. Sadly, I hadn't noticed it at all.

The wheelbarrow always sits in the same spot in the backyard next to the compost box. On top of the compost box in a long flower box, I'm growing some more milkweed plants (sometimes known as butterfly weed [Asclepia tuberosa]) from seed. These little seedlings are only a few inches tall, but they're very attractive to the monarch caterpillars. I bet the chrysalis on this wheelbarrow is from one of those caterpillars that was snacking on those butterfly weed seedlings earlier this week.
After taking this photograph, I removed the chrysalis from the wheelbarrow and placed it in monarch ranch along with the 17 other chrysalis still waiting to hatch into monarch butterflies.

Another milkweed plant in my yard that's receiving lots of attention from monarch caterpillars this summer is this Swamp White Milkweed. I planted it last summer and was happy to see that it made it through the winter and has developed into a huge, beautiful plant this summer. It has been blooming for several weeks now and has even developed some seed pods that I will save and try to grow more plants from next spring.

I'm amazed at how much the monarch caterpillars love this plant! It's not unusual for me to find at least 5-6 caterpillars on it every day. I collected 5 for the monarch ranch earlier this afternoon and then found these 2 additional ones a couple hours later.

I think there are at least 16 caterpillars of all sizes crawling around in the monarch ranch right now. At this rate, I shouldn't have any problem achieving my goal of raising, tagging and releasing 50 monarch butterflies in my backyard this summer.


Gaelyn said...

I never tire of your ever growing ranch. In fact, I think it's amazing. And so are you for continuing to help out the Monarch population.

Mollie said...

I never tire of hearing about your monarch ranch either! or of seeing pictures of the ranch "residents" growing into butterflies! FIFTY! Hope you reach your goal. I'm sure if the monarchs could, they'd say THANKS, RUTHIE for helping us out. ;-)

Jayne said...

You are the Monarch whisperer Ruthie! I love seeing your ranching efforts. Glad you found this little guy and put him in a safe place.

Guinifer said...

I love those 'pillars when they are huge and fat!

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
we planted some silkweed plants--a spp of milkweed. the Monarchs are all over it but there is no sign of eggs or anything.
I am wondering if we have to have "real" milkweed to get eggs?

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Gaelyn. I'm having a lot of fun with them this summer.

Thanks Mollie. Just brought in 2 more caterpillars this afternoon. If all of them hatch now, I'll be over 50!

Thanks Jayne. They're hungry bugs for sure! Good thing I've got lots of milkweed growing in my backyard.

Thanks Guinifer. They're pretty neat caterpillars.

Hi Rick,
Not sure what to tell you about this.....I googled silkweed and as near as I can tell, it's the same as milkweed (part of the asclepias family). If it's any consolation, I haven't found any monarch caterpillar eggs lately either, but still plenty of caterpillars crawing around on the milkweed plants I have -- esp. that swamp white milkweed.