DAILY PICTURES #105

Red Oak, TX

A butterfly shot of some Zebra Longwings roosting in my covered and heated flight cage. Even with the heaters it's been rather cool in there during the ice storm, but that will change today as the sun has finally returned!

Something to remember to those of you that are thinking of building cages for raising caterpillars. It's important to be able to sterilize the cages (preferably after each batch of larvae). Otherwise you'll have diseases building up - viral, bacterial and protozoans like OE. Before the collapsable cages came on the market, I had wooden cages with screening with open tops and bottoms. I used cookie sheets for the tops and bottoms. They were a pain to sterilize -- needed a big tank to fill with bleach water to dunk them in. The collapsable cages my seem a bit expensive, but they are sooo easy to sterilize in a sink of 10% bleach solution.

Dale Clark
Dallas County Lepidopterists' Society
www.dallasbutterflies.com

Thumbnail by lepfarmer
Whiteside County, IL(Zone 5a)

Yes, good point Dale, and they have the little loops to hang to dry.

Love the longwings!! With this early cold winter, I'm going to have to go visit some butterfly conservatories sooner than later this year.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks for that advice Dale. I love those zebra long wings. Ive never seen one here. What would work to attract them?

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

Good point about being able to sterilize the cages. I may have to start thinking along the lines of sewing some cages. I could probably sew mesh to fit over some wire support cages like those from Gardener's Supply. It would have to be cheaper than the $30. they want for butterfly cages.

Clarksville, TN(Zone 7a)

Be sure to share what you come up with, Dee. A worthwhile project for sure.

Colima, Mexico(Zone 11)

The first Monarch of the winter season eclosed yesterday, a beautiful little girl.

You will notice that this one is attached to a large bowl shaped glass. I found this little pillar wandering around with very large antennae and little tiny body and brought it inside because it didn't seem to be eating enough (although there was abundant food). I use these glasses, line them with cotton handkerchiefs and plop the pillar in there with fresh food every day. This little one did not want the leaves that i first brought, so i tried flower buds and the pillar devoured them one by one. I guessed if he had a good appetite, he must be otherwise healthy. He power ate until he pupated. I have never seen a caterpillar eat so much so fast and soon he was looking fairly normal. I found another caterpillar wandering around looking hungry and in need of a skin shed so i brought that one in too and fed him twice a day with a variety of fresh flower buds, leaves, and seed pods (in a separate glass bowl). You can see the green chrysalis attached to the same glass. Although this one was raised in his own glass, he chose to pupate closer to his sister (as it turns out). Now i have two chrysalises each on a different glass. The third one i did not feed but found him frantically looking for just the right spot to pupate...he was late and his DNA was rushing him to find a spot and settle down. I tried putting him on a couple of "safe" bushes but he rejected them so i brought him into the house and put him on the underside of a glass with a handkerchief hanging over the sides and he settled right down and started making the silky glue that would hold his "hoof". By the next day, he was in a "J" position.

I have seen this problem with caterpillars too late in finding just the right place to pupate a few times so i recognize these "frantic" symptoms. I once found a caterpillar wriggling toward me half enclosed in silk. There was nothing i could do for him at that time to help him survive.

About 4 days prior to expecting the butterflies to eclose from any chrysalises i might have in the house, i move them outside to the patio table where they can eclose outside and freely proceed with their new lives as a butterflies. Out of somewhere between 15 to 20 caterpillars total from this first brood, i raised 2 inside due to special circumstances. The remainder that i observed seemed to be doing very well on their own in their natural environment.

Thumbnail by vitrsna Thumbnail by vitrsna Thumbnail by vitrsna
Barling, AR(Zone 7b)

Vitrsna, I have read where the level of toxic glycosides increases in damaged milkweeds which is apparently a natural protective mechanism against browsers. Also higher levels can be toxic to the caterpillars as well. Have you noted any difference in palatability or acceptance to caterpillars of first leaf picking versus later additional removals for food ?

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

Vitrsna - I'm always pleased to find others who are sensitive to bug behavior. :)

Shorthog - I wasn't aware of this increase in toxicity in MW. So if the plant is already browsed or clipped . .. ? Can you point me to some resources to read about this?

Thanks.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Me, too, short. I did not know that. I did notice that out of all my 10 milkweed plants, there was one that they seemed to avoid early in the season. After they ate the rest down to stems, then they ate the one they had earlier avoided.

Barling, AR(Zone 7b)

A couple of summary articles that cover most of what I mentioned without actually going into the scientific literature.

http://www.monarchlab.org/Lab/Research/Topics/Milkweed/Default.aspx

http://insects.about.com/od/butterfliesmoths/ss/Why-Dont-Monarchs-Get-Sick-From-Eating-Milkweed.htm

I've noted on several occasions in this forum that purchased milkweed leaves have been refused by caterpillars or make them sick. Maybe high alkaloid glycoside content from environmental conditions and handling.
I even learned something from these reviews. Monarch cats don't like hairy leaves. They should love me since I haven't had any hair on my terminal bud for about 50 years.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, short, It appears there needs to be a delicate balance of enough poison but not too much and it's a dynamic process, to be continued.

Barling, AR(Zone 7b)

Spot on Steady. Nature and life are complex but can be very delicate.

Clarksville, TN(Zone 7a)

Good links, shorthog. It's not nice to make the Monarchs sick!!!

Colima, Mexico(Zone 11)

Shorthog...no, i have not noticed any signs of caterpillars not accepting leaves from heavily browsed asclepias. This is interesting to hear about though and will check your references as soon as i have a little time to do so. Re the 2 caterpillars i found who were not eating, there were quite a few caterpillars on the same asclepiases eating all parts of the plants with gusto so i don't think this was the reason the two pillars i found were not eating. I have noticed that occasionally, after shedding a skin a caterpillar will become disoriented and wander away from a bush and get lost. For sure after such an ordeal, they will often sleep all day before resuming to eat. If i had to do that i'd be exhausted too! Anyway, that was my initial thought about why these two pillars appeared not to have been eating. After i brought them in the house, i fed them leaves from the same plants that they did not hesitate to eat. Only the very small one did not take to the leaf immediately because i think it had been accustomed to eating the buds. I have noticed that the very little ones love those buds and will move on to leaves as they grow, generally. Another thought i have when i find a caterpillar that appears not to be eating and/or leaves the host at a young age is that they possibly have parasites, but the way these two were eating after i brought them in, i didn't think parasites were the reason.

There is a research paper by Spade et al at the www.lepidopteraresearchfoundation.org regarding the Colima aristolochia butterflies. This team's research of some years ago suggests that the aristolochia butterflies, when given a choice of various varieties of wild aristolochia growing in Colima, preferred the least toxic plants available to them. In Colima that is, according to this reseach, A. tentaculata. There are at least 9 different species of aristolochia growing wild in Colima. I wish i had a direct link for you but cannot find it now. Anyway you will find the research paper at the org site noted above.

Read more: http://davesgarden.com/tools/mail/pm/773371/#ixzz2nkWHm1j8

Red Oak, TX

Thought I'd illustrate the way monarch larvae "notch" a milkweed leaf to cut off the flow of sap (and thus most of the toxins) into the leaf. Saw this in my greenhouses this morning right after reading the above posts so it seemed the perfect time to snap a picture.

Dale Clark
Dallas County Lepidopterists' Society
www.dallasbutterflies.com

Thumbnail by lepfarmer
Barling, AR(Zone 7b)

A great shot Dale. I didn't realize that they "notched" the leaves. A neat defensive way to cut off the latex flow to the leaf. I saw a cat in May on Common Milkweed that was "trenching" across the leaf veins which cut off the latex flow.
I'm still being amazed at the adaption of animals for survival.

This message was edited Dec 17, 2013 12:22 PM

Colima, Mexico(Zone 11)

My goodness Dale! I've been watching the Monarchs and Queens doing this notching activity for a few years and always wondered why. It is such a common activity, i assumed there was some reason but never really researched it and couldn't even come up with a good guess...and wahlah! I really appreciate your sharing this information. One more question answered, just a few million left to go, Beverly

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

I had seen it too, but assumed it was an accident from being too hungry. I should have known better. Nature is too organized for that!

Whiteside County, IL(Zone 5a)

I sure hope I get some cats next year to observe their notching behavior. I have not noticed it so far.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Leaves me wondering , about most cats that seemed more active on the vining milkweed or honeyvine milkweed for a common ID Than the very few upon the other milkweeds,, The ones I have seen here have usually been in the vines ,, Those don't make sap when their cut ,,
Nature making me wonder ... and you all here ,, questions never end ,,
Thank you for teaching me that ,
I don't want to tell that I never thought before ,,, Duh .... Only I just did ,...
oh well,, thank you again teacher ,,, ^_^

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

Yes yes, thank you all for the info and these references!

I'm sure the articles will make for some light reading. I may save them for some night when I can't sleep. :)

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

juhur, honeyvine milkweed, I've never even heard of that one before.
It's going to be interesting, I'm going to plant like 6 different milkweeds in the pasture next year. It will be quite the experiment in what the monarchs like best. This year they stayed on the A. curassavica, I also had A. physocarpa and some tweedia caeruleum, which is a tropical vine. I thought I was going to be growing them in pots next year but they did really well in the recent freeze.
They are a really pretty milkweed as they have beautiful blue blooms and 6" seed pods. They are a small vine so they can be brought in during winter.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

D ) it's our Midwestern Kudzu . except the BF's like it .

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/68440/

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

I really prefer the USDA or Missouri Botanic Garden or Ladybird Johnson sites for plant ID and distribution/species origin information. DG completely lacks that information which is a downer for me.

Ju you've mentioned the MW vine a lot but I never looked at a species account till this morning.

http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=CYLA&mapType=nativity

It is native from the east coast to TX, OK, IA, ID, and the bloom looks like the A. physocarpus. The species info on DG are mostly negative for its invasive qualities.

Cynanchum laeve is in the Asclepidaceae family. I wonder how it would fare if kept in a container?

Thanks for the introduction to this plant.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

How many small live plants or seeds would you like . I let them grow on the trees . and over the clematis , They don't show until the pods do . The BF's love the blooms .
Only those are correct the plant is a thug and like thistle (milk thistle) it is illegal to sell here ,,
(big deal to control factors ) It gives the rules the Bloom ) lol

Only drawback i have noticed is the praying mantis enjoy the vine thicket . Okay with me though , only have to help some of the cats , only as before , I have not seen any since 2005 , a while ago .(Monarchs)

Whiteside County, IL(Zone 5a)

The thing about growing an invasive species in a pot is that it could still spread by seed, so you'd have to remove seed pods.

Colima, Mexico(Zone 11)

And thank you Dome for the introduction to Tweedia. I am looking forward to growing this vine and already have some seeds on order.

On another subject, the first 8 Monarchs to eclose today and in the last couple of days are all females. I expect there will be between 4 to 8 more that will eclose soon from this group but i find it curious that out of 8 there is not one male. Is anyone noticing this preponderance of female Monarchs? I expect they will be heading to the Oyamels and not leaving eggs on my plants this late in the season anyway, but still i find it curious.

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

Had not noticed as no cats this year, but I mentioned that none of the eggs hatched which were laid by the single female I observed. That gave me pause.

Ju I do believe I will pass on the seeds/vine. I hesitate to trade seeds hat are listed as noxious invasive anywhere. Like the Orange morning glory, Ipomoea coccinea. Love it! But it's listed in 46 states. :p

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Vitrsna....I brought in several Monarch cats and chrysalis just before freezing temps here in north tx. A few emerged and were released in early December. (pic) The rest ate MW I had taken inside early, and made their chrysalis. Then we had a three or four day ice storm and they emerged in the middle of that! I didn't have a thing for them to nectar on, but waited and released them at the beginning of a warm spell.

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Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

About the invasive species ; The plant in question . the vine milkweed , IS food for the Monarch larvae , Looking at the extinction of the migrating Monarch . After all a Migrating Monarch is the same as an invasive, and plant in the category and to many people ,(the little green worm thing)
I think if the plant is what the cats want to use . of that species , that is more important , in the category of our (people ) wants and dislikes .
Like Horses , Camels and another that originated in North America centuries ago . When they returned , especially Horses , they have all been considered invasive ..
In these argument categories . of centuries , us people are not good enough ? to decide that ..
That is what this about right ? Doing what we can , to keep from killing or driving to extinction creatures , that we people have made very bad , incorrect decisions about , Because of our so called "thought" about such things
My argument for today . goodness my post sounds hissy .. lol

Colima, Mexico(Zone 11)

One brood of Monarchs. 14 eclosed, healthy, beautiful, all female...what a shame. This is the first brood in my garden (that i know about) during the last 6 years without at least one male. Very strange. I guess they will fly around looking for males and i hope they find some. :(

Whiteside County, IL(Zone 5a)

All they have to do is sit around and look pretty and those dudes will show up!!!

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Those I released late were all males! LOL! Guess they will meet up in Mexico!

With over 150 we might need a new thread if someone gets a great shot they want to start off with. Please keep the same title, and just change the # at the end.

This message was edited Dec 22, 2013 11:09 AM

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

Looks like Shorty beat me to it.

Please follow us to the new thread, here:

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1345046/
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1345046/
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1345046/

See you there!

Colima, Mexico(Zone 11)

MrsEd, Sheila...The females left the garden. I was out of town from the 22nd until today and don't find any eggs or tiny caterpillars so i don't think much has been going on here. I'm happy to hear that you are providing the male population Sheila. :)

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