Friday, June 17, 2011

Monarchs…..I did it again

I had several Tropical Milkweed plants in the ground and a few more in pots and  3 Giant Milkweed.

There were 8 Monarchs hanging around the yard. They are so much more fun to watch than most of the others. They look like they fly just for the fun of it. The Swallowtails, Queens, Gulf Fritillaries and Skippers all come in and share the blooms..but then they are gone. The Monarchs are continually gliding all over.

I don’t know how many were females but I started noticing lots and lots of eggs….I wanted to leave several caterpillars to grow up on their own outdoors….but whenever I left one it would be missing the next day…so I started collecting.. …75 caterpillars the first day.  I figured that would be enough….the plants I put in the cage had a lot of eggs too.

When they are newly hatched they are so small you don’t realize how many you have. I would check the plants several times a day and bring in 5 or 6. You do that often enough and it really adds up.

They ate the 3 Giant Milkweeds…then I dug up 2 big Tropical Milkweeds, another 8 came out of the ground. The Tropical Milkweed only lasted a few days. At times I would have 4 plants in the cage. In this photo there is 1 Giant Milkweed to the right and 2 Tropical Milkweed. The leaves on the Giant Milkweed are thick and fleshy. They last longer than the others.


The weight of the caterpillars would make the branches droop.


After they ate most of my plants we went to the nursery and bought 11 small Tropical.  I think they lasted a day and a half. So we went to Focal Point Nursery and bought 3 Giant Milkweed. 2 days later we bought 3 more. 2 days later we bought 4 more. Got lucky this time …they were on the small side and because I had already bought so many…they gave me a deal…buy 1 get 1 free.

The last one is in the cage…still has a few leaves on it and only 1 caterpillar. All the rest are at the top in Chrysalis, except 3 and they should “J” today and pupate tomorrow. I couldn’t get the front corners in the picture…they are as heavily populated as the rear corners.  I’ve tried counting…I am sure there are at least 230…..and I gave at least 30 or 40 to my friend, Debbie.

When I took them to her…she was going to keep them on plants outdoors. It wasn’t 5 minutes after putting a few on plants before a red wasp zeroed in on it. I have seen several flying around my plants….. Now we know why they don’t survive outside. So she put them in her screened Belvedere (Gazebo).


There will be a few days with over 50 butterflies emerging. Can’t wait to release them.

Unfortunately…most of my milkweed is just “stalks”. I’ve planted all of the Tropical back into the ground. Our dirt here is like potting soil. A few have already started to put out new leaves.

I put 2 of the Giant Milkweed in the ground to see how they would do, but they will have to be dug up this fall and spend the winter in the Florida room with the rest. It will look like a jungle out there…I believe I now have 13, but 1 was loaned to my by Debbie. I’ll return it when it is leafed  out again.

I think I need a bigger cage!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dropping a big tree ….right where you want it.

In April , I did a post about 5 Lined Skinks. They were hanging out in the rotted part of my favorite tree. We didn’t realize it at the time, but they did us a big favor. Evidently  their digging around for insects or for nesting, broke up a lot of the rotted wood. One day I noticed it had shifted a bit and started pulling it out. This is what it looked like in April.


This is what it looked like when I got done pulling the insides out.


The weakest part of the tree is the side towards our home…….we decided we should get it down before the hurricanes started coming through.

We called Ron Groskey. He came out in the evening and looked everything over. Bee Hives to the R…boat to the front….home to the L  Only place to put it was over the low part of the septic mound. He felt he could to it without destroying anything…and would be back in a few days to do the job.

Monday afternoon Ron arrived with his dump truck. He spent awhile rechecking his plans….laying out the ropes and getting things ready.

First he had to get the big rope way up in the top of the tree. It took 2 tries to place the line over the limb he wanted. snapshot_001We couldn’t believe it. It looked impossible with all the small limbs in the way. When the weight came down he tied his heavy rope to it and pulled it over the limb…made a slip knot of  some kind and ran the other end out into the woods…around a big cabbage palm and back to the bumper of his truck. He then pulled the rope taught…putting a lot of pressure on the tree top. This will help keep it going the direction he wants it to.

I made a video and edited out a lot of the trips he made up and down the ladder and a lot of the saw time to shorten it up….but it gives you an idea of how it was done. He was very precise in how each cut was made and double checked everything twice. I was surprised to see him climb up the ladder and take a tiny piece out of the notch so it was perfect. All his extra trips and knowledge sure made ( what looked to us like an impossible task…. )  look easy.  Not knowing how much heart rot was in the tree made it even  trickier.

Big Tree Down

We’ll give the tree a chance to put out some limbs and leaves. I love the base and root system. See the tree top with the dark green leaves at the very top of the stump? That tree snapped off during Hurricane Charlie, it wasn’t much taller than this one and it’s nicely leafed out.  If it doesn’t…..well….more firewood.


Two days later…….. this….016

Became this….011cs

all the wood from the R of the 2 pieces standing on end are from the tree. I laid all the leafy tops along the edge of the woods and will use it for kindling once all the leaves have fallen off and its dried out. For now …the critters can use it as a “wildlife habitat”.

Jim will have to cut all the big ones in half  before we split it.  Our stove says 17” logs but 15” is easier to handle.

Would you believe ….we are in Florida?

If you are in Central Florida and need tree work done….give Ron a call. He is very good at what he does.