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!