Thursday, May 26, 2011

Caterpillar/Butterfly update

I’ve gotten a bit slack on keeping up to date on my caterpillars. So here goes….

On 5.16.11   I had to put in my second Giant Milkweed. I also put in a potted Tropical Milkweed.  They look good…don’t they?


It doesn’t take them long to grow or to eat ….I believe there are 13  just on this part of the plant. You can see they are even eating the seed pods. 004cs1

I had 2 Giant Milkweeds, 2 potted Tropical Milkweed and I had to dig up 4 more Tropical Milkweed plants..put them in pots and then replant them. Each was only in the cage for a day or two.

These are the 2 Tropical and Giant Milkweed plants. They have been outside  since the 24th and have already started to grow new leaves.005cs

I have around 65 in Chrysalis.  11 emerged today.  You can see 3 of them are very clear. You can see the color of the wings. These were among the first ones. If you look closely at the green ones you can start to see some wing outlines.  They will be among the next batch…possibly tomorrow.


You can see some of the stages they go through.  The one at the top has just emerged…it’s wings are much shorter. It hasn’t pumped the fluid from it’s body into them yet. There are 3 that are drying out and one near the lower L that is sort of in between.


This is what the abdomen looks like at first.  Kinda weird…020cs

But once the fluid has been pumped into the wings they fall into place. 

There are 2 hanging side by side. The dark one has just emerged….It’s wings are still folded and damp.


At one point in the video you will see 5 butterflies that have emerged, and by looking closely you can see the difference in their wings. If you watch the first one you see emerge, very closely, you can see it flexing it’s abdomen to pump the fluid into the wings.

Emerging Monarch Butterflies

They did not all go into Chrysalis at the same time….but once they started emerging , all 11 were out within half an hour. 

I had about 100 caterpillars when I started out. I only have 65 Chrysalis. I gave my friend, Debbie, 21 caterpillars and most of them are in Chrysalis.  3 Chrysalis failed, 2 caterpillars drowned, 1 in a “J” fell.    That accounts  for 92. I don’t know where the others went. They may have been eaten by a larger caterpillar.

I had placed 12 on one of the Giant Milkweeds when it was outside. At the time I brought it in…there were none. I quit bringing them in after 100 figuring the rest could make it outside. I only saw one large caterpillar.

I am going to release a few here, a few at Debbie’s, and the rest at another neighbor’s who has Milkweed plants.  That will take care of those that emerged today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Installing 3# Package of Honey Bees in Top Bar Hive 5.10.11

This is what a 3# package of Honey Bees looks like when they send it through the mail. It came to the Post Office.


You can see several dead bees piled up in the corner. The box had been sitting in one of the Post Office baskets …and sitting at an angle so they all fell to that corner.

You can’t see it but there is a can of syrup in the center of the bees. They are clustered around the Queen’s Cage and the can.

Once we remove the panel at the top, I can remove the syrup can and the Queen Cage. She will be left in the cage for a couple of days. There is a candy plug in the bottom and the bees will chew through it and release her. She was not their Queen when installed in this package. This gives them time to accept her and not kill her.

I’ll hang her cage in the hive and dump the bees in with her.  All the bees are hanging in a bunch together and by giving the cage a quick knock they will come loose from the sides of the cage and I can easily dump them into the hive.

I have the camera set up  too far away to really see what is going on. I’ll try to remember that the next time I work on the hive. But.. the grandkids will get a kick out of seeing Grandma and Grandpa in their “bee suits”.

Installing Honey Bees in a Top Bar Hive

Our Cabbage Palms are getting ready to bloom and the Bottlebrush bushes have been blooming for a week or so. I’ve been watching them bring in pollen.  It’s amazing how much they can carry.

So far, the bees don’t seem to mind me sitting in my chair watching their coming and going. If one gets too interested in me…..I just get up and leave for awhile.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunflowers and Squirrels

I have a small patch of sunflowers growing under the bird feeder. Once they started to ripen I wondered which would get the seeds first…..the birds or the squirrels.

This little guy won.


I think it spotted me in the screen room with the camera.


It hangs down under the flower….chews off a bunch of seed and petals and comes up and sits on the stalk to eat.


Here it goes for more.


We had so much fun watching all the gyrations it had to go thru to get the seeds.


A good way to get your kids interested in gardening….plant sunflowers….watermelon and squash. They all are easy to grow and the kids can enjoy the results….Hopefully a couple of squirrels will find the sunflowers once the seeds have ripened and create a lot of laughter.

Here’s a short video of the fun it had.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Butterfly House back in action 5.6.11

On May 3 , I noticed that several of the eggs on the milkweed plants outside were starting to get black at the top. That is the caterpillars head and it is ready to chew it’s way out of the egg. I brought a few of them inside and watched them hatch. They were then put on the Giant Milkweed that I had brought in and put in the Butterfly House. Actually I should call it the Caterpillar House since that’s what’s in there. Once they emerge as Butterflies I release them.

I put 15 hatchlings on the plant. On May 4th, another 18. Some were hatched inside and others taken from the plants outside. On May 5th, 34 more. So far, I have a total of 67 Monarch caterpillars on the Giant Milkweed, and I haven’t checked the plants this morning…can I hit 100?

This is what it looks like today.


Lots of leaves…..

This leaf is 4” long…..there are a couple of caterpillars on it. You can see how tiny they are and these are a day or two old. They are hard to spot. You have to look for the eaten parts of the leaves to find them.


Even at less than a quarter inch you can see the black, white and yellow bands.047cs

This plant raised over 60 caterpillars last fall. They ate it down to just a few leaves. It raised 18 a few weeks ago. Each time it comes back better ..with more leaves. I now have a second plant. When this one gets eaten down I will move the remaining caterpillars to that one and put this one back outside to regrow.

In another week the first ones on the plant should be close to heading to the top to pupate.

If all these caterpillars were left on the plants outside…..the oldest ones would eat them down to stalks and the rest would die. I will leave several caterpillars on the plants in the ground …those plants need to be “trimmed” by them also. This way many more survive to become butterflies.

I have 15 or more tropical milkweed in the ground. Most of it is the red/yellow but 2 big clumps are just yellow. Milkweed has a lot of nectar and the butterflies of all kinds love them. You can several pods on them. The yellow had one open yesterday. I will gather some of the seeds but most I hope will reseed right here…in my “wet lands”.


As these did from last fall.


Check back…I’ll show you what that Giant Milkweed looks like in a few more days.

5.7.11     A total of 95 caterpillars as of tonight.  The Monarchs have been busy today…there are several new eggs since this morning.  100 is within easy reach.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

I have several Buddleia plants. The light lavender is a low growing bush and has huge blooms 8” to 10” long, reminding me of Lilacs. The deeper  purple have smaller blooms, 5” to 6”  and grow much taller. But they both smell beautiful.

I’ve been watching the Butterflies come to them but surprised I didn’t see any of my honeybees on them yet. They must have a better source of pollen and nectar.

But…I did spot this Clearwing Hummingbird Moth this evening.


When you first spot them you are positive it’s a Hummingbird.

In the picture you can see it is using it’s forelegs but they aren’t noticeable when they are in flight.


It wasn’t too happy about my following it around.

In this picture you can see why it is called a “clearwing”.


Here you can see some of it’s color.


Watch it work the flowers.