Wednesday, August 29, 2012


We had a new visitor to the back yard. I believe it is a Barred Owl.

We were enjoying our early morning coffee in the screen room when it swooped in and landed.


This is the tree in the backyard by the bird feeders. We had to cut the top out of it last year because it is hollow near the bottom and within falling distance of the house.

The cats sometimes climb up and sit there.


A beautiful bird. Blends in well with the tree and branches.

It didn’t take long for the cats to disappear… perhaps it’s been here before.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Giant Milkweed

On the 10th  I posted a picture of my Giant Milkweed…….or what was left of them.  They had been outside for a day or two.


This is the one in the pot on the L.  I was thrilled to see how much it had grown. Hot sunshine and afternoon thunder showers can do wonders.


I didn’t expect it to come back so quickly…….and hadn’t planned on using it for caterpillars for a few more weeks. Unfortunately, when I checked it closely today….it is already hosting several new hatchlings.


I decided to bring it inside so they wouldn’t lay any more eggs on it and to keep the wasps and spiders from getting them.

The leaf is less than 1 and 1/2 inch wide.…you can see how small the little guy is. It must have hatched yesterday, because there are smaller ones on the other leaves. The white spot at the top is where it has been feeding. That is “milk” that has seeped out of the leaf where it was munching. The egg was most likely attached there. When it hatches the egg shell is the first thing it eats…then it starts on the plant.

On the leaf below the one I am measuring, you can see a small white dot. That is an egg. Look to the R, on the next leaf and you can see another tiny caterpillar. It looks like todays hatchling.


I may leave them on this plant for a few days and then let them travel to a few of the Tropical Milkweed.  I have more of them.

About 8 or 9 days from now it will be ready to pupate.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Caterpillars on my Pagoda Plants

This is one of the 6 Pagoda plants I have around the yard. The Swallowtail butterflies love them.


This is one of the  caterpillars I found. You can see where it has been munching on the leaves.


The one above must be a bit younger than the one below……... It appears almost white with black markings.

This one looks a bit more like a pale yellow, but both were on Pagoda Plants.



I haven’t been able to identify it other than a possible Tussock Moth? Leave a comment if you know what it is.

Looks like there might be two black tufts front and rear.


I didn’t realize how long the hairs are until I saw the picture. It has a pretty pattern on it’s back.


And a cute little black face.


I did not handle this one. I’ve been reading about fuzzy caterpillars and some of them can cause a rash or sting, so I’ll play it safe until I learn just what it is.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Butterfly / Caterpillar update

In my last post, I mentioned that I had over 40 caterpillars. I was off by 20. Once all the eggs hatched, and a few brought in from outside….I ended up feeding 60 caterpillars.

This is how it looked yesterday….


This morning……21 emerged. I couldn’t get them all in the picture.


Remember what the Giant Milkweed looked like in the last post?


Here they are 3 days later……that is $40 worth of caterpillar food.


They are showing signs of new buds, but it will be awhile before they are ready to feed anything.

Remember the 3 plants I bought that had been sprayed with insecticide? I pulled all the leaves off…let them regrow and the Monarchs started laying on them. I spotted several small caterpillars and want to do a test to see if they are OK. I can’t put them in the Butterfly House…there is no way to tell the little guys apart…so I made  a temporary addition for those plants.  There are at least 20 caterpillars between the 2 ….from tiny to almost ready to go up and pupate.


They aren’t totally enclosed so I have to watch where I walk.(incase one travels to the floor) If they can pupate and then if the emerging butterflies have no problems……I will know the plants are alright to use.

I have released the 21 from this morning and it looks like there will be another 15 tomorrow.

I suspend a piece of newspaper below the emerging butterflies so they don’t have far to fall if one loses it’s footing and to keep the excess fluid in their bodies (it is evacuated once the wings are full) from falling on the plants below.

I have 2 small plants in the “house” and there are 10 that are almost ready to go to the top and another 15 or so small ones.


It is an on going process. I just hope my plants can recover quick enough to feed them all. Most of the butterflies that I release go to places unknown….but some stay and lay eggs………so when I bring in a new plant for them to eat…..I never know how many caterpillars I might end up with.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Butterfly House………..a new look

Sometimes we learn things the hard way…..I needed plants to feed the caterpillars that I had and picked up 3 plants for them.

Once all the old plants were gone I moved them to the new plants. Several hours later I noticed 4 large caterpillars writhing around on the soil. I’ve never had that happen before so figured the plants had been sprayed with insecticide. I lost over 40 caterpillars. Several died within a few days and the rest continued to eat and grow (new plants) and then go to the top and into “J’s”. Unfortunately that is as far as they got. Evidently the poison messed up their systems. They would start to shed and then die.

I did a lot of researching to make sure I wasn’t blaming plants when it could be disease. In the process I read that extreme heat can be a problem.

My screen room gets the late afternoon sun and it can get very hot. The original butterfly house was tall and near the ceiling. So….to be on the safe side, Jim cut a couple of feet off the bottom of it, turned it upside down, put a new top on it and legs. It needed to be higher off the floor.


It still has room for Giant Milkweed. I had to purchase 2. The 12 Tropical Milkweed plants that I bought as food for the caterpillars that had been on the poison plants had lots of little caterpillars. I thought there were only 2 dozen…but I now have over 40.


And they are no longer little…


I let them all travel to one Giant Milkweed yesterday and then when I cleaned out the cage this morning I put in the second. I hope by the time they eat these up, the  plants I have in pots in the ground will be leafed out more.

A few of these have already gone to the top.

I am still convinced the plants were sprayed but didn’t want to take a chance. I scrubbed the whole cage with water and bleach…..let it soak then rinsed it. Once it was dry we did the remodel.

Jim also put wheels on it and I can move it around much easier. I really like the look, and it holds the same amount of plants.

When you buy milkweed, look for aphids. If there are a few on it, the plant is probably OK. Sometimes the store doesn’t know if they’ve been sprayed or not.

I love having the butterflies….but the growing process of the caterpillars is what fascinates me the most.