Fall Garden

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Buggy haiku

Busy, buggy plants

Dried petals, seed gathering

Before the cold days

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Cats vs. Butterflies: We were bad.

Friday night, the last two chrysalises had just started showing their inhabitants and started to darken. I thought I had a couple of days yet before anyone hatched.IMG_1483

However, when I got up Saturday morning, I had two freshly emerged monarchs. All four have left a red, bloody looking goo behind on the netting of the enclosure. I’ve learned this is called meconium and is waste material.

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Knowing that I would be out for the day and that these two needed time to dry out, I gathered fresh flowers to leave as snacks and planned on releasing the butterflies that afternoon.

Of course, I came home to chaos and destruction. What’s new?

When I left, one butterfly was already at the top of the enclosure starting to open and close its wings. I’m guessing that the second one joined it at some point.

Then I’m speculating that my fur crew could no longer take the unexplained movement high up on the book shelf and took action. I remember Olivia’s fascinated stare when the very first butterfly hatched and started exercising its wings. Two might have been too much.

I’m assuming that, egged on by Miles, Olivia somehow leaped the six foot height of the bookshelf and knocked the enclosure to the floor. Either that or they formed a cat ladder and stood on each other because nothing else was was disturbed.

At any rate, I came home to butterflies on the floor.

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Fortunately, both butterflies seemed to have escaped the pile of objects that would have tumbled off the shelf with them.

At least one butterfly was coherent enough to talk shit to Birdie.

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“Yea, you’re all tough talk inside a net, bug!”

Before even feeding the furred ones, I took my traumatized bugs out for release.

This was the type of goodbye a girl anticipates. Enough time for butterfly selfies.

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The second butterfly just wanted away so it could rest in my maple tree.

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In the end, four of the six caterpillars managed to make it to the butterfly stage. I’m not sure if those statistics are good or bad. Articles said to expect fatalities, but it’s never fun to see a little creature die.

Amazingly, this is one out of many, many projects that I actually got done. DIY butterflies.

Not Even a Goodbye

Chrysalis one successfully emerged while I was at work Friday.

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The chrysalis started going through the stages of showing wings and then gradually getting darker on Wednesday. It was absolutely black Friday morning before I left the house.

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Articles indicated that the newly emerged butterfly would need 4-5 hours to dry and strengthen its wings. I could keep it in the enclosure for one day, if I provided fresh flowers.

As I was unsure about how long the butterfly had been out by the time I got home and it was going to be dark in a couple of hours, I gathered some fresh flowers to provide sustenance for an overnight stay.

Olivia was fascinated by the movement she saw up on the top of the bookcase. The butterfly opening and closing its wings was intriguing.

Early Saturday morning, I coaxed it on to a bloom and out of the enclosure. There was no sticking around for photos or tearful farewells. Butterfly 1 out and off to Mexico!

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Monarchs, Murder, and Milkweed

This is a bit out of order with the other posts since I’m already at my second chrysalis, and raising three new caterpillars that MomBert insisted that I take from her milkweed which was covered in wasps. Yes, wasps will snack on chubby, slow caterpillars.

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Chrysalis 2: Those are not light reflections. The chrysalis actually has metallic gold dots and a gold line at the top. So pretty.

This summer I purposefully planted four butterfly gardens at points in the front and back yards. I grabbed seed packets marketed for that purpose then mixed in sunflowers, dill and curled parsley for the swallowtails, and added varieties of milkweed and swamp milkweed in hopes of attracting monarchs.

Typically, I see a ton of swallowtail butterflies and find their caterpillars munching away in groups on the dill and parsley.

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Swallowtails: egg to butterfly

However, the few swallowtail caterpillars I found disappeared quickly. I wasn’t sure why, but leaned towards placing blame on the influx of praying mantis. This was their summer! Usually it’s a treat when I find just one adult mantis every few weeks, but this summer babies were popping up everywhere on a daily basis, including my “pet” mantis who grew with the same sunflower for almost two weeks.

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I had a very minimal hope that any monarch caterpillars would show up and survive the possible praying mantis murder plots. The monarch butterflies passed through sampling the coneflowers, and butterfly bushes, but that seemed to be the extent of their visits.

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Understandably, I was amazed when I found the first monarch caterpillar about two weeks into August. I was crouched down weeding by one of the milkweeds and realized that I was eye level with a distinctive pair of “horns.” I made the same noise that I would have coming face to face with a snake or a giant spider…but the happy version.

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That is its skin in the bottom right. The swallowtails eat their sheds for protein, but apparently monarchs are too good for that.

I whipped off the gardening gloves and ran in the house for my camera and max lens. Who has a hundred pictures of the same caterpillar? This girl!

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Sadly our relationship was short lived. I absolve the praying mantis community of any wrong doing because now I blame STINKBUGS!

The very next day, I went out to check on the caterpillar, and found it being shanked by a stinkbug! It turns out that one of the smelliest, most annoying bugs is also aggressive! It was stabbing my poor little ‘pillar, and literally evacuated it’s stinky bowels while I watched. Somebody got squished right after these pictures.

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Murder!

I was sad over a caterpillar. Ridiculous! All I wanted to do was try to help the monarch population and that little guy or gal had been my only candidate.

Striped surprises were to come. A few days later I found almost a dozen caterpillars of varying sizes on my largest swamp milkweed plant. However the number changed from day to day. Had they moved on? Were they eaten? I had no idea, but started investigating what I would need for an indoor habitat.

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I had mixed feelings about bringing some of the caterpillars indoors. I wanted to help, but did not want to be responsible for any deaths. So I started with only three who were all the same little sliver in size. One wasn’t even showing its stripes, and another had only one set of horns. Unfortunately, one of the three did not keep up with the growth of the others and  appeared to have some physical issues, passing away after the other two had grown to almost three inches and had gone into chrysalis. Articles said to expect some fatalities. Hopefully things will go better with the remaining residents. I should have my first butterflies towards the end of next week.

Dad. Dad! DAD! DAD!

I love my obnoxious shrieking goldfinches. They never fail to make me look out the window just to make sure no one is being murdered. At the cost of a potential nap, they got me again.

I looked out to find that Dad Goldfinch was in charge of dinner for two…

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…possibly three babies.

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The babies were nonstop! They kept up a constant chatter all while frantically flapping their wings. The trials of single parenthood.

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We Have Chrysalis!

Thursday night the biggest “cat” left the milkweed and attached himself to the flap on the inside of the zipper of the enclosure. 

Given his size and the amount of days that had passed, I guessed that this was a sign of the next stage. However I really hoped that he wouldn’t get too attached to the zipper. Most reviews of this enclosure said that their caterpillars attached their chrysalis to the top of the cube.

Not my guy though! At 6a.m. Friday, he was hanging in what one article called the “pre-pupal j form.” Still on that damn zipper. 

When I got home around 4:30 he was still there, but even more squished in on himself. Barely an hour later when I checked back, there was a bright green chrysalis! It looks like a carved piece of jade with ridges and lines that create a blend of caterpillar and future butterfly. 

In 9-14 days, if things go well, I should have a butterfly! I hope the other two hurry up as Ohio’s weather is being influenced by Harvey. It was 60 degrees today! That doesn’t seem like butterfly weather. 

In other news, Miles still asserts that he is the baby.