I have received a couple of emails recently wondering why their caterpillars were not doing well or dying.
One of the experts,Dr. Karen Oberhauser, in a recent Monarch program says that only 2% of Monarchs make it from the egg to butterfly stage. She mainly talks about insects and parasitoids, but there are also diseases and even the milkweed liquid can kill the small caterpillars.
If you do want to increase the odds of the Monarchs, you can raise them yourself. It’s a fun process and fairly easy to do.
This recent video is by Dr. Karen Oberhauser, one of the leaders in Monarch butterfly research. It’s a bit technical at times, but she does explain topics so that most people can understand. Please FF to the 8 minute mark.
St. Louis has been blessed over the last few weeks with lots of Monarchs flying around our gardens. There are plenty of eggs and caterpillars to keep the next generation going and with milkweed also comes aphids.
If you look at the recent picture, you will see not only a beautiful Monarch butterfly, but also lots of aphids. This happens every year, but this year the aphid population has waited to explode. Normally, they come out in June and are gone by July. This year they waited until July and August.
The normal response of most gardeners is to rush to their local big box store and get the most deadly pesticide they can find. They then spray their milkweed over and over until every aphid is dead.
If you love butterflies, this is exactly the WRONG thing to do. Any pesticide that will kill aphids will also kill Monarchs in the egg and caterpillar stage. I’ve recently heard of people spraying their milkweed with Insecticidal Soap. While this will certainly kill the aphids, it will also kill any Monarch caterpillars who are trying to make it into the butterfly stage.
You could try and use a high power water hose to wash them off, but that is only a very short term answer and they will quickly find their way back to your plants.
The response I have is to do nothing at all. Aphids, while not aesthetically pleasing are not hurting the plants or the caterpillars. Aphids are also food for goldfinch and hummingbirds.
When you do find yourself getting upset over aphids in the garden, take a deep breath and try to relax – this is all part of Mother Nature’s plan.
In St. Louis, we finally have confirmation of the first monarch butterflies and hummingbirds. Margy Terpstra has a great blog which shows these recent sightings.
If you have some milkweed which you have started inside, now would be the time to put some out. I would probably leave it in the pot for a week or two since we still may have some freezing weather. For laying eggs, Monarchs don’t care whether it’s in the pot or in the ground. Group it together to make it easier for them to find.
Also start putting out your hummingbird feeder since they are also back in St. Louis. Margy has a great picture of them nectaring on Bluebells. It’s a great early season native flower.
Here’s your chance to get up close and personal with Monarch butterflies.
Tom Terrific is hosting a tagging party where you will learn how to tag a Monarch and send it off on it’s trip to Mexico.
This party is mainly for kids, but adults are welcome also.
Date – Sunday – October 1st
Time – 1 – 4 p.m.
Place: 9016 Robyn Rd. 63126
You can park at the school.
Come around to the back yard.
Below is some more information on tagging the Monarchs.
Here is some information I received about an upcoming webinar of how the Monarch uses a couple of compasses in it’s migration to Mexico.
Our next webinar in the 2017 Monarch Conservation Series is coming soon!
Date/Time: Thursday, August 31, 2:00-3:00pm Eastern Daylight Time.
Webinar Title: There and Back Again: the compasses monarchs use to get to and return from Mexico
Description: How do monarch butterflies orient southwards during the fall migration in order to reach the overwintering sites in Mexico? How do monarchs re-orient during the spring remigration in order to return northwards? This webinar will provide an overview of how monarchs use various sensory-based orientation mechanisms for directionality. In particular, the webinar focuses on describing how monarchs employ two types of compasses that they can use to help guide them during migration, namely a time-compensated sun compass and an inclination-based magnetic compass. In addition to reviewing our basic knowledge of monarch navigation, this webinar will also describe how the use of these compasses by monarchs is potentially now under threat due to contemporary environmental stressors, such as climate change and sensory noise pollution.
Presenter: Dr. Patrick Anthony Guerra; Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati.
Please share this announcement and registration information as appropriate:
Please join us at 2PM EST on Thursday August 31st by using the following link at the time of the event: http://nctc.fws.gov/broadcasts/
and click on the “NCTC on LiveStream” image then “Monarch Butterfly Series”.
US Fish and Wildlife Service
National Conservation Training Center
698 Conservation Way
Shepherdstown, WV 25443
The topic of disinfecting Monarch eggs was brought up recently in one of the blogs I follow. This is the process of dipping the eggs in a bleach and water solution for a short period of time to get rid of the OE parasite which some Monarchs have. To test for this disease you would need a microscope.
I asked Monarch Watch about this and here is their answer below. The short answer is that they don’t do this normally.
As you can see from the video, they are raising what appears to be thousands of monarch caterpillars. They are probably bleaching the eggs to avoid an OE outbreak. We only bleach eggs if we know that there is a potential for an OE outbreak from a particular monarch female and we need the eggs. All of our monarch adults are tested for OE prior to egg-laying, so we never have outbreaks.
You may find that the instructions found here are sufficient for raising a small number of monarchs: https://monarchjointventure.org/images/uploads/documents/Monarch_Rearing_Instructions.pdf
You may also want to consider participating in citizen science projects such as these:
The Monarch Health Project through the University of Georgia: http://www.monarchparasites.org/
Or, the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project if you are observing wild populations: http://mlmp.org/default.aspx
Below is more information on OE.