How late in season for laying eggs?

molanic(Zone 5 IL)August 19, 2013

This spring and summer was pretty bad for butterflies around here. There were a couple of monarchs back in June that probably laid eggs, but I wasn't able to put the time in to raise any at that time. Then we had pretty much mostly just cabbage whites until this past week. Now there are some monarchs, tiger swallowtails, and black swallowtails. I even had a couple of red-spotted purples which is a first for me. The tigers and the monarchs appear to be courting now. I would like to try and raise at least something this year. I feel bad not doing the monarchs earlier, but it just wasn't doable.

Is it too late for egg laying here in northern Illinois? I can't remember how late the monarchs laid eggs in past years. I was trying to figure out what time frame I should be using to look for eggs for various species. Some like the tiger swallowtail and red-spotted purple I have never raised before but now have some host plants for and would like to try.

In searching my books and online I can find reference to flight periods, number of broods per season, what form they may overwinter as, and length of time from egg to adult. I'm not sure though how that all changes based on location. How do you know what species will lay eggs in YOUR area late in the season, or if they will even overwinter there at all. Is there some online reference to this, or am I missing something? Just wondering if I am wasting my time checking for eggs for some of these species now.

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This is a complicated question, and I am new at this so I will totally defer to the more senior members of the forum if they have more wisdom. However, I found a website that might be helpful. It relates only to the Monarch butterflies. It gives you the peak migration in your area, if you know the latitude. The latest release date would be two weeks after that peak. So if you can figure on the longest possible interval from egg to emergence, since the weather will be cool, you should be able to figure it out. It would probably help to raise them in a warmer environment, such as indoors, especially at night.

I don't know about any of the other species, but black swallowtails can overwinter as chrysalides, so I would think they would be more flexible. HTH.

Here is a link that might be useful: Migration dates

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 9:30PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Thanks Liz, that link is very helpful.

I have overwintered a few black swallowtails before, so I know they at least overwinter here. I wish I had written down the dates I found the eggs and when they pupated. I know I have released monarchs in late August and early September before, but again I didn't record the dates. In the past I had just kept a running tally of each species raised that year, but now I know I should probably jot down some of the dates for the earliest and latest ones at least.

My books are all very general about this considering the audience is the whole US or beyond. They will say something like flight period May-September and overwinters as a pupa. But there is no info as far as where a particular species will overwinter and survive. I'm thinking if I am at the very northernmost point on the map for a butterflies range that they will not overwinter here. Maybe they only come this far north to breed and then their offspring fly south again to overwinter?? I just thought maybe there was some resource with that info available.

I would love to see what new species I can raise since I now have some decent sized wafer ash, wild black cherry, and false nettles started. So far I have done monarchs, black swallowtails, american ladies, clouded sulphurs, and hummingbird moths. The tigers are so abundant now I'm itching to get some eggs. A giant swallowtail would be like my holy grail!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 6:59PM
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Tony G(5a)

Hi molanic, I'm in Minneapolis and have released monarchs in early October the past 4 years so you still have time.

I would suggest bringing them inside during any cool spells so their metamorphic process doesn't slow down. I just got eggs today in Minneapolis and I usually get eggs until the first week of September. Hope this helps, Tony

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 10:14PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Thanks Tony. I will have to keep checking for monarch eggs for at least another few weeks. The swamp milkweed looks pretty ratty, but the a. syriaca, a. curassavica, and a. tuberosa still look good so hopefully I will get lucky.

I have always raised them indoors anyways because I don't have a very good setup outside for it. One year I tried outside with a big pop-up enclosure and potted tropical milkweed and it didn't go well. It was too windy for it, hard to clean, and several pupated on the zipper so I couldn't get it open very easily. A few also fell while pupating due to poor location and didn't make it. So now I just do cuttings indoors which works pretty well for me.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 4:27PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Last year, I released 220 Monarchs. The last 2 eggs were collected in a nearby field (sunnier exposure than my yard) on September 2nd.

This year, I haven't seen a single Monarch in the area. :(

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 5:45PM
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That is really sad, terrene.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 6:24PM
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It's terrible...
Two years ago I had 9 Monarchs to one Liatris. Now I have two lonely Monarchs around six plants in full bloom. Sad, and scary too.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 7:40PM
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tnu07mom(z8 SC)

In SC, we will definitely have BST's overwinter here. Usually the eggs are collected in late August or September. I had a few overwinter last year I (I also learned my attic is not the place for them unless you want butterflies in March!). This year, I have no clue how that will play out since our weather has been so strange and we are just now starting to see very many adults. I seven right now that are in chrysalis and five more on a plant. Most of them should start traveling today or tomorrow. Last year, I had my first monarchs ever and they were not until mid-late September. I ended up releasing them just as the monarchs were migrating through the area last fall.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 7:51AM
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