We need some Monarch or Giant Swallowtail eggs/cats, anyone?

KSOhioSeptember 16, 2012

We were trying to order some from a few online places but most are out, and one requires $45 in shipping on top of the costs. We have the pro mesh enclosures, and lots of Tropical milkweed, and trying to get some white sapote and hoptree for GS, and would like to help introduce and help our dwindling local population of both.

Does anyone here have a few eggs (or cats) of either of these species we could obtain if we covered costs? The other options seem much too expensive for just a few.

Please get back to us ASAP if anyone can help or has any advice. Thanks!

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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

When it comes to monarchs and Ohio, there is no such thing as a "local" population. Also, this is the middle of September. Monarchs that are in Ohio should be flying south now, not emerging from their eggs. I know tropical milkweed in Ohio enabled another generation to be raised here last year but if the cold comes back when it should, that extra generation of butterflies will end up dead in Ohio.

As for GSTs, get your hostplants established first. The GSTs will find you and more than likely leave you more eggs than you can handle, which is why you need to get the hostplants cranking. Also, the main reason GST populations are dwinding in Ohio is lack of hostplants. Buying GSTs from Florida is not going to change that. If you want to help the population, get your friends, neighbors, and fellow nature lovers to plant hoptrees or prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum).

There is a nursery about 40 minutes from me that used to sell hoptrees. They quit because the GSTs kept stripping the trees (small,potted ones).

If you plant it, they will come.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 5:38PM
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Yes, we have tried all of this for 2 years.
We have a ton of rue growing, but were looking to get some hoptree (we can get it as the native nursury a half hour drive from us has them) and possibly some white sapote (there have been studies where GS cats raised on this did much better than on virtually any other host). We have had tropical milkweed growing an several containers, some over 3 feet tall, and have for the last 2 years. this should attract Monarch's for egg laying more than any other variety of milkweed. We spotted one Monarch this year, a month ago, who just came to stop by the liatris ligulistylis. (We have every nectar plant they would love too, including sweet joe pye, wild bergamot (native genotype), new england aster (also native genotype), asclepias tuberosa, and some non-natives (the tropical milkweed, zinnias, lantana, you name it).
When I said local population, I meant local summer and transient population. The population that has always been here has dwindled greatly. I don't know the exact dates for the migration, but we generally have still seen Monarchs here in October. 2-3 weeks from egg to mature butterfly, seems it might still be OK time-wise for them to be able to migrate, (unless I'm wrong?
The reason we waited until September is that we wanted to give natives a chance to come and lay first, and decided that if none do by Sep. we would try to find someone who had some eggs, or order some.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 8:44PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I totally forgot that you had mentioned before that you had rue. Shoot me an email with your address and I'll go out tomorrow to see what my "inventory" looks like. I'm not sure if I still have eggs. If not, I'll send a few cats and maybe they will switch.

White sapote does not survive Ohio winters so I don't see it being a big help to GSTs.

As for monarchs, if you want some eggs just to raise some monarchs, I have no problem with that. But I think you're dreaming if you think importing monarch eggs, raising them at your house, and releasing them to migrate to Mexico is going to result in more monarchs in your area next year.

I've read that one monarch can lay 1100 eggs. So just one female dumping a lot of eggs in your neighborhood can make the monarch population in your neighborhood jump dramatically. Your job is to provide her what she wants.

Just re-read your post. Why do you think tropical milkweed is their favorite? In my yard, I'd say it is #4 in the pecking order. And when they do lay eggs on the tropical, the eggs are normally on the plants that are under 6". I suggest you get some swamp and common going next year. And in late July/early August, start some more from seed to provide the very young plants the monarchs love to lay eggs on. I'll find zero eggs on my big plants while there are 5 or 6 eggs on a 2" plant. Makes no sense but that is what they do.

You wrote that you have every nectar plant that monarchs would love. Year after year, I've found that they love common milkweed flowers more than anything else I've ever grown (including everything you listed except I've never had bergamot). Get yourself some common milkweed.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:49PM
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The White Sapote idea was just for giving the cats an edge by raising them on that as there have been some experiments that showed their growth and health were much better on that than any other host plant tried, for whatever reason.(That was if we could get it as a container plant, but seemingly they have sparse foliage when small, so we would probably end up with hoptree, which is native here).
I'm not sure raising a migratory group of Monarchs would result in more of a returning population here, but it would help the population as a whole even in a small way.(and who knows what genetic tendencies get passed on and in what way Monarchs geolocate so precisely. A "food location" somehow might embed itself in them genetically, just as Mexico might for "migration location", and somehow get passed on to offspring). And we are so equipped to raise them, its a shame for it to go to no use, again.
I have never heard this about common milkweed being a preferred host, or nectar plant before! This is really interesting. Every study I reviewed consistantly puts tropical as the absolute most preferred, due to the levels of toxins in it that are higher than the others. Also due to the lower latex levels, it seems to raise healthier cats. The extra toxins supposedly also help the cats survive various parasites and other issues that they would not if fed on other milkweeds. They probably lay on the newer leaves because they would be easier for the cats to eat, but that's another thing I've never heard of... I've always heard they prefer to lay on the undersides of the topmost leaves. We do have it growing at various stages though, some new shoots coming up are about 4-6 inches now.
Are you in Ohio too? Just noticed... we actually live within driving distance of the Oak Openings preserve, (where they are trying to restore the Karner Blue), we also got some blue lupine from them and have been trying to grow that and dotted horsemint (talk about a long shot, but hey you have to try!). They were raised and reintroduced by the zoo not far from us.
We do actually have lots of common milkweek seeds, but never thought any use to plant them, since we always planned to use tropical for raising them due to the claimed health benefits and attractiveness for egglaying. But since you say this, we'll definitely plant some next year. Probably swamp as well. You are the first person I have ever heard say they prefer common milkweed over tropical and others. Possibly this occurs in Ohio for some reason? ort of like why hummingbirds go for the native cardinal flower here over imported natives that are claimed to be favorited.
I went to email you, but can't find your email address, but you can reach me at k.s.franck at gmail.com

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 11:49PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Importing monarch eggs to help the population only works if the eggs would not have been raised otherwise. Plus, I have an entomologist buddy who is a monarch expert and he is not a big fan of the mail order monarch eggs since he is of the opinion that those monarchs will be too confused to make the Mexico trip. My guess is if the eggs come from the Florida population, he is probably right.

The studies on tropical milkweed that I've read show it is preferred if the butterfly laying the eggs is infected with OE. If no OE, then tropical is just another milkweed.

I did NOT say that common milkweed is the preferred host. In Ohio, I'd give that nod to swamp milkweed. As for common milkweed flowers being a monarch's favorite nectar source, I've written that many times on this site. I don't know that I've ever seen a monarch use my tropical milkweed flowers. I have a bunch in bloom right now but the monarchs I'm releasing are feeding on my mistflowers.

I'm familiar with Oak Openings. Went there numerous times when I was a kid. Back then, I did not appreciate what a unique and important place it is. I preferred Secor Park because the nature station had fun things to do.

My email address is not shown on Garden Web. You go to a member's profile page. If the member allows it, you click on "Send me an email." A form appears, you write your email, and that message is sent to the member's email on file. The receiver will get the sender's email address and can respond to that address directly.

I will send you an email later today.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 2:41AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I've never heard of white sapote, so I looked it up, and it says it can survive temps of 22 degrees briefly without being killed. It's rare for temps to go that low here, and cold tender plants seem to do better when planted close to a lot of trees. If I can get one, I might try it - 'looks interesting, and it might do here.


    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 10:34AM
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KC, sent you an email just now, thanks!

I found some discussion here on the same topic of host plant preference I'll link below. I believe one study showed equal preference of tropical vs. swamp, with a much higher preference of tropical from infected butterflies, who would not lay otherwise. So factoring that in, the *overall atractiveness* of tropical would be higher because of that. In the thread I linked, and on numerous individual butterfly diaries, peopel claim tropical has a clear edge, which would go along with the study as well. Its possible that in the north and in Ohio, the preference is always towards natives (which would make sense). Or maybe there has been a sudden drop in OE, which would change the balance as well? It's all definitely interesting.

Sherry, White Sapote is basically a tropical tree that is uaually grown for its fruit. It can be grown in the south sucessfully, but up north, only as a container and greenhouse tree, I assume.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/butterfly/msg0723520313061.html

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 12:16PM
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terrene(5b MA)

More than the usual number of the Monarchs came to the northeast this year, perhaps because of the drought in parts of their central breeding grounds. It was nice to have a little longer season, with lots of Monarchs.

The last eggs were laid in the wild sometime around Sept. 1st/2nd (I check my garden regularly, as well as a couple neighborhood patches, and a milkweed field about 1 mile away.) It is too late now for a Monarch to complete its growth cycle outdoors, nights get too cool.

In my garden Monarchs most commonly use Asclepias syriaca, A. incarnata, and A. curassavica, about equally, although they also loved to lay eggs on the small A. variegata plants this year. They seem to prefer young or smaller plants, and fresh tender growth tips.

Having some common milkweed in the yard is a good idea - the leaves make great cat food for the big cats, and the flowers have an amazing fragrance too. But it is not a well-behaved garden plant and likes to spread around and pop up here and there. Best left for a naturalized or wilder area.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 12:38PM
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Hi KSOhio;
I am in the Dayton, Ohio area. KC and I have had lots of conversations about butterflies. I also conduct a multitude of surveys down here.

The literature states that swamp milkweed (A. incarnata) is the preference over three other native Asclepias species (Oviposition preference and larval performance of North American monarch butterflies on four Asclepias species Deborah T. Ladner & Sonia Altizer). In Florida A. curassavica is preferred over A. incarnata. (Malcolm SB & Brower LP (1986) Selective oviposition by monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus L.) in a mixed stand of
Asclepias curassavica L. and A. incarnata).

We find in practice that monarchs prefer A. incarnata to A. curassavica. It's just that currasavica is quick growing and can be managed easier at times because it is an annual. As to its preventing OE. Nope, we have fed it exclusively to Monarchs and gotten lots of OE. It might help the insect if a very low number of spores were consumed but I would not rely on it to prevent OE.

Purchasing or importing Monarchs is a really bad idea. There are lots of reputable butterfly farms but some aren't. I volunteer at Cox Arboretum's butterfly house. We often get caterpillars from folks who have to go on vacation and "donate" their monarch caterpillar to us. The last batch was heavily infected with OE. Even so, your purchasing and raising Monarchs is not likely to help the population across the country or even in NW Ohio. The major issues for our monarchs in Ohio are as follows, 1) the condition and weather of the Mexican hibernation areas 2) the condition and weather of the first stopping over point along the gulf coast (the drought last year in Texas caused some of the lowest numbers yet) 3) the availability of nectar plants on migration (round-up ready crops have done a number on all butterflies as well as the suburbanization of farm lands).

Be patient, get seed from local sources if possible and start plants this early spring and you will have all you need.

In terms of the Giant Swallowtail. I would be interested in the citation for the white sapote. I have not found an article listing preferences for the GS. However, here is something to think about. You mentioned the hummingbird prefering local plants. This is very true of butterflies, with perhaps the exception of the Monarch (which makes sense since it migrates great distances). Sonia Altizer's study cites this;
"Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus) sampled along a latitudinal gradient showed greater oviposition preference and larval performance on tree species that were relatively more abundant at their collection sites (Bossart & Scriber, 1995)."

On this board we have noted that a butterfly growing in Miss Sherry's backyard may prefer something different to mine. So, I would definately think that GS's here would prefer local plants.

Can you tell me why you think the GS is "dwindling"? If anything we have seen an increase. The GS is not a hardy overwintering butterfly. It can take cold temps but not well. So, with the change in our weather patterns, we are actually seeing more of them (see The Role of Environmental Factors In the Northeastern Range Expansion of Papilio cresephontes. Susan D. Finkbeiner, 2011). So, if you plant the right plants, I suspect you will attract them.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 7:40PM
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Now I can't seem to find the article that outlines the study. From memory, 3 host plants were used. Wild lime, "Citrus" and White Sapote.
Several factors were measured in the cats, such as head capsule size, rate of growth, final sizes, mortality rate and so on. White Sapote raised the healthiest group of GST cats, with the lowest mortality rate. It should be in Google somewhere but I can't seem to find it. Hoptree wasn't in the group tested, so its still possible that it could have "beaten" out Sapote in their study.
We should be able to get some local genotype swamp milkweed and try that for next season, along with tropical.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 10:18PM
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Don't forget prickly ash, Zanthoxylum americanum. I have found lots of eggs on prickly ash and Miss Sherry says they prefer it. However, I refuse to work with it, having been torn open by its thorns. Although it might make a good deer barrier. I do know you will also get tigers with Ptelea. My dd found an egg on Ptelea we assumed to be a giant. I didn't look to closely at the first and second instar and guess what! Third instar and its a tiger. Kind of a nice suprise as it is not as easy to collect tiger eggs as it is giants.

Let us know if you have trouble finding swamp milkweed.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 7:18AM
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You folks sound like you might have the knowledge to help me with these GST caterpillars I found. I live west of Houston, TX and have 3 of the caterpillars in a cage, one pretty large and 2 small. It's November 10th and I'm wondering if I should just let them play out their natural life cycle or refrigerate the chrysalides when they form and bring them out in the spring. We have warm winters here but it will get down in the 30's and I would hate to have them not live long enough to reproduce. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
ps I raise Monarchs but these are my first GST cats, found on what I think is rue. I also found my second luna moth caterpillar!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 6:25PM
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Also, I just put a couple of sticks in my cage, because I know they don't make a J like the Monarchs. Is there a better way?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 6:28PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

You can put sticks in a cage for them, but it's more likely that they'll attach themselves to the side of the cage, Marilyn Ann - they especially like to pupate on the frame bars. They'll do better if you keep them outside in a protected place, like a mesh cage. I've never put chrysalides in the refrigerator, but I think I remember somebody saying that doesn't work too well? I know that keeping them in a warm house, even if they're in an unheated room with the door shut, doesn't work too well - some will emerge in the winter.

Elisabeth, actually, I've never had any prickly ash, only hercules club/Zanthoxylum clava-herculis, or whatever the scientific name is, and I only got one lone egg on it. So I dug it up and tossed it. It's the Ptelea trifoliata that they LOVE to lay eggs on, much more so than citrus trees or even rue, although they like rue and use it pretty regularly.

Congrats on that luna moth caterpillar!


    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 5:02PM
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Hi, someone was kind enough to send up some GS cats, and all of them have done well. They have totally different rates of growth, some were pupating while others were still small. We actually still have one left who is almost to pupating stage, but we are fearing it has stopped thriving on the rue, since we lost all of the leaves on our wafer ash, and this particular cat seemed to prefer the wafer ash. I'm not so confident about this last remaining cat, but we were thinking of asking if anyone had any wafer ash leaves still good to send us a few, just to see if the cat will eat. Can't hurt, I suppose. The wafer ash trees here seem to have all dropped leaves. (At least ours has).
I'm hoping we can revive this last little guy somehow with a few fresh wafer ash leaves if we can locate anyone with some. :(

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 6:46PM
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Miss Sherry, I must have read your post way wrong. Wouldn't be the first time. I think I am doing too many things at once! Like right now I am editing a butterfly brochure for someone, drinking tea, watching "Once Upon a Time", and reading our posts. Good thing I am not driving too!

I think they do prefer wafer ash but I have found a lot of eggs on prickly ash. Haven't tried them side by side. Like I said, I stay away from prickly ash. Nasty stuff.

KC, I think it is all done down here too. I was out collecting seed from some in the area and I didn't see any leaves. I will ask around to see if anyone has any leaves. You could try getting some citrus leaves. Often asian shops have fresh kafir lime leaves. Can't guarantee if they have pesticides but its worth a shot.

It is sad when that last little cat wont do anything. I have had some like that.

MaryAnne, I would definitely overwinter the chrysalis outside. Freezing temps wont hurt it. I believe they overwinter up here on good years and our temps get much colder. Refrigerators are either too dry or too wet. We have several posts on how to overwinter. You might find them if you do a search.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 8:56PM
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Thanks again, Sherry and Elizabeth. And we are going to look for that Ptelea trifoliata ASAP!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 9:57PM
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Just so you know, it does start readily from seed but it needs a double dormancy. Most of ours have taken two years but I am going to try faking it this year.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 9:17PM
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