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Monarchs Declining!!!

Posted by docmom z5 MI (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 17, 13 at 10:23

I read an article that my husband found that says the number of Monarchs that are overwintering in Mexico this year is down 59% from last year. I posted on the Annuals forum and the Perennials forum and asked for help. I'm hoping to get more people to grow milkweed this year, and to encourage a few to try raising Monarchs. I invited them to check out this forum for information, and I know you will all welcome any who find their way here. I will be so devastated if we lose this amazing creature, so I'm asking for each of us to increase our individual efforts just a little bit more. I'm going right now to sow as many milkweed seeds as I have left, and I'll be dragging my kids and their friends on egg/cat hunting ventures this summer to raise as many as I can this year. Let's see if we can't turn the tides for our fragile friends. Thanks for listening.

Martha


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Monarchs Declining!!!

I promise to step up my efforts on behalf of these little flying jewels.

Mary


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RE: Monarchs Declining!!!

I read about the decline too and it is pretty sad. So much of their native habitat is being destroyed for farmland and housing developments. If only more people would use even a portion of the land they have to provide habitats instead of turf grass lawns. They don't even need you to recreate a natural native prairie in your backyard, they just want food! They will quickly find a little bed of milkweed and flowers in a suburban backyard. They found my first milkweed seedlings not long after planting them out my first year, and I am no where near a "natural area".

My best year I think I raised around 200. I was limited only by my lack of time to care for more, and a dwindling milkweed supply. There were plenty of eggs that went uncollected.

Last year was not as good with the drought. I also was not as actively seeking out eggs as previous years. This year I will try to ramp it up again.

I often wonder though if by raising so many from one area at a time if I am decreasing their genetic diversity.... like inbreeding in some way...if that makes sense. If one monarch lays 100 eggs in my yard and normally only 1 would make it to adulthood. If I collect many of those eggs and raise 80 to adulthood, aren't they then more likely to breed with a "sibling". Perhaps with the vast insect population these things don't matter as much though:)

I'll still be raising monarchs this year. I think I will start some extra containers of milkweed too and see if I can't get some other people to plant them in their yards. Heck, I can even give them away on freecycle if it comes to it. Thanks for the reminder docmom.


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This is so sad! Where is a good place to buy milk week seeds? I am in NC (central ish). Is www.livemonarch.com a good site?

This post was edited by carolinaflowerlover on Sun, Mar 17, 13 at 16:29


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RE: Monarchs Declining!!!

I just googled "milkweed seed" and there are many retail seed companies that sell milkweed seed. There are also many folk here on gardenweb who collect and trade seed. I have seed I could share with 5 or 10 people. I've already planted enough new seeds for one year. I'll be able to collect fresh seeds this fall. Others could check the Exchange Forum to see who else has seed available. If anyone wants Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed), you could email me.

Martha


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Thx! I am nervous about using online sites to order seeds. I will email you!


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For anyone who wants more info, here is the article.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mexico Monarchs


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Hi all,

I just finished writing an article about the declining monarch population. I really think we're the key to turning things around with the monarch population because Monsanto isn't going to stop making genetically modified seeds anytime soon, and we can't do anything to control extreme weather.

What we CAN do is diversify our milkweed supply so that it can support more monarchs over the season...let me know if you agree or if you think the answer lies elsewhere, Tony

Here is a link that might be useful: Bringing Monarchs Back From The Brink


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RE: Monarchs Declining!!!

Monarchs that were introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800s are still a viable population (without a large-scale migration or wintering grounds), so North America will likely have some for a long time to come.

The acreage of uncultivated, or wild, milkweed in the U.S. compared to the cultivated milkweed acreage may give an idea of how effective increased garden plantings can be.


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I'll certainly do what I can...With lots of Oscar and other milkweed along c their fave nectar sources, too.
Monarchs depend upon flowers such as Liatris and Asters to fuel their flight during migration...
They also love Cosmos and Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower.
People in warm places such as South Florida and parts of Texas will likely see year round residents; I know I did when I lived in Pompano Beach, Fl.
Feed them, please!! There is a giant milkweed that grows down there that they love, as well as their cousins, the Queen butterfly and the Tropic Queen.
Also, native White Vine grows in Coastal Florida and is a fave of all the Danaus spp.


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I actually had a good year last year, by my standards, having raised two broods of monarchs. My milkweed is returning from the roots, so I'll nurture it and hope to get two broods this year as well.
As long as they continue to tear up fields with milkweed in it for homes, businesses, farms, etc., we'll need to keep planting it.
Which reminds me, I need to add some to my meadow areas - the more the better!

Sherry


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Is there an organazion that tracks the Populations that dont migrate? I often wonder what the numbers would be say in florida and extreme south Louisiana and Texas.


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You make an interesting point Larry, but I think that would be a hard statistic to come by considering much of the milkweed lost is inside farm fields. I can't imagine there are/were people foraging through farm fields counting milkweed plants. Aren't those numbers just "guesstimates?"

With the combination of gardening/raising you can exponentially increase the monarch survival rate.

I raised 53 from our garden last September...I accidentally "smooshed" one so my survival rate was 98%. How many acres would it take to "naturally" to produce 53 monarch butterflies?

I think gardeners have the ability to make a huge impact on the monarch population...and they care. (Unlike seed companies and farmers trying to make a living. )

Tony

"The acreage of uncultivated, or wild, milkweed in the U.S. compared to the cultivated milkweed acreage may give an idea of how effective increased garden plantings can be."


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There are milkweed surveys galore: http://www.monarchwatch.org/survey/index.html is merely the first google "milkweed survey" search result of dozens. People are actually going out and counting plants. Estimates, at least for counties and regions, will be made.


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Many of us would be glad to share milkweed seeds or plants ! So much can be done to insure to future of these beautiful creatures and it is so very simple. Milkweed despite their awful name are gorgeous plants, bloom all summer and attract many butterflies.


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Hi! I bought extra milkweed this year, but have not spotted a single Monarch yet. I'm seriously thinking of driving up toward Bandera sometime, as the main migration tends to be a bit more toward the west. BTW, I'm sure this probably hasn't been mentioned, but there's more than just the factors mentioned already. It's fracking, also. In large areas of Texas where gas and oil fracking is greatest now, the land is being torn up for that, there is increased development of land for housing, and the businesses that go along with it. It also uses huge amounts of water..which makes wells go dry and water supplies more scarce than ever. This map gives you some idea of what butterflies of all types might face when they try to find the flowers and host plants they need in the drought this year. htt

Here is a link that might be useful: Drought Monitor


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I believe I managed to screw up that url. Here's another try. The Antelope Horns is just barely coming up in the wild...with pretty much no significant rainfall to speak of, it's late. Only less than half of the Texas Milkweed in the yard have any growth started...I think I may have lost some. I have many seedlings started, however. The Mexican Milkweed...most are coming back.

Here is a link that might be useful: Drought Monitor


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Just one more try!

Here is a link that might be useful: Drought Monitor


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I'm so praying for a good rain year for Texas and Oklahoma!

Sherry


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Thanks, Sherry! I, for one, appreciate your prayers. We need the rain badly. I was hoeing weeds at the acreage today. The soil is really good--sandy loam. But the moisture is low right now. I haven't seen any milkweed emerging yet. Need to check with past posts and see when I've observed it in the past. I think Journey North keeps posts from each year, so I'll check with them. I read that Monarchs have begun laying eggs in S Texas, so it won't be long. Our weather is going to be cold the next 9 or 10 days. Spring is having a hard time here in Oklahoma.


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Glad to see so many people wanting to help the Monarchs! I planted a bunch of milkweed last summer and saved a bunch more milkweed seeds to plant this summer. I hope to raise quite a few Monarchs this year too, want to do what I can.


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Thanks, Sherry! We could use a very big rain system to come through the drought areas in the center of the U.S. every couple of weeks until things get better. Ha! The newspaper today described the wildflower displays now as "mediocre".I haven't seen any caterpillars other than Gulf Frittillary here this year. I see the PVS butterflies that seem to be hunting for host plants every time I drive around lately, but last Sunday when I checked a good patch of Swanflower in a nearby town for eggs or cats and strangely enough I couldn't find them...that's usually their favorite host plant.


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Okay, after I said the other day I hadn't seen one, here it is...on my milkweed!


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The speaker at our chapter of a native plant organization used the same graph as this article in discussing the declining population of Monarchs. The speaker focused partly on what we can try to do about it as far as growing or obtaining "safe" milkweed. The chapter based in a nearby town is working on that. It must be awfully frustrating! There's extremely limited nursery sources available for safe milkweed in this area of Texas for those who can't or won't grow their own milkweed. Even one local native plant nursery refused to stop using systemic pesticides on the milkweed they grow. Other nurseries either don't know or aren't honest about what may or may not have been used on milkweed they sell. If systemic pesticides are used, it's very difficult to know for sure how long you'd have to wait to be sure a plant is safe. My little seedlings this year are very tiny. I have enough other plants to use if the Monarchs lay eggs this spring, but so far, I haven't found any eggs or caterpillars.

Here is a link that might be useful: Why Monarch Butterlfies are Disappearing This Year


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Hi Larry, I just looked at the link you sent. This is how they are measuring milkweed density:

"milkweed density (plants per acre of roadside)"

What I don't understand is how they know how much milkweed was 'inside' the fields, and how much we've lost since the emergence of GMO's.

You would think that researchers need permission to access farm fields. Furthermore, most farmers probably wouldn't allow them access if they knew what it was for.

Tony


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RE: Monarchs Declining!!!

Hey y'all. I went on a school trip wih my son to D.C. to the museum of natural history. Inside they had the imax theatre and they showed a film about monarch butterflies. And how they are declining rapidly. So my son and his friends asked me (I'm the cool mom...lol) to help them so..... I have been looking for plants and seeds but no luck. Also I live in an apt so my idea was to get either raised flower beds or hanging baskets for them. Will that work or no?


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Cghpnd,
Hanging baskets can provide wonderful nectar plants such as small zinnias, lantana, verbena, and many others. You might be able to start some milkweed seedlings for the Monarchs to lay eggs on, but they are perennial and have a deep tap root, so wouldn't grow as well in a container. But, if you have another source for milkweed leaves, you could get eggs laid on some seedlings and possibly try raising some caterpillars indoors to get them through the dangerous stages of eating and growing. Check out the FAQ and see if maybe those kids would be interested in helping raise some cats. It's a great learning experience, and even my teenagers get a kick out of watching the new butterflies emerge from their chrysalis. If you need help or advise, the folk here are always willing to help.

Martha


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The Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, does fairly well in pots. Of course, that's one reason the growers that sell to nurseries like them!


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Thanks for the help. I ordered some milkweed cuttlings from livemonarch.com but it will be about 4 more weeks before I get them =/. I was thinking about planting some in the woods about 20 feet from my building just to see what would happen...as well as my own patio. Does the container have to have drainage holes? I shall get a deep container.


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There must be good drainage. A drainage hole is necessary to allow excess water to run off. You can always use a saucer under the pot, but never allow milkweed to sit in water.


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Ok I got a few huge deep flower pots with drainage holes to start with. While I'm waiting on the milkweed plants to arrive I have started some nectar plants. Thanks for all the help and advice!


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Keep us posted on your progress:) I have availability to seed if you need it.


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Cghpnd,
I'm so excited and inspired by you and the guys. It gives me hope that we can make a difference if everyone does just a little bit. It sounds like you aren't a seasoned gardener. Can I recommend that you go to a gardening center and purchase some planting medium for your containers that is designed specifically for growing plants in containers? That will go a long way towards your plants thriving. The texture of the container medium allows for ideal retention of moisture without causing the roots to rot from too much moisture. As the plants grow, you'll also need to be careful not to overwater. Let the surface of the soil dry until you need to dig down an inch or so to find dampness before you add water. Most milkweeds need full sun to thrive. Do you have a sunny exposure in your building?

OK, I'll stop there. But, do check back here if you have any questions. Take pictures with you phone, if you can, and have one of the kids show you how to post pictures here (I'd need help, anyway) so we can enjoy your progress. If you do that, start a new thread so more folk will check in and provide encouragement. Good luck!

Martha


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What does that mean Leafhead? Your able to seed? Im confused sorry = /

Docmom, whats a medium? I did get some potting soil from HD, Miracle grow.. They had several types and I picked one that said for potting. Is that the same thing?

On my patio the sun beams very hard, just to the window then it stops which is good for my houseplants ;)

Hey now! I know how to operate a smart phone, Ive only had 1 every year (I break them alot) LOL

I just got the brackets up for the hanging plants and my plant stand arrives in a few days for the rest.. So excited!


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I have seed left over from last year, also some left from my foray to my fave garden ctr. I have some A. tuberosa and syriaca.
Looking for A. incarnata Ice Ballet if you know of any around...


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Cghpnd,
Sorry, medium refers to the potting soil or growing medium. Hope that makes sense. I use the term medium because most of the stuff we buy to grow our plants in doesn't actually contain any soil. Soil refers more to the inorganic or mineral portion of garden dirt.

Martha


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Oh ok, now I understand. So what the heck do they sell us lol.

Leafhead I do not know of any of that... never heard of it. But then again I'm super new to this.


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Hey I am new to this forum, I have started butterfly weed seeds (Asclepias tuberosa) this year and so far knock on wood they are doing great, well half of them are I had to start more because some died... but I am trying to give monarchs more food :-)


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It's exciting to see all the newbies posting and growing milkweed! Yay!


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Butterfly monk, you are so right. I'm optimistic that we can have a real impact on the Monarch survival, if we can keep up the enthusiasm. So far, it's very exciting!

Martha


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Yes, and each one of us can "convert" non-BF gardeners and educate neighbors and friends/family. It's as easy as sharing plants and knowledge.
After all, what's not to love about Monarch Butterflies?


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Hi guys, I love Monarchs too and am trying to do my part. My property is a certified Monarch Waystation since 2010 and I keep expanding the milkweed patches on my property (they don't all grow well though!). I released 210 Monarchs last year, the most so far, and tagged 25 for Monarchwatch.

I collected a bunch of seed the past 2 falls, and am sharing milkweed seeds for postage with other GWers. Last fall I scattered many pods worth of Asclepias syriaca seeds all along the upper edge of a large field behind a commercial property I take care of, hoping to introduce the species in that location. I've decided to start scattering seed regularly on walks and hikes - common milkweed in the dry areas, Asclepias incarnata along the wet edges.

I went to visit my folks in south Florida a couple weeks ago - my father is elderly and ailing. They live where there is a resident Monarch population so I brought some A curassavica seeds for my mom and we planted 2 patches of milkweed. They've sprouted and I hope they do well and she remembers to water them.


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Congrats on being such a Monarch advocate. I too am trying to do my part by expanding my Milkweed collection and urging others to do the same.
I am currently working at an assisted living facility where they have a butterfly garden. I plan on expanding and improving it by adding more host plants for various butterflies, esp. Monarchs.
I would be willing to trade for some incarnata seed. What would you be interested in?


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Leafhead, I have a small amount of garden-collected A. incarnata and a larger packet of seed from Everwilde. I'd be happy to share some and other seeds, as I have a large exchange list. Do you have seed for Pussytoes, Nettles, or Everlasting? I don't grow these, but wish to expand my selection of host plants.

Feel free to send me an email.


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I have Pussytoes and Everlasting on order. I can send some as soon as they come in.
I also have nettles and access to seedlings if you're interested.
What is the hardiness zone for Asclepias speciosa?


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I would love some of those seeds - do you have a trade list?

A. speciosa is supposedly pretty hardy, zone 3 or 4. I have a couple plants started from seed and this will be their 4th year I think, and they are still pretty small and haven't flowered yet. I expect they might this year? Slow growing, like the other tuberous rooted perennial Asclepias species I've grown. YMMV.


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I don't really have a trade list. I am new to GW. I just happen to have some Antennaria and Anaphalis seed to share/trade.
I also have a little Nettle to trade for some A. speciosa. It started coming up today, so I'll be able to mail it in a few days or so. I also sowed some False Nettle so I'll have that available in a couple weeks or so.


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Greetings,

Like cghpnd, I was also in DC recently and saw the same IMAX on the monarch migration and am now inspired to start my own garden for the monarchs (it was a good movie!!). I am brand new to this, so I'd love your feedback on what I have planned to do. I ordered several tropical and swamp milkweed seedlings from directgardening.com, thinking that I was a little late to start from seed. I'm going to plant the swamp milkweed in the wet part of the yard (partial sun) and the tropical in a full sun spot. My soil is rich with lots of worms. Around these plants, I hope to put in plants that are relatively deer and rabbit resistant - Joe Pye weed, lupine, black eyed susans, and bee balm. From my reading, these are good for butterflies and not as likely to get eaten right way by deer and rabbits, of which we have lots. I'm concerned that I'm starting late and that my seedlings won't grow and that the monarchs won't come. If and when they come, my plan is to just totally leave them alone.

Thoughts? Suggestions for other plants that the monarchs will like that deer/rabbits won't eat??

Thanks!


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The Monarchs will come for the MW of any age.
Swamp MW is fast growing, esp c lots of water and good soil.
You'll probably need to get a hold of some mature plant material to feed the later instars.
You've got A good collection of nectar for both BFs and Hummers, as well as a few diurnal moths.
Try some Liatris; I don't know how deer resistant, but they are like little gas stations on the long migration South. They can be bought as seed, corms or as potted plants.
The rabbits seemed to leave my Tithonias alone, too, and these are excellent sources of nectar, too. These come from fast growing seed.


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I have seeds I would love to share with you, and help get your garden going. It may take a year or so for the butterflies to find your garden, but don't let that discourage you. Nature is slow and patient. I'd recommend growing some annuals this year to provide nectar and give your new perennials some time to get established. Zinnias are great nectar flowers. I'd also suggest annual and perennial asters. The liatris is a great recommendation also. If I ever find the box of seeds I misplaced, I could donate a complete butterfly garden in one fell swoop, but I've been searching for months. I'll just have to collect seeds this year diligently. I'll go check my supplies and send you an e-mail with my address if you'd like a care package.

Martha


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Update on my progress. I finally got the tropical milkweed. I have no luck what so ever with the A.curassavica.

I've seen butterflies,but not the monarch. = /

I got 6 of the swampweed, they are huge. Expensive too but hey its worth it to see my son andhis friend's happy about saving the monarch.


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It sounds like your plants are great. The Monarch females will lay eggs on all milkweed plants from big to small, even seedlings. They will likely find your plants this year, and over the years, especially if you add more plants, you will probably notice more activity each year.

One day last August, I followed a couple of females around the "milkweed field" about a mile away, collecting eggs as they laid. They primarily chose the teeniest tiniest almost invisible milkweed plants buried down in the middle of the grass. I believe this was a predator avoidance strategy. Monarch larvae have many predators, and it is possible that they would be less likely to be found on these hidden plants.


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Well thanks, Ill take pics of them tomorrow. I managed to buy ONE plant that was already growing so I put it in the basket for now to get someone's attention out there..lol

I am planning on planting a few plants in the woods once they get done cleaning it up so that way they will have a better chance of finding it. This is not a cheap project that's for sure!

How do you collect eggs? I really did not want to have to collect and raise them inside,but I have been reading even more about the predators and them wasp, they are mean! And I want these guys to multiply ya know? Right now I just have my patio but its fairly large.....it will work! I am really trying to find the A.curassavica plants at this point.. Seems like I am missing something without it.


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I usually collect eggs as soon as they hatch. I find a viable MW top and, with a toothpick, I carefully coax a dozen or so tiny cats onto the toothpick, one at a time, and onto the milkweed top I have chosen. Then, having soaked some floral foam in water, I cut the top, with the cats, and stick the bottom end into the foam. Then I take the whole unit and place under a bell jar. As the cats eat, grow and molt, I replace the milkweed.
I generally can handle up to 12 at a time. At their mid 5th instar, I release the cats onto my milkweed patch. Eventually, enough of them survive to become beautiful Monarchs and start the process all over again.


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Cghpnd,
Your boys will love to raise the caterpillars. It's so fun to watch them munch on the leaves and get amazingly fat. I keep them in a clear Tupperware container and tape brown paper bag cut-outs on the inside of the top. Then, when they form their chrysalis, I tape them somewhere we can see them and watch for them to turn dark. That indicates they are about to eclose, or hatch into a beautiful butterfly. Once they are out, it takes several hours for their wings to completely extend and dry off. So, the boys can watch them very closely for quite some time. They could even take one to school to share in their science class. Finally, you release them to fly away and do their thing! And it really does increase their chances of survival. But, you need to make sure you have a reliable source of fresh milkweed to feed them daily. You can pick leaves from a field or along the road and take them home and keep them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag to stay fresh.

Good luck!

Martha


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  • Posted by cghpnd 7 / Virginia (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 21, 13 at 21:31

I've noticed some wasp outside. Not since I knocked down their nest though! It wasn't that big. It was right outside my dining room Window.
Do bumble bees bother the cats? How do I know which wasp is the nasty one or are they all the same?

The plants are growing wonderfully. I have 2 swamp milkweed inside that I haven't put outside yet n they are growing faster. Is that strange?

I think I will bring the eggs inside asap if they ever lay them here. Can I just bring them in and let them be or do I have to get an enclosure of some type? I've been seeing the white butterflies what are they called?

Sorry so random lol.


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Bumble bees are harmless... they're just looking for a little nectar too.

It's estimated around 5-10% of monarchs will survive out in the wild. If you raise them indoors, you can boost that survival percentage to over 95%.

This is a good beginner's cage. It's easy to clean, portable, and you can easily view them inside. you can even set the lid down after they pupate on it...just barely. Hope this helps, Tony

Here is a link that might be useful: Caterpillar Cage


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Cghpnd,
You'll need to keep your eggs and cats in some container so they don't crawl away. It's quite amazing how fast they can move and how well they can hide themselves. Also, early on it can be hard to keep the humidity high enough for the tiny cats if you have them inside and have air conditioning. I keep my eggs and smallest cats in smallish plastic containers so I don't lose them, and they stay more moist with the damp milkweed leaves inside. As long as you open the top once a day or so, they have plenty of air.

Martha


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One of the Pipevine Swallowtail cats I had managed to escape a while ago. All the other PVST cats are pupated now. But I wonder if there's another chrysallis around the house. You know, I was looking at the wild milkweeds along the road today. Too bad there's no Monarchs or Queens around, the milkweeds are looking good! So far, the only Queen I've seen this year was a dead one. I'm afraid the Queens might also be in decline.


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I really hope not, as they are so lovely...


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Cghpnd;
I suggest you read through some old posts on Gardenweb. Put "monarch" or any of the milkweed names into the search box and look at all the info.

First, we always try to collect eggs as soon as they are laid. There are lots of parasitoid flies and wasps that will lay their eggs both in the eggs and in or on the caterpillar. Some of these wasps are smaller than fruit flies (google chaclid wasp). Nectar actually attracts some of these parasitoids. Adult social wasps (yellow jackets, paper wasps, etc.) will eat caterpillars or bring them back to the nest for their young. Bees do not. Even ants, ladybugs, and other small insects will eat eggs and small caterpillars. This is why we look for momma monarch as she lays her eggs and collect them as soon as possible.

For milkweeds, as you are realizing, there are lots of different types and each has advantages and disadvantages. For your situation I would have recommended tropical milkweed (A. curassavica). It grows very fast and after being chomped down, regenerates really well. It takes heat really well and will tolerate some dryness. Things that swamp milkweed does not. We grow several different types in a local butterfly house. We grow the tropical in small pots and rotate them in and out.

The other issue is that the other milkweeds have very long tap roots. S, they require deep pots. We grow the others directly in the ground. Unfortunately, because they do not regenerate very well, and we lose some every year to caterpillar defoliation.

For a hanging basket, one thing you could look into is Honeyvine (Cynanchum leave). It is in the milkweed family and is considered a weed but is actually a really nice plant. It is a vine and has lovely white flowers that smell really good. It grows quickly and monarchs love it. It is quite a valuable monarch plant in the wild. You probably will not find it at any garden center but people will give you seeds. I think I might try planting some in a hanging basket this year.

Good luck,
Elisabeth


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RE: Monarchs Declining!!!

  • Posted by cghpnd 7 / Virginia (My Page) on
    Fri, May 17, 13 at 15:43

You were right about not being able to find the honeyvine . Some garden centers didn't even know what it was. :/. Thanks for the advice everyone. I really appreciate it.


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honeyvine has been reported by many to be invasive.

I think potting them is a great idea. Also, cut off the seed pods or bind them so the seed pod doesn't explode. That should keep them from popping up all over the place.

georgia vines has plants and seeds

Tony

Here is a link that might be useful: honeyvine plants and seeds


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