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Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Posted by susanlynne48 OKC7a (My Page) on
Tue, Oct 18, 11 at 6:59

This year, the Monarchs are just not laying eggs on their migration South. In past years, I have gotten plenty of eggs on their trip thru Oklahoma, but they sure aren't doing it this year. I am wondering why. Anyone have any ideas?

Susan


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Susan,
Interesting question. My guess is the individuals you are seeing are the same ones that will make it all the way to their overwintering grounds. That "last brood" delays sexual maturity and doesn't mate until the following spring before starting the return north. So they would not lay eggs on the trip south. Possible? I think so, because in the spring those individuals treking north from the wintering grounds can make it all the way to TX for sure and probably to OK as well before they die. So the reverse is those heading south from those same areas could also make the entire trip, and could not be mated yet. As for why this year if not others...? Maybe the unusual weather patterns this year confused the internal clocks of some of the broods this year? Decreasing photoperiod and the angle of the sun triggers the last brood to delay sexual maturity in this species, same as they trigger other species to produce what will be their last brood of the season. Just summizing though... some is fact, some is just specultion on my part. FWIW
Larry


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Susan I'm having a little bit different situation here about 100 miles east of you.

I haven't had any eggs within the past week or so, but I have seen lots of caterpillars in the garden, though that activity is beginning to decrease. I had lots of Monarchs over the weekend... but today with this cool snap, nothing.

~Laura


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Susan,

I have experienced the same thing here. I've had hundreds of Monarchs stopping in the yard in the past month, nectaring on the milkweed and other plants, but no egg laying of any significance. I have found a few eggs/caterpillars, but very few considering the volume of Monarchs that have moved through here. As of yesterday, there were still over a dozen in the yard. This morning with the cool front, I haven't seen any yet.

As to sexual maturity, I have seen some mating going on. These also could be some of the females I've released from the few I have raised. However, these individuals seem to have gone on to other locations to lay the eggs.

The Monarchs that show up here in early spring are very bedraggled. They are very intent on laying eggs, and many die after they have completed their task.

Oklahoma is an interesting place in that it is a Lep highway for many species including the Monarch.

Sandy


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

It is highly probable to be visited by females that both do and do not lay eggs at the start of and during the migration. Females will have been triggered to not mature and not mate north of a location as the change in photoperiod and sun angle occurs there sooner. They start south and mingle with local females that did mature and did mate. Easily probable since the non-migratory brood females can live up to a couple of months and lay hundreds of eggs during that time.

The scheme of life through trail and error is amazing, and just maybe someday we'll understand it better.

Larry


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Makes sense when you think about it. I have only one chrysalis left to eclose. I released 6 today, 3 male and 3 female.

Sandy


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Too bad things are like that, Susan. I wish that you had mine that I have here. I can't win for losing. I love to raise Monarchs, but when I see small cats here in October, it greatly disturbs me. Yeah, it does. In some ways, it's bad that I got into butterflies because it got me even closer to nature and I've become more aware of what goes on out there, such as eggs being laid here in October when we're likely to have a frost at any time. Our normal first frost date is October 15. We've been fortunate so far and have been frost-free and some days are really nice, like today, for instance, if you can stand all of the foreign lady bugs outside (they're terrible today). Because we've had fairly nice weather here and there, I guess the Monarchs see that as an opportunity to lay more eggs. I wouldn't mind at all if it were the middle of June or July or August when they're laying but geez...I wouldn't even really have noticed that there are small Monarch cats out there, but I had advertised on the exchange forum tropical milkweed cuttings for postage (yes, the people know that it's an annual); when I was outside taking cuttings, I saw a cat and another and another...I thought it was bad enough when I found one on a cutting I brought in a couple weeks ago, but these are even later yet. Too bad you don't have these cats if you're wanting to raise some. I think nature is playing a cruel game on the Monarchs. I thought that this year their numbers already weren't all that great.
Cathy


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Sandy,
You know me, I always anaylize the facts, draw logical conclusions and run with them. ;)

Cathy,
Maybe if you think of it as natures way the losses of livestock at the end of the season in your area won't be as disturbing. Why lepidoptera lay hunreds of times more eggs than is needed to carry on the species... so at least enough survive to imago to mate and in turn do their part. Takes more than one pair of offspring due to something kind of like a law of diminishing returns in perpetuation.

Predation and disease is so high with some species the females have to lay 10's of thousands of eggs for enough to survive. Kodiosoma otero you'd think is an unlikely example because they are quite small, yet the female lays upwards of approximately 80K eggs.

Larry


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

In that case, I'm truly thankful to be a human female, Larry - 80 K eggs?????????? Perish the thought........

It just seemed so strange that I found so few eggs. The grand total is 12 Monarchs, all still in chrysalis. I am assuming that eclosure will be stalled for a few days pending the return of warmer temps. I have 14 Black Swallowtails (please forgive use of common name, Larry, just too tired after playing with Charlotte all day and SHE was definitely on an energy roll...) in 4th instars that will probably overwinter - at least I will get to "start out" with some next year instead of waiting until September next year to see activity! Altho they are melanic forms so I don't know if they'll make it. I have read that this is a seasonal polyphenism (the body temp of the larva is elevated to better adapt to/survive cooler temps) or if it is a genetic issue or both. Maybe Larry can expand on this because I have always been curious about it.

I was kind of awed by the fact that the male and female Monarchs were nectaring together - bare inches apart - and not mating at all. I watched them for some length of time to observe this asexual behavior - I mean, have you EVER known a man - well, I won't get into THAT discussion. I thought maybe he was just being overly picky; her stripes were too large or something. But neither was interested in the other. They were only intent on "milking the milkweed" of as much nectar as possible. And, perfectly good milkweed it is still! The finest I have ever grown, with nary a blemish nor an aphid in sight. To simply ignore such fertile ground, so to speak, is like sitting in the midst of Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory, with my lips glued shut. An abomination.

Well, I hope I get some more seeds out of this non-productive season. I do hope these beauties survive the journey to Mexico and thank you ALL for your input.

Susan


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

I have about 20 chrysalides yet and 7 cats. I am concerned about the possible freeze but - oh well.

~Laura


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Susan,

I had the bright idea one year to collect part of a very small Stephomeria paucifola that was completely covered in Kodiosoma otero eggs - 10's of thousands of them. Only took about a week after they all started to hatch before I took the whole shootin' match back where I harvested them and set them all free. Their larva are just too easy to find to bother, and can be collected by the thousands if you want that many. And the larva can be easily sexed so you can rear them apart for genetic studies of the forms like I did through selective pairings.

Papilio polyxenes... As you summized, the darker larvae are warmer due to more sunlight absorbed, so they are more active, eat and process more to excellerate their morphism and complete the larval stages sooner.

Polyphenism in larva and adults (seasonal, altitudinal or other) is due to genetics first, and the interaction of temperature and photoperiod with those genetics. So normally recessive "genes" are triggered to come forward by those factors to instill the darker larval color. Those genes are inherited, adding to the genetic twist of polyphenism.

With genetic polymorphism all phenotypes are usually present at the same time in the same place regardless of photoperiod or temperature. The different phenotypes are a product of natural selection, and are self sustaning.

Not everything is known yet with certaintity despite many on going labs to understand it all. But hopefully my jibberish of what is known sheds a little light on your question.

"I was kind of awed by the fact that the male and female Monarchs were nectaring together - bare inches apart - and not mating at all.... But neither was interested in the other."
Have you ever known any male one year olds Susan that were hot to trot for a sexy newborn girl? If either was not sexually mature, they would have no interest in each other, simple as that.

Larry


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

So you're saying that the imagoes I observed were too immature for any breeding activity? Oh, but wait, "imago" infers sexual maturity, by definition, so what IS the correct term? Nevertheless, somebody in Southern Oklahoma or North Texas is likely going to get some very well fed, mature, gravid females......I hope.

Yes, and thank you so much for clarifying melanism. I am so glad we have you available here to help us understand many issues that would likely remain either misunderstood, misconstrued, incorrect based on false information, and/or inaccurately interpreted. I trust your knowledge.

Susan


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

I'm chuckling at the image of one year olds.

I just thought the Monarchs' urge to nectar (build up reserves) and get to Mexico was stronger than the urge to mate. It is all just too amazing.

I wonder why someone doesn't attach a tiny transmitter to the wing of a Monarch and track the journey? Surely it could be done. The tags are attached to show which Monarchs arrive in Mexico, and where. But they are supposedly only collected off the dead Monarchs. And, I've never heard of any being recovered on the Journey North in the spring. If I were younger . . .


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Susan,

What I was suggesting is that if the sun angle and photo period was low enough to dictate going south to overwinter, sexual maturity could be delayed. Confusing maybe because not all individuals that start south go all the way to the overwintering grounds, nor do they all delay sexual maturity. But by default that suggests that the farther south the higher the percentage seen would have delayed maturity. Perception of terms varies widely, but... imaginis refers to likeness or appearance in Latin, as in like the adult stage, with no reference to sexual maturity at all. Since sexual maturity is only realized in the adult (imago, imagines) stage in lepidoptera, some folks might assume those terms mean sexual maturity, but that is not what imago refers to in Latin. I base my perception on the root of a term first, and past experience with what those with far greater knowledge than me commonly infers when using them.

Which brings up... what I perceive is from long experience and use, but may not be current as I no longer keep up with changes proven out with new research and studies. So while I have a solid base, I can certainly still be wrong. Add that I try to keep my posts a short as possible (honest), so also do not fully relate everything that could be said, and maybe also assume some things are common enough knowledge that they do not have to be said again. It's always much harder to fully covey with the written word than in conversation. A lot of the information is new to most of the readers here, making it even more challenging to post enough while at the same time not so much that it may confuse them.

Sandy,

So you're saying do they choose cake or sex? With us it depends on the cake and the companion. and how long its been since we had either. With them it's written in their genes, so they don't really have a choice to make. ;)

Back when I ran in the lep circles I often heard of Monarch's that were caught and released while migrating both north and south that were wearing wing tags. Some were reported to a species watch program, some were not. But at least some data gets recorded that would show a small part of where some individuals have traveled and when. But trackable devices... even with the huge inroads made in electronics I seriously doubt any satellite trackable device has been developed that a Monarch could carry. Even if they have or if on the "to do" list of some electronic engineer lepidopterist, the costs involved would be far to prohibitive to be feasable anyway. So I wouldn't look for it any time soon, if at all.

Larry


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Hey guys....I have had the same issue here in NW GA. I had 65 potted Tropical Milkweed plants ready to go for them. They always show up here in August, but this year, they didn't come. They have been here in the yard over the past 10 days or so, but they are ignoring host plants and spending all of their time nectaring. It's been a sad thing to watch all of those Tropical Milkweed plants die away after I grew them from seed and spent the summer tending them so that the Monarch cats would have plenty to eat. Sherry speculated earlier that my situation may have had something to do with the tornadoes that came through my town in April. It was a really wierd year for butterflies here, and not a good wierd. I did have a few Monarchs that came through in late March and laid eggs, which is something that I have never ever seen.I had very little ready then in terms of host food. I did managed to raise and release 34 adults back then. I sure hope that 2012 is a better year for them here.~Angie


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

I live in central Alabama, and a fair chunk of this state was badly affected by April 27th tornadoes. Prior to the that date I had seen many butterflies, especially monarchs and swallowtails. In the weeks following the the tornadoes, there was scarcely a butterfly to be found.

I would sit in a garden filled with plants designed to attract butterflies and very occasionally see skipper and once or twice, a gulf fritillary but no swallowtails.

Then about three weeks ago, I spotted monarchs in the garden, I suppose I had given up on seeing any this year because I had not been looking for them any longer, but they had been there because the only yellow MW plant was stripped of leaves:

Photobucket
and this fellow had almost reached the end of the leaves on this limb:

Photobucket

so I moved him to a better food source then took his picture again:
Photobucket

The migrating monarchs were laying eggs, and I was so pleased to see it.
Photobucket

I too hope that next year will be a better year for the butterflies.
kay


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Susan,

I guess being in SE Tx has it's advantages: even though we suffered through a terrible summer drought, which still isn't over, the monarchs coming thru have been laying eggs like mad! About a week and a half ago, they arrived and have been nectaring at the mexican sunflowers like there is no tomorrow. Finally getting the butterflies that didn't show up in the spring/summer! It sure has been a disappointing year till now. But the current traffic is almost making up for them not being here earlier in the year. I have seen as many as 20 butterflies (monarchs and gulf fritillaries) nectaring at one time and almost always at least 4.

Mechelle


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RE: Monarchs Not Laying Eggs

Mechelle, I am so glad to see you are getting eggs! I hope my newly emerging Monarchs get to your place.

Everything is winding down here - plants are starting to decline and succumb to the colder temps. To every thing there is a season.

I am gearing up for my eldest GDs birthday/Halloween/slumber party. She'll be 10 yo. Baby sister, who is 16.5 mos old, will have a blast, too. Anyone know how to teach a toddler NOT to wash her binky in the cat's water?

Susan


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