The event was very educational, as well as totally enjoyable, that experience propelled us into researching more about these marvelous insects. Through the garden staff were able to get in touch with a lady who raised butterflies in VA, and now here in NC. Renelle invited us to their home to view her Monarch caterpillars and chrysalides, we were definitely hooked! We left with a 'Hatchery Box', Tom, her husband had built, AND several caterpillars, in addition, leaves from the milk weed plant for the 'cats' to feed on,as the plant is host specific to the Monarch.They eat nothing else, and is the plant the eggs are laid upon.
We had the distinct pleasure of observing the cats eat, eat, eat, that's all they do non stop, till after about 2 weeks ,it's time to go into chrysalis. The cats select a high place, in this case ,the inside top of the hatchery box, they hangout so to speak till it finally attaches to the surface with silk and then hangs down in a 'J' form and begins to wrap itself in silk for the metamorphosis into a beautiful butterfly. The process takes about 12-14 days. they emerge and hang from the empty chrysalis and inflate their wings to expand them and allow time to dry, which can take several hours.At this point they are slow,as not having fed ,usually the next day they begin to feed on nectar.After they have fed and the weather is warm (65+) they may be released into the wild to do their thing!
The whole underlying purpose of this is to help the population ,as natural areas shrink due to development ,as predation also limits their numbers further, ants, birds and other predators take a huge toll, we can play a crucial role in helping our beautiful friends. Out of 100 eggs laid, 5 might make it to adulthood, bring them inside and protected ,well now we have close to 15 times the number reaching maturity.
Please come along with us on our new journey into assisting the marvelous Monarch.
The first phase is of course, having a garden of flowering plants for the butterflies to feed on, and an area of host plants, in this case milkweed, of which there are two types, common, which has a wide elongated oval leaf and swamp or aquatic milk weed which has long narrow leaves either will work
|the hatchery box, or cage|
|Monarch cats feeding on milkweed|
|this cat has selected a branch in the cage to begin his/her 'J'|
|the cat swings to cover itself with silk|
|the finished chrysalis|
|here one has selected the inside roof of the cage|
|12-14 days later they emerge|
|a plastic container with water and hole in lid to accept a small bouquet of flowers for the Monarch to feed on |
Creating the garden and milkweed beds
dug out 2 beds about 8" deep, notice the clay layer
built boxes of 2x12 treated lumber to make 2 4x12foot beds
filled with garden soil and sand
planting 27 milkweed we grew from seed, Renelle gave us
finished and mulched 2' deep
mulching flower bed
growth after 3 weeks or so
6-7 weeks, look like shrubs!
flower bed,assorted plants favored by butterflies, now we just.....wait......
there are numerous web sites for info on creating a butterfly garden and raising them, a helpful book, the Family Butterfly book, i found very informative and has just about all you need to know to start.
If you would like to email me,please do so!