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Three of the Four Fat Caterpillars  - November 14, 2015 Garland Texas

On November 14, 2015, I was surprised to find no less than four Monarch caterpillars on milkweed in my yard.  I rescued them and then a few days later they all turned into green jewel-like pupas.  Now this is the week they are to eclose.  Ideally they would at least a 100 miles south of here, but such is not their fate. They are lucky to be here at all.  I was out gathering milkweed seed when I discovered them and brought them in.  A few hours later we had one of our several monsoons this fall.  They would not have survived that, and if not that, then certainly not the two frosts we've had since then.

If you are driving somewhere to south Texas and would be willing to take responsibility for taking them and releasing them, that would be great.  Write to me within the next 48 hours at eebemma@yahoo.com .

It is documented that Monarchs can fly up to 265 miles in one day.  Although 60+ is ideal for them, if the day is sunny, they can also fly in 50+ degree F temperatures. They have a chance to make it to the Mexican highlands.   Wednesday, December 2, according to weather predictions, would be the ideal day this week for their release here in Garland, Texas.

The "Loner" - This one attached to the corner of the mesh basket.  It was the first one to graduate to a pupa--about Nov 17, 2015

(Photos taken November 30, 2015)

"Three Peas in a Pod" - The other three caterpillars attached their pupas to the dish towel, draped across the opening of the laundry basket.

I’ve done all I know to prepare them for a successful journey.  I still wish I had some tags so they could be tracked, but I don’t.  It seems all the places I've contacted are out of them for the season.

Since most of my flowers are gone, I’ve prepared a small bouquet from the scant few left in my yard and I also made a feeding station for them according to a sugar water concoction I got from the Internet.  The recipe follows.

I made the feeding station from a small plastic glass filled with cotton balls and the sugar water.  I cut a hole in the center of a paper plate, covered it with photos of flowers, slid it over the glass and taped it in place.

 

RECIPE FOR NECTAR

Master Gardener Bobbie Truell from Texas A&M University recommends this simple alternative food source.

  • 4 parts water
  • 1 part granulated sugar

1. Boil the solution for several minutes until sugar is dissolved, and then let cool. Serve the solution in a shallow container with an absorbent material such as paper towels saturated with the sugar solution.

2. Bright yellow and orange kitchen scouring pads may be placed in the solution to attract butterflies and give them a resting place while they drink.

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WHY BOTHER?  Isn't all this "interfering" with Mother Nature?

Pollinators are responsible for at least 1/3 of all the food we consume and one half of the fats and oils we eat.  In addition to that, we use their fibers for our clothing. Populations of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus) have dropped an astonishing 96.5 percent over the past few decades, from an estimated 1 billion in the mid-1990s to just 35 million in early 2014. Conservation groups have been worrying about this decline for several years
 
It is no surprise that communities are waking up to the importance of pollinators and are taking serious steps to protect them and increase the existence of their habitats.  The I-35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota is known as the pollinator highway.  A program is now in place and supported by several federal agencies as well as local communities along the way to plant 100 miles to either side of this roadway with pollinator-friendly plants including the milkweed in particular.

Yes, indeed rescuing Monarchs is a deviation from a natural process.  However, what I am doing and what hundreds of people like me are doing is a temporary intervention to correct and restore a natural process that has already been seriously tampered with and altered--primarily through the overuse of herbicides which have practically eliminated  milkweed all along the migration corridors of the Monarch.  

The milkweed is the only plant that Monarchs and 300 other species of butterflies (called "the milkweed butterflies") will deposit their eggs on.  Due to the indiscriminate use of both pesticides and herbicides, the Monarch population as well as the population of many of our other pollinators is dangerously threatened.  It is estimated that less than 5% of Monarchs are able to complete their lifecycle.  Most die as eggs or caterpillars.  Monarchs that are rescued have a 95% probability of survival to adulthood.

What can you do as an urban resident?

Plant a few milkweed in your yard this spring.

 

 

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