Friday, September 24, 2010

Monarch butterflies

Click on the photo to see the empty chrysalis next to the hind feet

I don't have much luck with monarchs. Not because I don't have the right plants, and not because adult females don't lay eggs on those plants, but because damn great nonnative bufo toads (Bufo marinus) sit under them and feast on the growing caterpillars. So, when I found a solitary large caterpillar on a milkweed, with a toad waiting underneath, I took action.


I've never raised a butterfly in captivity before, and it turned out to be a successful endeavor. The caterpillar turned into a chrysalis two days later and about nine days after that, a beautiful, and good sized, monarch emerged. After being released, it spent a few hours flexing its wings before finally disappearing, and, ideally, getting ready to produce another generation.

The newly released monarch gathering strength
Nearly ready to fly away

10 comments:

rohrerbot said...

That is wonderful....sometimes you have to step in and help the little guys out:)

Susan said...

Congrats on your baby Monarch. Hopefully, you'll have many more. Are those Bufo toads non-native? I don't think we have any of them up here.

I emailed Meems to see about your suggestion about a Fla. garden blogger get-together.

Terra Mirabilis said...

@rohrerbot: Thanks! And I enjoyed your blog very much, too.

@Susan: I'll certainly keep trying. :)
These are the imported cane toads, native to Central America (I think) introduced to control rats in the sugar cane fields. They are responsible for poisoning many pet dogs, and reducing native populations of amphibians. (Any Aussie reading this will also know about cane toads.)
Let me know what Meems says; I know she's been thinking about having such a gathering.

NanaK said...

How cool is that? Seeing the butterfly fruit of your labor makes it all worthwhile. BTW - Thanks for the seeds!

Terra Mirabilis said...

Hey, Nana. Yes, it was most gratifying. I shall be on the look out for more big caterpillars, now. Glad you got the seeds; they germinate very readily.

--Penny

Meems said...

Oh, how fun. I haven't raised any in captivity either but I've always wanted to. Too bad about the bufo frogs ~~ they are awful creatures.

What a beautiful experience raising that monarch to adulthood.
meems

Ever Green Tree said...

Beautiful shots! We get to see a lot many Monarch's in the garden here during the monsoon season!

Floridagirl said...

Good save, Penny! I would've feared that I would do something wrong and the butterfly would die. You did good! It is absolutely beautiful!

ChrisC said...

I hate those Bufos!!!! We have them here.A pitchfork works wonders on them!I'm wondering if that is why all our monarch cats disappeared....?

Terra Mirabilis said...

@Meems. Thanks. It really wasn't difficult: a fresh supply of milkweed leaves, a largish glass container with aluminum foil, punched with holes, on top. Sadly, the bufos are a fact of life...

@Ever Green. Thanks for dropping by; please come back! I didn't know that monarchs were found in India. Are they native or were they introduced? Are they the same species (Danaus plexippus)? And where in India are you?

@FG: Thanks, but if I hadn't done something, it would have been a bufo snack, so it stood just as good a chance with me!

@Chris: Yikes! No way could I do that! I'm way too squeamish, plus I do try not to kill anything (as much as possible). My bufos sit right under the plants, especially when there are lots of little caterpillars. I don't know what else eats them; aren't they poisonous to birds?