Tag Archives: Butterfly

My First Generartion of Monarch Butterflies

I bought two butterfly cages, used the first one for the first seven caterpillars and the second one for the next collection of ten caterpillars. I put potted milkweed in the cages to feed them. The caterpillar takes 9 to 14 days from the egg to pupate.

When the first caterpillar in Cage #1 circled around the edge of the pot, I thought it tried to escape. I put it back on the plant several times. I realized it was looking for a spot to pupate. I cut a piece of thin bamboo to connect from the soil to the top. It took no time for the little guy to find the bamboo to crawl up. It stayed in one spot but kept moving around for a day. Finally, it settled at a spot close to the wire that shapes the cage.

Is the mesh too soft, and it didn’t feel safe? I found a piece of heavier mesh to make a cage top. The rest of the caterpillars seems to like it and settled quicker to pupate.

Just before it pupates, the caterpillar spins a silk mat from which it hangs upside down by its last pair of prolegs. As it sheds its skin for the last time, the caterpillar stabs a stem into the silk mat to hang.

The second cage had about ten caterpillars. I didn’t have enough milkweed to feed them. It takes about two 4-inch pots of milkweed to feed one caterpillar. All my young plants combined would feed two. This is my first year raising butterflies and didn’t want to leave the caterpillars to die. After checking on the options, I bought one 1-gallon and three 4-inch pots of milkweed available at a nearby nursery. I transplanted them into one pot to feed the little guys.

The first week of the caterpillars was like a one-year-old baby who just learned to walk and disappeared constantly. By the second week, they get fat with darker colors. During the last few days before pupating, they cling on to the plant, munching ferociously, which reminded me of the children’s book, The Hungry Caterpillar.

I went to visit my granddaughters on June 16. The second day after I arrived, the first butterfly emerged. My husband sent me a photo. It was exciting to see the first butterfly made its way through the journey. After arriving home on June 22, I witnessed the rest of the chrysalides turned into beautiful butterflies.

The first flights of the monarch. They landed on somewhere for a few seconds before taking off.

I now understand the reason only 2% of the caterpillars made it to become butterflies. They can perish at any stage during the four stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly.

Eggs and Caterpillar: Can disappear or die.

Chrysalis: Four chrysalides seemed to be too small for the wings to grow inside and died.

Adult Butterfly: One butterfly almost didn’t make it because after it emerged, the wings couldn’t extend all the way when they opened. It continued to practice and crawled up and up the cage for 24 hours instead of a few hours. It finally flew away.

I examined my photos, it seemed I raised more male than female butterflies. Male butterfly has black dots on the hind wings whereas the female has thicker black veins. The following photos: the first one is a female and the second one is a male.

As I was writing this article on my front porch, there were two butterflies fluttering up and down and around visiting the flowers in the front yard.

Are you my butterflies coming back to see me?

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Butterfly Garden Story

Post 1: The Monarch Caterpillars Are Here

Post 2: The Monarch Journey in My Garden

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The Monarch Journey in My Garden

Photo taken on June 5, 2021

There have been excitements every day since I discovered the monarch caterpillars nine days ago. It felt like I just adopted new pets and learned how to care for them. Checking on the caterpillars and collecting babies became my new morning routine.

Collecting babies with the popsicle stick

As soon as I discovered the baby creatures, I went around the fourteen milkweed plants to find caterpillars and eggs, stuck the popsicle sticks next to the plants and marked the number of babies or eggs on each plant.

The next day after the discovery, one bigger caterpillar, hung crisscross on a leaf, died. The biggest one about 1/2” long was missing. I could only think of the birds, lizards, or other insects just had a delightful meal.

My research showed only 2% of the caterpillars in the wild made it into butterflies. The 98% vanished by the harsh nature. One way to save some caterpillars is to raise them in the butterfly cages. One website recommended separating the bigger caterpillars from the babies because the bigger ones may eat the babies.

There are different types and sizes of butterfly cages. Sellers ask for different prices on the same sizes of the cages. It seems to be reasonable to have two cages, so I ordered two of the 15”x15”x36” white cages on Amazon and would like to have them as soon as possible. My husband has Prime Membership for the next-day delivery, so I asked him to order them for me.

Guess what? It was Memorial Day weekend. The delivery was on the following Tuesday, June 2, four days after the order. I couldn’t leave the babies out in the open for the birds or lizards to snap them. In fact, I saw two babies dropped on the soil crawling away.

It was Friday afternoon. I rushed to the fabric section in Walmart and got one yard of white mash. Then I transplanted one milkweed from the ground to the pot, collected all the baby caterpillars, put them in the potted plant and wrapped the pot with the white mash. I got the idea from watching the YouTube on how to make an easy home-made butterfly cage.

After that, I watched how the bigger and smaller caterpillars settled in the wrapped plant. To my horror, I saw one bigger caterpillar with a baby in its mouth! Good thing one website forewarned me. I went to Walmart and got another yard of white mash, repeated the transplanting and transferring to separate the bigger and littler ones. I wished to say to the bigger guy, “Be nice to your baby sister!”

It was a lot of work that day, but I slept better knowing the caterpillars were safe.

The cages arrived on June 2, and I wasted no time to move the two pots of milkweed into the new homes. The pots looked small in the roomy cages. It would have been okay, except the caterpillars were continually crawling. One website calls them escapers. The next day, several of them escaped from the plants and dropped to the bottoms of the cages.

I remembered the butterfly kit with the caterpillars in a sealed container. To contain those wigglers, I inserted several letter-size transparencies into the soil around the edge of the 6” pot to form a shield. Yet there was another problem again. The shield was like a tube, and several wigglers crawled up. They could crawl out and fall again.

Oh, no! More work! I put the crawlers into a container with a lid, transplanted the milkweed into a 5-gallon pot and built a large shield around it.

The pot for the bigger caterpillars
The shielded pot in a butterfly cage

There is no guarantee to protect all the caterpillars. There are seven bigger ones in one cage and about ten babies in another cage. It takes 10 to 14 days for the caterpillars to become full grown, about 2 3/8” long. A monarch caterpillar sheds its skin five times during the larval stage. Similar to the way a snake sheds its skin when its body has outgrown the skin. When the caterpillar is full grown, it sheds its skin one last time to form the chrysalis, or cocoon, and go into the pupa stage of metamorphosis.

Seven bigger caterpillars
The plant with about ten baby caterpillars

I learned a lot about how to care for the monarch caterpillars. In the meantime, I’ll grow more Narrowleaf milkweed and will be more prepared next summer when the monarch butterflies return. I had one Showy milkweed. The babies munched on that plant the first few days have lighter colors and grow slower. The rest of the caterpillars were eggs on the Narrowleaf milkweed and ate only from Narrowleaf milkweed. They are healthier and have brighter colors. I put the cut Showy milkweed leaves in the pots, but the caterpillars don’t munch on them. So, I’ll stick with growing only Narrowleaf milkweed.

Please stay tuned for the monarch journey in my garden.

Previous Post:

The Monarch Caterpillars Are Here

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The Monarch Caterpillars are Here

I have overlooked my garden for many weeks. This afternoon, I did some gardening. In the late spring last year, I renewed the interest to save as many Monarch butterflies as possible by planting some Milkweed plants from seeds. By the time the seeds germinated, it was autumn, and the planted didn’t grow too much without the sun.

Early spring this year a few plants came back. I thought the rest of them died. Just when I wanted to plant something else in the same spots, the plants showed signs of growth. Two of them are about eight inches tall, and the rest of them are from two to six inches tall.

There is a monarch butterfly flying around and occasionally I saw it resting on the milkweed plants. I was happy that the monarch recognized the plants but expected to see some caterpillars in the summer when the plants get taller.

I planted the Showy milkweed and the Narrowleaf milkweed last year. When the plants grew back this year, they all have narrow leaves. In the middle of the flower bed, there is a plant with broad leaves. I don’t remember planting anything with broad leaves. This afternoon I wanted to transplant the yellow Lantanas that the butterflies like, close to the milkweed. I dug up this broad leaf plant and transplanted it into another spot. As I pressed to the soil around the plant, I spotted two caterpillars.

Oh, no, this is a Showy milkweed with broad leaves. I planted many but only this one grew. I quickly moved the plant back to the original position, but it went through a shock and the leaves were drooping. The caterpillars are doing fine.

I proceeded to check on seven or eight plants, and six of them have tiny caterpillars on them! Oh wow! That’s incredible! There are about a dozen caterpillars.

I couldn’t contain my excitement. I have been waiting for this moment for an entire year. But wait a minute, how can these little guys survive? The plants won’t sustain them through the second or third week and they will die.

The following images 1 to 4 are Narrow Leaf milkweed, and image 5 is the only Showy milkweed.

I quickly did my research, found a “Save the Monarch” website, and asked them how to raise the monarch. After further research, I came across some alternative food for the monarch because of the shortage of milkweed. One common food used to feed the caterpillar is butternut squash. But vegetable doesn’t have the nutrients of the milkweed. I will do some more research this evening on alternative food.

Monarch Caterpillars Butternut Squash – Butterfly Fun Facts

My fun journey of raising the monarch butterflies has just begun!

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Lens Artists Photo Challenge #119 – My Hideaway

Ann-Christine invited us to explore the theme of Hideaway and would like to see our interpretation.


There is no time like this when we all need a hideaway. A place in which we could find safety, calmness, beauty, feel the contentment of being, and sustain the patience of riding out the storms.

My garden is my hideaway. Nature and the little creatures speak to me and I find comfort in their messages. The branches bend when the wind blow. The roots reach deep to draw water and nutrients. The flowers dance in the breeze. Some plants go dormant in the winter. Some creatures migrate south in the cold season. They don’t fight against nature but make the best of what nature offers and maintain their balance at their present state.

Music is my great hideout.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge #119 – My Hideaway

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #110 – Creativity in the Time of Covid

This week, Tina’s theme for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #110 is “Creativity in the Time of Covid.”

Early in May this year, I spotted the Monarch feeding on the Salvia flowers. It renewed my interest to create a butterfly garden. My hummingbirds feed on the Salvia which attracts many bees. For all these reasons, I bought several Salvia plants and planted them in different spots in my garden.

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Milkweed is the host plants for butterflies to lay eggs. The bright color Tropical milkweed was my favorite, but it grows year-round in California, and interferes with Monarch migration and reproduction.

Several kinds of milkweed are California native plants. They die in the winter to encourage Monarch for migration. They come back in spring with fresh growth. After days of research and learned how to grow milkweed. I bought the Narrow Leaf and Showy milkweed.

Most milkweed seeds in North America need a cold moist stratification to encourage spring germination. Cold moist stratification is a technique used to simulate the real-world conditions a seed would receive outdoors after the frozen winter gives way to a warm, wet spring.

I wet a paper towel to make it damp but not dripping with water. Then I spread the Milkweed seeds out on the damp paper towel and fold it to fit inside the Ziploc bag, then placed it in the refrigeration for 30 days before planting.

The seeds were planted on July 10th and most of them grew into two or three inches in three weeks. The roots grew through the peat pods yet the seedlings were young. I added the extension of the pods with plastic cups filled with top soil and punched wholes at the bottoms for drainage.

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The seedlings continued to do well. I transplanted the five or six inches ones to the soil. It has been hot with 97o F to 99o F the last days. It will be 102o F this Wednesday. I used the chicken wire to create a Cylinda shape around the young plants and put a semi-transparent cover on top with opening for water, air and light, but protects them from the direct heat.

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One major area for most of the milkweed is exposed to the sun all day and the soil dries up fast. A cooler temperature would help the plants to establish. I transplanted some into bigger flower pots while waiting for a cooler weather.

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There are other butterflies in my garden such as this Swallowtail which will benefit from the milkweed.

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This has been a fun and learning creation of my butterfly garden during the pandemic. My hope is by summer next year, there’ll be caterpillars on the milkweed and butterflies fluttering in my garden.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #110 – Creativity in the Time of Covid

 

Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to hearing your comment. Please click the above link to view other posts or join this challenge.

 

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #102: Quiet Moments

This week, Patti is challenging us to capture “A Quiet Moment.”  Maybe it’s a walk early in the morning or the time you sit down with a book and a cup of coffee.  Include shots captured at home or in your neighborhood, or from a trip to a faraway place months or years ago.

Yesterday was the first time we got together with Hubby’s siblings. They live in a quiet place with neighbors who are acres away. We practiced the social distancing, wearing masks, sitting several feet apart. Hubby and I brought our own food, water, and utensils for lunch. It was surreal that we finally see each other after a time that seems like an eternity. We didn’t have a large family party; we only had a precious quiet lunch with a few members.

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A pair of mourning doves fixed up the old nest on June 5, the female dove came back to lay eggs on June 7. Today, June 22, the dove took a break from her incubation. I stole the chance to take a photo of the nest. One squab was hatched. It’s amazed of how tiny the eggs are. According to my observation during the previous years, the dove would nurture the squabs until they are mature. By the time the squabs are ready to fly, they are as big as the adult doves.

The squabs are quietly growing.

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After I spotted a Monarch and a Swallowtail butterflies in my garden, I looked into cultivating a butterfly garden.

The Monarchs face many risks that are resulting in declining populations in both the eastern and western parts of their North American range. The largest effects come from the loss of habitat for breeding, migrating, and overwintering. In addition, pesticides that are used to control insects and weeds have harmful unintended consequences for monarchs, a changing climate may make some habitat less suitable and forcing changes in migratory patterns, and monarchs face many risks from natural enemies, such as predators, parasitoids, and diseases.

The loss of milkweed in agricultural fields is a major cause of decline in monarchs, though there are other factors contributing to the decline in milkweed availability.

If you’re interested, you can download a Milkweeds: A Conservation Practitioner’s Guide https://www.xerces.org/publications/guidelines/milkweeds-conservation-practitioners-guide

I wanted to create a butterfly garden from seeds. I ordered the California native Narrow leave and Showy milkweed seeds.

The seeds are in quiet germination.

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I wait with anticipation to see more butterflies in my garden.

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #102: Quiet Moments

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #97- Pastimes

Thank you, Sue (Mac’s Girl), for hosting the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week. COVID19 gives us more time to stay home and spend more time on our hobbies and pastimes.

I have many passionate hobbies, enough to occupy three times of my lifetime. For this post, I only focus on two activities I’m engaged in daily, which are gardening and enjoying the amazing creatures in my garden.

 

There are four fruit trees and two grape vines in my garden. I have a different story about the plum trees this year. In the winter of 2018-2019, there were seven weeks of rain that soaked the plum trees to produce gorgeous blooms. The warm sun came to keep the clovers strong and pretty to invite the bees. The bees found their way to pollinate the plum blossoms which yielded 1,100 plum. Well, the rain, the clovers, the sun, and the bees didn’t coordinate this year, and I could see about 10% of the plums growing compared to that of last year.

 

I appreciate the year-round flowering of the hibiscus and roses. Their graciousness, loyalty, and steadfast to bloom were the inspiration of my poetry.

 

I started watching and feeding the birds in 2014. My regular visitors are the Mourning Doves, House Finches, and sparrows. The Scrub Jay and Pin-tailed Whydah paid occasional visits. I used to put the bird seeds on several spots of the top of the retaining wall closed to the slope where they searched for food. Unfortunately, the stray cats crept under the bushes, darted upward to snatch the Mourning Doves, then dashed away. It made me so mad. I used the chicken wire to fence off the area, but the cats outsmarted me. My new spot for the bird seeds is now on the patio ground.

 

I would like to have flocks of butterflies, but only a few visited. The Mourning Cloak butterflies came a few times. The Monarch came, but there were only two. I planted the Butterfly bush, but the growth is too slow to attract butterflies. Last week, a Monarch delighted me to visit the Salvia plant. The bees and the hummingbirds love the Salvia plant also. Two days ago, I bought four of the 2-gallon pots Salvia and planted them strategically to feed the hummingbirds and attract bees to pollinate the plum blossoms next year.

3 Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa butterfly

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #97- Pastimes

 

 

Colleen’s Poetry Challenge – Spring Dance

It’s the first of the month! Happy April! Poets choose their own words!

 

 

I visited the nursery this morning to get new flowers. I brought a list with plants that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

The bees have been working hard to pollinate the plum and orange blossoms. The apple trees just budded. I want to have different flowers to attract the bees to stay around. Besides the fruit tree blossoms, I’ll plant sunflowers for the bees.

For the hummingbirds, there are two feeders, one in the front yard and one in the back. Yet I wanted to get flowers with nectar enjoyed by the hummingbirds. I only have Salvia flowers they like. So, I’ll make hanging baskets with petunia and hang them by the bird feeders.

There were Monarch and Mourning Cloak butterflies flying by my garden, but they visited the flowers in my next-door neighbor. I would like to have flowers attract them to stay longer. For the butterflies, I bought marigold and delphinium. I’ll get milkweed on my next trip.

 

Bitter cold is gone

Fresh fragrance drifts in the air

Chirping, fluttering

Answered the invitation

Creatures joined in the spring dance

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Colleen’s Poetry Challenge – Spring Dance

Tuesday Photo Challenge – Bugs

The theme for Tuesday Photo Challenge this week is “Bugs.” Even though Frank leaves it up to interpretation, I go with the conventional approach – simply bugs in nature. I included some research information about the butterflies. I didn’t do any search on bees and ladybug.

The first four photos were taken in my backyard. The last two photos were taken in Los Angeles Arboretum.

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bug 2 Danaus plexippus Monach butterfly

I was surprised to see the black wings butterfly. Carolina pointed out that it is Mourning Cloak by its Common name. My research gave me the scientific name Nymphalis antiopa. A very distinctive and charismatic butterfly, best known for its conspicuous activity in late winter, flying and acting territorial before any trees have leafed out or any wildflowers are active.

The Common name for the second butterfly, Danaus plexippus is Monarch. The Monarch butterflies migrate across the Sierra Nevada in both directions, though late-season west-bound migrants are most often recorded.  http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/butterfly/Danaus/plexippus

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Frank’s Tuesday Photo Challenge – Bugs

Bees and Butterflies in My Garden – Blossoms to Plums

This post was originally posted on March 11, 2017. I worried about the plum blossoms didn’t get pollinated. I was surprised by the visit of the bees and butterflies. Three months after I wrote this post, I’m happy to report that I got about 400 plums from two plum trees. When I went to my poetry class on Thursday, I took about 100 plums with sandwich size ziploc bags, asked the classmates to take some home. At the end of the class, all the plums were taken.

I love plums because of the fiber content. I would like to dehydrate some plums. I ordered a plum pitting machine to take out the pits. I also found a recipe to use regular oven to dehydrate the plums so that I could keep them longer. All I have to do is put the pitted plums in the oven with 125to135for 12 hours. I’ll check on them every hour. I’ve never done that, so I hope that it will work. I added the photos of the plums at the bottom of this post.

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This is my “52 Weeks of Thankfulness” Week 2 at Haddon Musings.

March 11, 2017

What an exciting week in my garden.

I worried about my plum tree two weeks ago because it was the first tree to blossom after the rain. There was no bee attracting flowers close by the plum tree. I manually pollinated the blossoms with a fine paint brush.

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The plum tree is against the retaining wall. There are different plants on the slope behind the wall. I climbed over the wall to look at the plants. I had some bee attracting plants on the slope last summer.  Right now the whole slope is covered by clovers with fellow flowers. Somehow yellow flowers were not my favorite color. I started pulling them out to expose the ice plants with purple flowers, only to discover that they were dead.

Before I got disappointed, there was a shocking surprise. I saw BEES. The bees hovered over the blanket of sixty feet wide yellow clover flowers. I almost wanted to plug the clovers back into the soil. Then I was thinking how to get some clovers close to the plum tree on the other side of the wall. First, I wanted to take a few photos of the bees.

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Suddenly, I caught the sight of some bees hovering over the plum blossoms also. Oh, how excited I was. I felt like the whole burden just fell off my shoulder. Now I could just leave it to the nature. Let the bees pollinate the plum blossoms.

Yesterday morning as I was having coffee and doing reading in the backyard. I caught another exciting sight of butterflies hopping from flower to flower on the plum tree also.

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How thankful I am for the nature. How delightful I am to see the bees and butterflies in my garden this week.

Post note – June 17, 2017

I’m so happy that the bees and butterflies brought 400 plums to my trees!

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Daily Prompt: Blossom

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