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Added Jun 15 2018

For anyone interested in helping restore Monarchs by planting milkweed; not all milkweed offers full life-cycle Monarch support (not all gardeners/naturalists know the distinction). All types of milkweed will attract pollinators/butterflies.
But only Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) supports the full Monarch lifecycle; as the necessary food source for caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly that feast on its leaves.

Never saw the visitor to our garden, but we found its caterpillars! (pic)

  • Bummer. Hope your plants receive more eggs that hatch and have another shot.

    This site offers Monarch info and fun lifecycle graphic:
    http://monarchbutterflyusa.com/monarch-life-cycle/

  • herd herd

    This is a great thread! Glad to hear people are planting milkweed. I have been wanting to for a few years now. I will try the link that was shared or check out Gesthemane.

  • future alderman future alderman

    i'm old enough to remember FLOCKS of monarchs in Chicago...fireflies too. makes me very sad...there wooda been thousands of fireflies out on a night like tonight long ago...does anyone know how to get rid of the junebug population?

  • Not aware of how to suppress junebugs. But, ppl can help restore balance to the insect population by planting those plants that are NATIVE to our area. We found an immature firefly taking shelter underneath a huge leaf on one of our native hydrangea bushes just yesterday; and bees do crazy, busy circles to hit every tiny blossom. Conversely, the "man-made" hydrangeas with big, showy, colorful blossoms don't offer anything to pollinators or insects.

  • Really, I think the firefly population has recovered somewhat from the 1970's when they had kids catching them, putting them in sandwich bags, freezing them, then sending them or taking them to someplace where scientists were studying them. When I was about 9 or 10 EVERY kid in our neighborhood wanted to "help scientists" and we decimated the population of fireflies in the area. After those years you'd see maybe 10 or 20 fireflies at dusk. I suspect it was pretty much the same all through the region.

    Anyway, last summer I went outside right at dusk and the yard was blinking with literally thousands of fireflies. So beautiful. Made my heart glad.

    I never saw flocks of monarchs, but as a kid saw many, and the caterpillars too, and many other kinds of butterflies that I don't see anymore. Now I might see one or two monarchs a season, and hardly any other kind of butterfly except those little white ones. Makes me sad.

    Don't know a thing about the junebug... :-)

  • In addition to Common Milkweed for Monarchs, there are other butterfly-species-specific plantings that help support other pollinators. Wild blue lupine is the only food for the 'Karner Blue' butterfly's caterpillar. Wild blue lupine is native and quite attractive. And a number of common full-sun plants serve as host for Eastern Swallowtail butterflies -- the Fennel family (finocchio is cool.
    [*keep fennel segregated; it spreads]), dill, parsley, and rue.

    Karner blue info:
    https://www.fws.gov/Midwest/endangered/insects/kbb/lupine.html
    Swallowtail info:
    https://texasbutterflyranch.com/2014/07/01/how-to-raise-eastern-swallowtail-butterflies-at-home/

    Be patient watching for lightning bugs this year. Remember we had a long, cold Spring, even the plants are a few weeks off their regular schedule!

  • We not have another round of Monarch eggs on our milkweed -- we got to see and enjoy the visiting butterflies over the past week.
    ALSO there are fireflies all over our yard tonight. Not hundreds, but dozens; hugging the lawn, plants, trees and structures.

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    I also recently had a duo of adult monarchs hanging around my plants. I don't know how to protect any future caterpillars other than using a monarch basket or bird netting. If I use netting, the adult Monarchs can't get to the flowers. First world problems, huh? Lol.

  • ... Nessuno, it might sound cuckoo, but ppl sometimes do salvage the eggs/caterpillars by bringing them inside and furnishing milkweed leaves. If you scroll about mid-way down on this page, there are four photos that, if "clicked on," present videos on fostering each life stage.
    http://monarchbutterflyusa.com/monarch-life-cycle/
    I don't foresee us ever washing the eggs. But bringing them in and feeding the caterpillars, a strong mebbe.

  • future alderman future alderman

    when we were little we always had caterpillars in jars until they metamorphosized - at home, school, everywhere!

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    Discovered "three" on my milkweed after dusk. Out of nowhere! They're big too! Hopefully the poachers stay away.

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    Tempted to jar them, for safe keeping.

  • Nessuno, it was more than "tempting" to us... In case you give-in, you're not alone!

    We have two tiny instars (early Monarch caterpillar stages) in one make-shift terrarium and larger instar in its own, with a leaf to munch on in each 'house' (with stem end tucked into a folded strip of wet paper toweling to help keep it supple). They're munching away, shedding skin/s every few days... Plan is to foster them through metamorphosis, then feed the new Monarch (raw honey & water mixture) for a day or two until its wings dry and fully expand... then release in milkweed patch outside.

  • future alderman future alderman

    hmmm...i don't remember that last part-but we weren't as civilized back then-as i "remember", once it is actually a butterfly it's enclosure should at least be outside

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    I found a few vids on the net showing green mesh butterfly cages.

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    Update: Counted four huge caterpillars this afternoon. I hate to jinx myself but, I noticed a wonderful absence of aphids and milkweed bugs so far this summer!

  • Yep. We'll get the butterfly mesh tent things when these guys go cocoon/chrysalis stage.

  • Daniel D

    Great thread! We planted Asclepius tuberosa last year, is it helpful for Monarchs? I saw you mentioned Asclepias Syriaca as the only one supporting full life cycle,w e sure hope our tuberosa supports some part of the life cycle.

  • Yes Daniel, it is useful. I've been doing more research and am finding that as common milkweed has become so scarce (due to widespread agricultural herbicides), the species is adapting; totally Darwinian.

    One plus about "common milkweed" is it grows only 3-4ft tall. Some others get much taller.

    Some ppl test alternative foods and, in one account, found their Monarch caterpillars will eat fresh pumpkin and cucumber. But they did say it had to be garden fresh, not stored in the fridge.

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    Just intercepted a ROBIN in the act of abducting a full grown monarch caterpillar. A CARDINAL was also overly interested in the plants. I've shrouded my milkweed in bird netting to be safe.

  • It's like being a kid again watching our three rescues chomp through their leaves. Totally cheap thrill.

  • as a kid I used to catch butterflies. one year I collected 12 monarch butterflies while out with my dad and I took them home to show my mom. then my dad said, ok now let them go, but I wanted to keep them in an aquarium and a small back and forth please dad please conversation took place. he told me I had to let them go... so in typical kid fashion I cut them loose in the house! after about 10 minutes of a yelling lecture, he spent the next 4 hours carrying me on his shoulders so I could recatch them to set them outside. they were on the curtains, tv, book cases etc.

  • Handyman Rich Fixing, Building, Taking Things Apart = Enjoyment

    We bring leaves with eggs in the house and put them in a box with screening. Once the eggs hatch, we put fresh leaves in the box every few days. Transplanting Some plants found by the RR tracks helped to have caterchow nearby. It took a couple of years for that milkweed to get established and Digging out plants near RR tracks trying to save roots that are wrapped around rocks is no fun. this year we’ve released 2 monarchs, have 3 cocoons and 4 large caterpillars. A caterpillar in the last days before going to the ceiling to cocoon will eat a whole large leaf in a day. The monarch motel started as a banker’s box. Version 9.0 has a plexiglass ceiling and a slide out tray for easy cleaning. If you use a cardboard box, put newspaper or a paper towel down under the cup with milkweed for easier cleaning. The plexi ceiling makes viewing easier and allows magnifying with the cell phone. After coming out of the cocoon (which seems to be always in the morning) we keep the monarch in the box for a couple of hours to let his wings dry out before releasing him near some cedum. Before emerging the cocoon will get dark, and full of bumps (knees, elbows). It is pretty fascinating.

  • Wow, Rich, trying to transplant from the rocky rail bed cannot be fun. Good on you for doing it! Thanks for the detail on what happens as the cocoon is close to opening.
    BTW, have you ever seen the caterpillars go "cannibal" or do they coexist just fine all together in one enclosure?
    We're going to harvest seed pods from 'wild' plants as they begin to crack open and hope to see them grow after over wintering. Are you seeing the red beetles with black dots on your milkweed plants? We hate killing bugs, but have to smush milkweed beetles; their larva emerge in the plant's root bed, feeding on the roots and often killing plants. That may be ok in huge milkweed beds, but not new plots -- cuz like you said, it takes time for milkweed beds to really take off.
    We're using the taller clear plastic tubs from a deli, with a cut-out on their lids for mesh. Washing them out and inserting a new leaf every other day (so far).

  • Handyman Rich Fixing, Building, Taking Things Apart = Enjoyment

    When there is only one leaf and 2 large caterpillars, they munch side by side. Not sure about carnivorous pillars, but they might eat eggs. Seems like turning the plastic tub over, then cutting out the bottom (top now) and putting mesh over would make clean up easier. they hang from the ceiling in a J for a day or so. Then (the following morning +/-) they twirl into a cocoon. If you are lucky enough to catch that process it is more interesting than emerging and can last a few minutes. Can’t imagine the energy required. It finishes with their feet falling to the floor in a neat little bundle.

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    I have a cocoon. Tt was fine yesterday but looks to have a "chip" in it today. It's still green, so I don't think the butterfly is ready. A bird probably got at it. Same with my enclosure. I didn't see any caterpillars when I got home. Birds again. Mother Nature is a b**ch!

  • Well, that's true about nature... it can be harsh.
    Praying Mantis (which are in Chicago, though we seldom see them) also eat Monarch caterpillars. We rest easier with our caterpillars in safe custody.
    There's going to be one more (the third) egg/caterpillar/Monarch cycle this year. And those Monarchs don't die off in 3 weeks; they're the ones that migrate to Mexico for the winter and return next summer to begin the cycle again.
    Nessuno, you might still get the chance to help the third cycle survive.

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    Yep. I had my zippered enclosure delivered yesterday. I will put some milkweed stalks in cups of moistened perlite (which is sterile) to maintain the cats. No foolin' around this time!

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    Update: I actually found two in my outdoor habitat, so I may have overreacted earlier. The rest may be hiding.

  • almost caught a butterfly today, it had landed on my neighbor twice... I thought it was interesting because she was wearing a shirt with flowers on it.

  • What an interesting thread! Can't say I've seen any caterpillar cocoons, but I do have what I think are lots of fireflies every night. What a beautiful display!

  • future alderman future alderman

    please don't catch the butterflies!

  • Been enjoying this thread for weeks. We have a rather lush backyard, fecund is good description. Lots of milkweed and other illinois wildflowers that support bees, too. It's been great seeing the monarchs and other butterflies flitting about.

  • Our biggest 2nd gen cat is going through leaves like mad. He's HUGE!! Just ordered a butterfly enclosure for his next stage/s. Our two smaller ones were in stasis for nearly 20 hours, no eating or droppings the whole time, but finally shed their skins this morning. Now watching for them to start eating again.

  • Handyman Rich Fixing, Building, Taking Things Apart = Enjoyment

    If there’s a way to insert a picture here, I can post one of a cocoon that should emerge tomorrow (Thursday) morning. His eye is glowing and elbows are starting to stick out.

  • Rich, you have two options for posting photos: 1.) Make a new post and include the photo (if you do that, maybe take a few more as time progresses and include the series), or 2.) Send photos by Email to the EB Neighbors you'd like to share photos with.

    Glad to know yours is doing so well!

  • Karen Lifelong Chicago resident

    We just watched our first two monarchs emerge and fly into our yard yesterday. It has been really fun to watch the process. It all happened faster than what I had read, the chrysalis stage lasted only 8 days. Now we have three which should hatch out next week. Time to bring in some more eggs!

  • We found black swallow tail caterpillars on our parsley yesterday.

  • Cool!! We've seen Black Swallowtail butterflies hovering near the dill and garlic. They LOVE the entire fennel family.
    It's kind of a part-time, temporary gig to bring the caterpillars inside and feed them and clean their enclosure (never realized how efficiently they convert green matter into little pellets!) but it's plain FUN. If I get close, I can hear the big one as it munches through leaves.

  • Ok, our "Big Guy" formed his J on the top segment of a twig inside his dwelling overnight. Thanks to Rich, we know what that means: cocoon is next!
    One less hungry 'cat' to feed! Two to go, probably 3 days away.

  • Handyman Rich Fixing, Building, Taking Things Apart = Enjoyment

    NW, check a few times today, later tonight, and first thing in the morning. If you see the cocoon wiggling around, sit there and watch for a while. It may be the time when he is kicking off his feet and the stripes will turn solid color. It’s a very energetic process.
    While walking around the block we noticed a neighborhood who has an official monarch habitat sign in the yard.

  • Will do, Rich. Knowing how much he ate the past few days, I feel hungry for him now that he's fasting. The tall, clear deli tub offers a great view -- BUT the mesh butterfly habitat delivered and we'll set it loose in there when it's time to dry and spread its wings.
    We're far from having enough pollinator plantings to be an "official monarch habitat" but, hey, we can always strive for more!

  • Totally duped me, Rich. Before lunch, the 'cat' was "J"; ate lunch and went back to look at 'cat' ... had already become a fresh green chrysalis and had dropped its feet!
    Thankfully we've got two more chances to try witnessing that. Can't believe it happened SO fast.

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    Even with the bird netting, it doesn't look like any of mine are around. I don't see any cocoons either. Next time they're going in the mesh cage.

  • Too bad if they perished, Nessuno.
    I've read about ppl finding Monarch cocoons (which begin silver green; like the underside of a common milkweed leaf) on other plants entirely. Our big 'cat' stopped eating hours before he climbed the tall twig and went into his "J"; outside, that would be plenty of time to find another plant stalk to attach to.

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    FYI: Last week, "Chicago Tonight" had a brief segment about Monarchs in the Chicago area.

  • future alderman future alderman

    i think it's the botanic gardens that helps people become "certified"-if not, a similar org

  • Caught the entire change from 'cat' to chrysalis today.

    Some details ...
    hours after forming its "J" (about 14 in this case), the antennae go flaccid and hang limp as the internal process progresses.
    When the J begins to straighten out, that marks the beginning of the final push to chrysalis.

  • Nessuno Government Blank Check.

    I hate to jinx this but, I'm still not seeing "any" aphids on my plants! Last year I was infested. So far I only saw a single, lonely milkweed beetle and that's been gone for awhile.

  • Nessuno, milkweed beetles (red beetles with black spots) kill milkweed plants. The adult beetles lay eggs in the soil at the plant base and the larva eat the milkweed roots. The darned beetle larva killed a few of our plants this year. Going to save some seeds this fall to plant in pots to harbor "free range" Monarch caterpillars inside (then put inside a net habitat for their butterfly stage). No beetles and great views.

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