Black Witches and Monarch Madness

It's Halloween at Happinest!  This year's costumes were an obvious choice...a butterfly and bee!
Also, it was an incredible busy month rearing Monarchs.  Here are the numbers:
  • 163 eggs or small caterpillars were collected between 9/17-9/21 from both our Farmette and public Monarch Waystation; many were not viable.
  • Every bit of milkweed, from tropical, swan plant, and crown flower was exhausted...I even had to pinch some from my mother and our shop garden/Monarch Waystation.
  • Milkweed poisoning is a real thing!  I blinded myself in my left eye for a period of 3 days and it still hurts here and there!
  • 3 Butterflies were sadly euthanized; one, I believed got chewed in chrysalis by an eager caterpillar; the other two fell immediately out of the chrysalis, crumpling their wings.
  • However, 44 were released...24 Females and 20 Males between 10/12 and 10/29.  
  • Of the 44, 15 were selected and tagged as part of the Monarch Watch program.
This was quite a fantastic year; never did I imagine so many caterpillars and I am pretty frequently seeing adult monarchs still fluttering through town.  I did learn some lessons this year; for one - I underestimated the amount of Milkweed needed.  All of my tropical milkweed that I cut for food was then rooted in water to make another plant.  More plants will help the overcrowding I experienced.  I had enough rearing tents but not enough food source to separate everyone.  There's a lot of talk now of rearing smaller groups arguing this makes for a stronger more diverse group.  I fall back on my work at the Audubon Zoo as we worked the Species Survival Plan with the AZA...their philosophy, all individuals of a threaten species matter...even the weakest.
Another surprise!  We found a Black Witch moth this month...how appropriate!  I had never heard of them before, but I'm sure to not forget them.  Larger than our largest butterfly in the Eastern United States, the Giant Swallowtail...you can see this big, beautiful moth is almost a long as a standard 8" brick.  Black Witches are in fact, the largest moth in the US. 

Happy Halloween!
~Lisa
 

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