Monday, September 28, 2015

Some Monarchs

Despite the lack of Monarchs visiting my yard this year I did manage to raise one. Actually it was two but more on that later.

Where I am in New Jersey, we typically don't see Monarchs until August when they're already on their way south. I find them in meadows and natural lands but rarely see them in May or June when Monarch Watch lists sightings of them here. Really the Milkweed here doesn't even emerge from the soil until early May anyhow, but even then August is a more standard time to see them in the yard. I believe this is because they either follow the Delaware river up, or cross it and hug the coast of NJ. Then as they populate over the summer they move more inland finding different fields and gardens with milkweed to lay eggs and start up populations. 

Milkweed this year seemed to be sold out from all the local nurseries until mid July. I finally got my hands on a few plants around that time and sure enough the nursery was having issues with Monarchs laying eggs on their supply. They kept having to relocate the caterpillars onto a patch of common milkweed around the back. Naturally I was willing to help by buying the plants that had caterpillars on them already. I moved the cats to the more established plants I already had growing in my garden and one of them became large enough to house in a cage.

I usually let them feed outside until they're in their last instar. Then I move them into closed containers with milkweed leaves inside. I would have raised more but wildlife got the three or four others over night.

The first emerged earlier last week. They're easy to pose at that stage. They don't seem to feed at all until several hours have passed, usually after their first flight. To fly after emerging they require about an hour of sun bathing. I took the opportunity to place her on a few different plants for pictures.

These are all plants I know they enjoy nectarine on such as Goldenrod, Asters and Sunflowers. She didn't bother feeding from any of them.

There is a preference for Mexican Sunflowers but the Maximilian would have to do.

I would added to this a few pictures of the second Monarch I raised, but I ended up giving it to my sister-in-law. Her father is terminally ill and I remembered the time I first saw a Monarch emerge from its chrysalis, how it brought me to tears watching something so beautiful come to life and fly away. I wanted her to experience that kind of joy because I felt she needed it.

The chrysalis came from an Aster 'October Sky' I bought from a nursery in Delaware. I was at the register buying the plant when I said "Holy crap, this one comes with a Monarch!" eyeing the chrysalis hanging off a plant stem. The nursery grows milkweed but I didn't notice any Monarchs on them and the plants were well away from the milkweed table, so this was a welcome surprise.  

A few days ago this was the picture she sent me. It took off just moments later I'm told and she was grateful that she got to see it.