Monday, August 2, 2021

Monarchs Part 2




Monarch Update

By early fall 2020, I had 29 butterflies successfully hatch and fly off.  This spring I planted three new species of native milkweed (Antelope Horn, Indian and Heart-Leaf).  Next year I think the plants will be robust enough to have caterpillars. 

In May I found my first 3 monarch eggs.  I put a screen mesh around the plant, so the caterpillars wouldn't get disturbed.  I was concerned with Tachinid flies.  They are parasitic flies whose larvae ultimately kill its host.  Last year this happened a couple of times, and it's hard to watch.  Caterpillars with parasites hang themselves up early, and die.  Then fly larva emerge.  This is what the larva first look like

They turn darker

and eventually flies hatch
The three caterpillars that I left outside this spring grew and made it to the chrysalis stage.  I thought the screen netting was the way of the future.  But, one day I found a trail of ants leading to a chrysalis.  Somehow the integrity of the capsule was breached, and they were carrying away the goo that was half caterpillar-half butterfly.  Gross!  So, I took the other two in and they successfully hatched.

The last few weeks I have noticed butterflies in the yard, and more eggs.  I've gone back to the old method of taking the eggs inside.  It's more work, but I think it's worth it.

Monday, July 20, 2020


Last year I decided to grow milkweed.  Milkweed is the only host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars.    Monarchs are having a rough go of it, in a lot of places their numbers are steadily declining.  I choose two types of native milkweed, narrow leaf milkweed (Ascepias fascicularis) and showy milkweed (A. speciosa).  

My 2019 milkweed journey had some ups and downs.  When I found caterpillars on the plants I was quite excited.  But, none of the caterpillars seemed to survive.  One day they would be munching away, and the next day they would be gone.  Just gone!  I learned later that the survival rate "in the wild" can be as low as 5%.  Out of at least 15 caterpillars only one actually made it all the way to the stunning butterfly you see above. 

This year my milkweed plants have been growing well.  A couple of months ago I again started seeing caterpillars on the plants.  But, just like last year, they were disappearing.  I did a little reading, and found out you can take either the eggs or the caterpillars inside, which gives them a much higher survival rate.  Starting with the eggs is the best way to get healthy caterpillars.  So, I went on the hunt for butterfly eggs.  Once I knew what to look for, I found them. 

White spot in the middle of the picture is a monarch caterpillar egg.

The rest of this post is going to focus on the monarch life cycle.  
Aren't the caterpillars gorgeous?

4th or 5th instar monarch caterpillar.

When the time comes to start the process of turning into a chrysalis, 
the caterpillars will hang upside down in a "J" shape. 

After about a day they shed their skin, and reveal the chrysalis underneath.  
While everyone seems to focus on the chrysalis to butterfly transition, 
I found the caterpillar to chrysalis transition the most fascinating. 

Brand new chrysalis, caterpillar skin just shed.

Day old chrysalis.

Maybe 10 or so days after the chrysalis has formed, 
there is a brief window where you can see the fully formed butterfly inside. 

When the butterfly first comes out it's a bit crumpled up. 

In a few short hours it starts to look like the typical stunning monarch, and off it will go.

Bringing the caterpillars indoors and watching this process up close has been an 
amazing experience.  I couldn't think of a better way to spend some of my pandemic 
induced home-isolation hours.  I'm already planning for next year.  I want to add 
two new types of native milkweed to my yard in the spring.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

April 2019

April is National Poetry Month in the United States and Canada.  It was started in 1996 in the US to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry.  Sharing my love of poetry seemed a natural, so for the month of April I anonymously put poems on the large bathroom mirror at work.  These are some of the poems I taped on the mirror. 

The very last poem was left for me today, April 30th, by an unknown guerrilla poet.  I absolutely love the fact someone took the time to do that!  More poems next April?  You bet!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A New Reason to Bead

After a couple of rejections from the SB Art Association, I thought I'd give it one more try.  I talked myself into having hope that the Abstract Art Collective might be more open minded about defining "art".    So, I brought three pieces to their live jury day in April.

From my brief experience, it seems that people who work in abstraction are more open minded.  Instead of being branded with the label "craft" and sent on my way, I was instead welcomed and accepted as a member!

I've just finished two pieces to donate to the SEE Fundraiser.  All the SEE pieces are done on 10 x 10 inch wooden studio panels, which worked out perfectly, that's such a good size for my stuff. 


My creative process is currently being tempted by multiple sparkling visions swirling around.  But, as soon as I try to grab one, it dissolves into mist.  I have to remind myself to be patient.  Those ideas are not ready yet.   Their time will come.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Embracing Abstraction

It was a worthwhile effort, but the SB Art Association wasn't interested in admitting me.  This time was worse than the last time.  During round one (back in March of 2017), I at least got one "yes" vote.  This time, all three judges said no.  Two of the judges indicated what I did was craft  and not art.  Yep, back to that again.  The third judge commented my work did not 'draw her in'.  Time to close the chapter on this adventure.  It has become obvious I do not belong there.    

My experience makes me wonder where I do belong.  A few months ago, I found myself wandering through a show put on by the Abstract Art Collective.  While it wasn't immediately obvious to me, a seed was planted that has slowly started to sprout and grow.  I'm now committed to submitting my stuff for their live jury day.  These are two new pieces I plan to submit.

The third piece will be one I already had, finished a few months ago.   
I think it's a good fit with my general organic abstract theme.

One thing the Abstract Art Collective does, that I absolutely love, is an 
annual fundraiser for SEE International, an organization that provides sight restoring 
cataract surgery.  This is exactly the kind of thing I want to do with my art.

The live jury date is April 15.  Luckily I already got my taxes done.  
They notify prospective members by email, so I have no idea what the timeline is.  
Regardless of what happens, I'm still going to be pushing, testing the waters, 
and figuring out where things should go from here.