Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Big Exolosion

Louise: On the 24th of June through the generosity of Hearth and Home Assisted Living, where my Mother resides, supplied the Butterfly House at Smiley Park with 40 butterflies of which there were 14 monarchs. They brought the residents to the park so they could assist with the release. There were enough that visitors in the park also got to participate. Most of us are familiar with the beautiful orange and black Monarch butterfly. The rest were Painted Ladies.

Hearth and Home Release

Asclepias   Swamp Milkweed

I had been away from town for a few days, so when I returned,  I made a trip to the park to check on the gardens. This was the 21st of July, three days short of a month when we had released the butterflies. I peeked in the butterfly house and saw something a bit different. The plants looked like bare sticks. Upon further investigation I discovered a giant explosion. There were hundreds of caterpillars and they had stripped all of the  host plants, milkweed.

Monarchs only lay their eggs on and feed from the milkweed. There were, and I counted 87 chrysalis, plus 12 flying Monarchs. It was breath taking.

Monarch Cats

Sue: I received a call from Louise that same day she is referring to. Of course I had to go out to the park to see for myself and take some pictures (the truth be told she told me to). There were so many caterpillars you had to be very careful not to step on any.  The Children's Garden had many visitors that evening, as always, and several wanted to go into the Butterfly House since I was going in. I had to explain to them why they couldn't,  but could still observe from the outside.

It was interesting  the questions they asked. Of course with my limited knowledge, I tried to sound like I knew what I was talking about. They were all attentive to what I had to say. There were a couple that I had a wonderful conversation. The gentleman wasn't from Van Wert, but his girlfriend was, and at this time I can't remember where he did say he was from, you know they say memory is the first thing to go! But anyway, they thought the entire Garden's were just wonderful and had many questions about the Monarch's. One young boy, from Spencerville, was there with his grandparents. He was very inquisitive, and like all the kids wanted to come inside also! Thanks Louise, I'm glad I went out.

Louise: Early in the spring plants were planted, thinking we would be prepared for at least a few monarch butterflies.  The last few seasons, the entire country had a decreasing population of Monarchs. With chemicals being used for weed control and a virus in Mexico, where they spend their winters, this has taken its toll on this beautiful butterfly. There is a plea for us all to plant milkweed so to have a food supply for them as they make their journey to and from Mexico. They return to the same place each year. Migration is at different times depending what part of the country you live. Here the migration begins in September. Learn more about the migration of the Monarch from PBS's documentary  The Flight Of The Monarch.

Since the plants were stripped, we canvased ditch banks to dig milkweed by the bucket full to supply them with food.

This has been very exciting to see first hand the whole process. When the time is right the cat attaches its self to a stable surface. It forms a J position, then forms its chrysalis. In about 10 days to two weeks it emerges as a beautiful Monarch. The butterfly hangs in its wet condition for awhile, while it fills its wings with fluid before it takes flight. There life span is approximately two weeks, few will survive a few months. This new generation will deposit their eggs and life will begin once again. To date we have released more than one hundred Monarch Butterflies into the park. To be sure that they have a good  food supply we felt this best. We have been providing, beside the milkweed, watermelon, bananas and oranges.

Supplementary Food

Chrysalis and Caterpillar in it's J Position

Our schools are doing a good job educating our youth about the butterflies. We also do programs at the Butterfly House to educate all who are interested. Again thank you Hearth and Home for supplying the first butterflies.

Louise and Sue

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