‘Monarch Promise’ Milkweed

We’re delighted that ‘Monarch Promise’ was released this spring. Every time we see it, we are struck all over again with its beauty.

Monarch Promise Milkweed

Monarch Promise Milkweed

Supplies are limited, we discovered. The wholesale nursery that has the rights to sell wholesale to other nurseries is sold out. If you see any, buy them before it is too late!

Because the plant is patented, it can only be propagated by one nursery (besides ourselves). This means that more won’t be available until this fall.

Monarch Promise Milkweed

Monarch Promise Milkweed

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Butterfly Farming (Butterfly Breeding) The How-to Seminar

Are you considering starting your own butterfly farm? We offer one to three day seminars, teaching all aspects of the business.

Butterfly chrysalises pupae at Shady Oak Butterfly Farm

Butterfly chrysalises at
Shady Oak Butterfly Farm

Guests from 13 different countries have attended our seminars or internships, learning the in’s and out’s of butterfly breeding.

A butterfly farm can range in size from one room to a larger farm, such as Shady Oak Butterfly Farm (in the photo below).

Learn more about the program by clicking on this sentence.

Shady Oak Butterfly Farm

Shady Oak Butterfly Farm

Check out the seminar details at the link above. Learn what topics are covered, price, and more by reading the linked page. You can contact us with questions or to schedule a butterfly farming seminar at edith@buyabutterfly.com.

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Why can’t we remove OE from nature once and for all?

Why can’t we remove OE from nature once and for all? Ophryocystis elektroscirrha is here to stay?

OE spores Monarch butterfly Ophryocystis elektroscirrha

OE spores Monarch butterfly
Ophryocystis elektroscirrha

There are several reasons:
1) it is estimated that at least 1/3 of Monarchs in the US have OE to one degree or another
2) all Monarchs in the Miami/Dade area are considered infected with OE
3) most likely nearly all Monarchs in Mexico are infected with OE
4) the parasite is found in many countries and several continents and islands
5) Queens in the US and Mexico (at least) are infected with OE
6) OE will transmit from one species to another
7) OE has been found in 3 Danaus species and suspected to be in more
8) Millions of Monarchs from the Eastern US, Eastern Canada, and some from the Western US migrate to Mexico, intermingling with each other during winter months. Many are OE infected. When they begin to mate in the spring, one without OE will often mate with one with OE. This will transfer spores to the outside of the uninfected butterfly where they can be transferred to milkweed leaves, another Monarch, and milkweed leaves. (Cross-transfer causes few problems compared to direct infection.)

Learn more by clicking on this sentence.

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail Butterfly Chrysalises

Can you tell which is which? If you find these two chrysalises, or just one of them, will you know what species of butterfly you found?

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail butterfly chrysalises

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Black Swallowtail
Butterfly Chrysalises

The good news is that it really doesn’t matter. Either leave it where you found it or take it home and care for it and allow it to emerge and release it. You’ll find out what it is when it emerges.

For some of us, we aren’t that patient. We want to know NOW.

In this case, the chrysalis on the left is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and the chrysalis on the right is a Black Swallowtail. But be aware; there are other species that become chrysalises that are similar in appearance.

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Female Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Female Black Swallowtail Butterfly

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Winter and Butterflies

It’s winter here in the northern hemisphere and butterflies are scarce. Here at our farm, the low tomorrow is predicted to be 29 degrees Fahrenheit. Where are butterflies when it is so cold?

Tiger Swallowtail butterflies stay in chrysalis all winter until new leaves grow on their host trees

Tiger Swallowtail butterflies stay a
Chrysalis all winter until new leaves
Grow on their host trees

We understand that Monarch butterflies from the eastern US and eastern Canada migrate to Mexico in the fall and Monarchs west of the Continental Divide migrate to the coast of California and to Mexico for the winter. What about other species?

Tawny Emperor butterfly caterpillars in winter hibernacula

Tawny Emperor butterfly caterpillars
In their winter hibernacula
Host tree leaf sewn shut
Caterpillars hiding inside

They spend the winter in various ways, according to species. Some migrate south and continue their normal life cycle in warmer climates, their offspring migrating north in the spring. Others spend the winter as an egg, a caterpillar, a chrysalis, or an adult butterfly all winter. Some eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises stay buried in the snow for months!

You can learn more by clicking on this sentence to visit our ‘Where Do Butterflies Go In The Winter?’ web page.

Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico

Monarch butterflies overwintering
Mexico overwintering location
Photo by Bill Berthet

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Monarch butterfly caterpillars eat butternut squash

Did you run out of milkweed? Are your caterpillars starving? You don’t know what to do?

Monarch butterfly caterpillars eat butternut squash

Monarch butterfly caterpillars
Eat butternut squash

Yes, Monarch caterpillars will eat a few fresh raw vegetables like butternut squash. Want to learn more? Check it out HERE!

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Should I separate chrysalises when they pupate on each other?

Too often swallowtail chrysalises pupate on each other. Every now and then other species will do the same thing.

A Swallowtail butterfly chrysalis sewn shut when another caterpillar pupated on it

A Swallowtail butterfly chrysalis was sewn shut when another caterpillar pupated on it

Separating Swallowtail butterfly chrysalises

Separating Swallowtail butterfly chrysalises

We are often asked if they should be separated. If so, how can they be separated safely? Those are great questions.

Some people don’t separate them and have had both butterflies emerge fine. Others don’t separate them and the first one dies, never able to emerge. Why?

Others try to separate them but end up killing one of them. What did they do wrong?

Today we tackled these questions and here are your answers ….. all in one page! Should I separate and how to separate butterfly chrysalises.

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Maybe your Monarch made it but its tag didn’t …

Many tags fall off Monarch butterflies before they reach their overwintering sites. If the tags aren’t applied correctly, they will fall off before the butterfly reaches its destination.

Tagging a Monarch butterfly for migration studies

Tagging a Monarch butterfly
for migration studies

Monarch Watch butterfly tags

Monarch Watch butterfly tags
For migration research

Migration study tag fell off this Monarch butterfly

Monarch Watch tag
fell off this Monarch butterfly

Although we’re through tagging for the year, please take a minute to bookmark this linked page for next season.

1. If someone uses a finger instead of another object to handle the tag, the oils from the finger could cause the glue to become ineffective.
2. If someone fails to hold the tag firmly onto the wing for a few seconds, the glue won’t go through the scales to hold the tag firmly to the wing itself. It will come off with the scales as the butterfly flies.
3. If the record sheet isn’t filled out and returned to Monarch Watch or whichever research group issued the tags, it doesn’t matter if the tags make it and are recovered. The information isn’t recorded to identify where the butterfly was tagged.

Learn more about tagging by visiting this linked page.

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Forget OE!?!

In October, on our facebook page, we are discussing things that kill our caterpillars/chrysalises/adult butterflies.

Monarch Couldn't Emerge - Does NOT have OE

Monarch Couldn’t Emerge
Does NOT have OE

Black spots on chrysalis - BUT NOT OE!

Black spots on chrysalis
BUT NOT OE!

Not OE spores - Pollen from a butterfly's abdomen

Not OE spores
Pollen from a butterfly’s abdomen

With Monarch butterflies, the focus is so pinned on OE that it reminds me of a magician imitating a pick-pocket. We are so busy looking at his right hand with the flashy tricks that we don’t see his left hand picking the subject’s pockets, right there in plain view.

OE can be deadly but the problem is that we focus so much on OE and blame so much on OE that too often the real disease/culprit is getting away with killing our butterflies right in front of us and we simply can’t see it because we are looking at the wrong thing.

Crumpled wings can be caused by many factors other than OE. Butterflies are often weak and unable to fly for various reasons that have nothing to do with OE. Adults are stuck in chrysalises without having OE. Chrysalises will have black spots without it being spots from OE. If OE was the only cause, this would happen only to Monarch and Queen butterflies. Instead, this happens to all species.

Please join us in October to learn what else causes these issues, how to identify the causes, and how to avoid them.

We will also discuss OE and how to avoid OE. OE as well as the other issues are serious. The more we know, the more we can help our butterflies.

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Drowned Caterpillar?

Oh, what to do? A caterpillar has drowned! Could you possibly save it?

We saved this one with good ole table salt. Dead isn’t always dead!

How to Save a Drowned Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar

How to Save a Drowned Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar

Maybe you can … we’ve saved several before we learned how to add host plant cuttings to their rearing containers without also providing an opportunity to drown. Open water and caterpillars are not a good combination.

Our newest webpage explains how table salt can save the life of a drowned caterpillar. Check it out!

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