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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Green Vomit? Writhing caterpillars?

Those horrible signs of caterpillars dying from pesticides are well known to butterfly enthusiasts. We buy plants and are assured that they are safe. They are not treated with pesticides, we are told. Maybe they are … maybe they aren’t.

But we see the vomit and the caterpillars twisting and turning, side to side, and we don’t know what to do.

What happened?

Click here to find out what could have happened.

Green vomit and writhing Monarch butterfly caterpillars

Green vomit from
Monarch butterfly caterpillars

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YOU can help Monarch butterfly numbers rebound

Do you ever wonder how you can become involved in helping Monarch numbers increase without investing a lot of money or time? We have ten suggestions. Click here to to visit our new webpage with more ideas than you may have thought possible!

Monarch Butterfly Emerging

Monarch Butterfly Emerging

Monarch Caterpillar Eating Milkweed

Monarch Caterpillar Eating Milkweed

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Open House on May 2, 2015

It’s a date! Our Open House will be on Saturday, May 2. Please join us!

Take a tour of the farm, guided by a member of our team. Learn more by clicking here.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar Lab Shady Oak Butterfly Farm

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar Lab
Shady Oak Butterfly Farm

Jennifer feeds hatching Luna Moth caterpillars

Jennifer feeds
hatching Luna Moth caterpillars

Habitats Full of Caterpillars

Habitats Full of Caterpillars

Shady Oak Butterfly Farm Producing Thousands of Chrysalises Per Week

Shady Oak Butterfly Farm
Producing Thousands of
Chrysalises Per Week

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Moth Caterpillars Are Fun!

Click here to check out our new moth caterpillar webpage!

Hieroglyphic Moth - Diphtera festiva

Hieroglyphic Moth
Diphtera festiva

Over the last few years, we’ve photographed every moth caterpillar that we could find on our land in Bradford County, Florida. Identifying them is a challenge. One of my favorite caterpillar books are Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner. For butterfly caterpillars, the best book for Florida is Florida Butterfly Caterpillars and Their Host Plants by by Marc C. Minno, Jerry F. Butler, and Donald W. Hall. Between those books, searching many websites, and uploading images to www.whatsthatbug.com, we have identified many of them.

Hickory Horned Devil - Regal Moth - Royal Walnut Moth

Hickory Horned Devil
Regal Moth
Royal Walnut Moth

Finally, we’ve began placing them on this website. We add new caterpillars when we have a new one identified. Most are added to the top of the page. If we have a different color or instar of a caterpillar that is already on the page, we will upload the new photo in the same area of the page as the other photos of that species.

Check it out! Do you find these caterpillars in your yard?

Banded Sphinx Moth

Banded Sphinx Moth

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