Butterflies 

We went on a camping trip recently, but before we left, we made sure to leave some cut up orange pieces in the basket where we were keeping the caterpillars, should they complete their transformation to butterflies while we were away.   I just noticed the the orange pieces look a bit like butterflies!

When we came back, three days later, the first thing we did was to check on the caterpillars.  All of the caterpillars had turned into butterflies. We had them in a wire mesh waste basket with a piece of cardboard on top, with the orange pieces on a plate on the bottom of the basket. I thought that since we were away it would be a good idea to change out the orange pieces to make sure they had something to eat.  The moment I lifted the cardboard from the top of the basket, every one of the butterflies immediately flew out of the basket.

If you’ve ever had a fly in a room, you’ve seen it fly around aimlessly bumping into things, randomly landing on things in the room and taking off again to fly around aimlessly some more.  These Monarch butterflies did not do anything like that, instead they all immediately flew directly over to the most southerly facing window in the room and flapped against the glass furiously.  There were twenty or so butterflies gathered around the window and on the window sill.   It’s amazing that these little insects somehow know that they’re supposed to make their way south to Mexico before it gets too cold.  They can only fly when the temperature if above sixty degrees and it seemed as though they wanted to get out of that room as soon as possible while it was still warm enough to fly.  In the photo below it looks like they are trying to get to the dahlias blooming below the window outside.

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We opened the window and most of them flew out and away as fast as they could.  I’ve read that it is estimated that they can fly at around twelve miles per hour, but will go much faster if the wind is in their favor.

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We gathered up a couple of the remaining stragglers who were on a neighboring window that does not open and directed them over to the open window.  Having a butterfly crawl over your fingers really can’t be compared to anything else, a very strange feeling having their little legs move slowly over the fingers and hands with the wings flapping away.

Most flew away up into the sky, but a few landed on the dahlias below the window briefly before taking off.    One of them had some trouble taking off and landed on the grass below the dahlias.  Mr. C went outside, held out his finger for it to crawl onto, held up his hand into the sky and then it flew away.

 

Caterpillar Update

It’s been a little over a week, and Mr. C’s Monarch caterpillars have more than doubled in size.  Here’s a photo from This past Thursday. 

As of this morning, they’re all in the process of creating cocoons, attaching themselves to either sticks that we added to rhe habitat, or directly to the bottom of the cardboard cover that we put on the habitat.  And by ‘habitat’ I mean a wire mesh tradh can with a piece of cardboard on top!  Next, they will then be transformed into Monarch butterflies. 

Here’s a photo of some of them on the cardboard, kind of creepy looking.  

I had to be careful not to disturb them so I could just lift the lid up a few inches to take the photo.  

When I first moved here, fifteen years ago, there would at least be a few Monarch’s around our stand of milk weed in the Fall, but I haven’t seen very many at all lately.  This year I haven’t seen any, except for the ones Mr C has.  Hopefully in the next few weeks, we’ll have some to let out to make their way down to Mexico.

First Pet

We have a lot of milkweed in the backyard. It can spread and take over areas quickly, so I used to pull it all out. Ms J told me that milkweed is the only thing that Monarch butterflies eat, so I stopped pulling it all out, letting most of it grow to maturity.

Here’s some milkweed mixed in with the flowers next to my neighbor’s garage. It’s the tall leafy plant in back of the purple flowers.


Mr C loves learning about plants, bugs, and animals, so for his birthday he received a milkweed plant in a box.  The plant was covered by a mesh netting in the box.


The netting was over the plant to protect the twenty or so Monarch caterpillars on the plant. The company that sends them out wants to raise awareness of the dwindling number of Monarchs, mostly due to loss of habitat caused by development and people pulling out milkweed. 

The only thing we could think of to put the plant in for a temporary habitat is this wire mesh trashcan!  We’re gathering branches from the milkweed in the backyard for them to eat.


Eventually the caterpillars will turn into Monarch butterflies, we’ll release them and hopefully they will mysteriously fly off to the one spot in Mexico where all Monarch butterflies migrate to.

We plan on getting Mr C a dog at some point, but for the next two or three weeks his first pet will be Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Take a picture Dada!  he says.

Here is what one looks like on Day Two, already much bigger. 

Super Blood Moon

This past weekend, there was a rare ‘Super Blood Moon’.  This happens when the moon’s orbit is at it’s closest approach to the earth, combined with a lunar eclipse.  Apparently the next time this is supposed to happen is in 2033.  This seemed like something that Mr. C might want to see, since he’s interested in just about anything Science related.  He’ll also be in his 20’s when it happens again, so we planned on trying to see it.

A few days ahead of time, we told Mr. C about what was going to happen, and that if he wanted to see it he would have to stay up late.  Throughout the day of the big event,  he got increasingly excited, both with the idea of seeing something unusual that was Science related, and also with being able to stay up late.  He gathered up all kinds of things that he thought might be useful in our expedition, such as water bottles, bandages, cell phone chargers, extra shoes, and a variety of snacks.  He then stuffed everything into his backpack and was ready to go at about 4:30 in the afternoon.

About four hours later, during which Mr. C’s head was just about ready to explode with the excitement, we gathered together all of his supplies and headed out.  We drove over to the local High School, where there is a large open area of sports fields, which we thought would help to reduce the number of obstructions such as trees.  When we arrived we saw that there were about a dozen other people who had the same idea, so at least we were not the only crazy people doing this.

We had a large quilt which Mr. C sat with in the ground.  I had read that the moon may turn a shade of red as it reflected the sun during the eclipse.  We watched the moon slowly being eclipsed, though we didn’t notice a great deal of color change.

‘Take a picture, take a picture!’  Mr. C said.

With all those random things that he wanted to pack, did I remember to bring my camera ?   No.

So, all I had with me was my smart phone, which doesn’t really take very good photos in very low light conditions.  This is the best one, you might be able to see a little bit of the eclipse taking a bite out of the moon.  The lights on the bottom right side are from the High School.

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While I was struggling with my camera phone, trying to improve the quality of the photos I was taking, Mr. C was slowly dozing off.  By about 9:00pm, Mr. C was wrapped up in the quilt and was fast asleep.   I had to pick him up and carry him over to the car, which is not so easy to do when it is nighttime, and also since he is now about four feet tall and weighs more than fifty pounds.

I did get a pretty good photo of the sunset though.

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