Butterfly Release

I had six caterpillars on my milkweed and I put two in a jar with some milkweed and brought it in my breezeway. Both formed a chrysalis, one a few days before the other. After about ten days, one butterfly emerged.

The chrysalis turned dark and you can see the butterfly inside.
The chrysalis turned dark and you can see the butterfly inside.

The first one came out of the chrysalis yesterday about 4:30 pm. The wing pattern showed that it was a girl!

On Sunday afternoon about 4:30 pm, she came out!
On Sunday afternoon about 4:30 pm, she came out!
She crawled out of the jar.
She crawled out of the jar.
Wings need to dry in the sun, so I devised this to get her into a sunny and dry spot.
Wings need to dry in the sun, so I devised this to get her into a sunny and dry spot.

As shadows fell, she was still clumsy so I made her a room for the night.

I put her in her room in my breezeway and covered her with a laundry basket. In the morning, once the temperature was above 65 F, I brought her outside to greet the sun. Before I could snap a photo, she climbed to the phlox, took a sip, and soared away into the morning.
I put her in her room in my breezeway and covered her with a laundry basket. In the morning, once the temperature was above 65 F, I brought her outside to greet the sun. Before I could snap a photo, she climbed to the phlox, took a sip, and soared away into the morning.

The second butterfly was a girl too. She came out at 9 am Wednesday and by noon was flying around the yard. This video shows her taking her first drink of nectar.

Monarch Update

2 monarchs

We’re headed for the 4th generation of monarchs in the garden this summer. This next batch will be the ones to fly away to Mexico.  The eggs have been laid by now and caterpillars across the state are hatching on what is left of our milkweed plants. By what’s left, I mean that which has escaped the Roundup, a decrease of approximately 58% since 1999. Half of all overwintering monarchs are Midwesterners, making the loss of their primary food source a crisis

(Here’s more about it.)

There are 74 species of milkweed and 17 in Iowa.No doubt about it, these things could be called weeds. Once you get them going, they spread like the dickens from their roots. They’re poisonous too. (But the blooms smell wonderful!) The milk or latex holds cardenolides (cardiac glycosides), toxic chemicals, which make the monarchs taste bad to predators. Handle milkweed with care! However, like many natural products found in plants, these chemicals could be potential medicines both for heart failure and cancer. That’s what natural products chemistry is all about–finding things in nature that can benefit humanity. It also brings up WHY scientists dislike species loss. Besides being a tragedy from a biological standpoint and an aesthetic standpoint, it could be a tragedy from a natural products standpoint. More than butterflies will be wiped out if milkweed plants are lost forever.