May 23 – Happy Tonics participated in the “My Secret Garden” event at the Comfort Suites in Hayward hosted by the Cable and Hayward Area Arts Council. The nonprofit’s theme was butterfly gardens. One of the highlights was showing Dakota Robinson’s story board that illustrates the migration route of the monarch butterfly from Mexico to Canada. The youngster started a petition to stop roadside spraying of herbicides and insecticides during migration season. Roads and rivers are the main travel route of monarch butterflies. Herbicides kill milkweed, the host plant and insecticides kill larva and adult butterflies. Many guests attending the garden gala; were familiar with the plight of the monarch butterfly and signed the petition. Others also knew about Shell Lake’s Monarch Butterfly Habitat and plan to come this summer.
May 26 – Mary Ellen Ryall and Dylan Hasbrouck attended a Destination Marketing Organization meeting, at Wild Rivers Outfitters, in Grantsburg. Dylan will be working with Happy Tonics this summer to help maintain the habitat. He is under Fresh Start’s umbrella which is building a house in Shell Lake. Dylan will also be in training to learn Internet marketing skills at the nonprofit’s Visitors Center/Store at 25 Fifth Avenue, Shell Lake.
In the morning, I stopped at the habitat and did a walk through to see what was starting to grow. Milkweed is emerging and averages 2” to 6” tall.
One colony of plants already has a monarch egg on each leaf. This is promising considering how cold and wet the spring has been so far. Remember monarchs do not fly when it is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Monarchs return to Shell Lake about lilac time which is about now. Native June grass is already up. Prairie smoke flower is budding. Oyster plant is at the edible stage. Native shrubs and trees are flourishing and many are in flower including Juneberry, wild black cherry and chokecherry. Earlier this spring an Experience Works member Mike Kremer applied a good dose of compost and mulch to the trees and shrubs.
Remember to call in your first monarch butterfly sighting in Shell Lake. You will win a butterfly gift if you report the first sighting. Be sure to note day, time, your location, weather, and temperature as best as you can. Dial 715 468-2097 and leave a message if no answer. Someone will get back to you.
Bees are the number one pollinator and butterflies are the second most important pollinator in the world.
Pollinators are necessary to pollinate flowers, crops and fruits and include native bees, butterflies, moths and bats. It is harmful to use herbicides and insecticides on lawns, farm crops, along roadways and in the garden. Insecticides kill larva and adult insects including bees and butterflies. Herbicides kill weeds often eliminating biodiversity of native plants that pollinators need to survive.
Without pollinators, many of the world’s crop species would disappear. This could include foods such as native squash, potatoes, tomatoes and pumpkins. Only the native bumblebee pollinates potatoes and the bumblebee is being used commercially to pollinate tomatoes.
According to The Xerces Society, Franklin’s bumblebee is already threatened in California. There are hundreds of native bee species in the United States. Bees need a place to live and they need healthy pollen sources. Won’t you make your garden pollinator friendly? In return, native bees and butterflies will delight you by visiting your garden.
When the outer shell of the pupa hardens it is known as a chrysalis (KRIH-sah-lis). The process of changing is known as metamorphosis (meh-tuh-MOR-fuh-sis). It takes approximately 10 days to two weeks before a butterfly emerges. A monarch butterfly goes through four unique stages in its life: egg, larva, pupa and adult butterfly. The caterpillar inside the chrysalis disintegrates into a green liquid which is mysteriously transformed into a monarch butterfly.
The Chrysalis starts off with a beautiful lime green color shell and has a striking band of gold near the top and three gold specks scattered near the bottom. According to Journey North, “The color itself comes from cardenolides in the milkweed that larvae eat.” What purpose the gold markings have is still unknown.
The caterpillar (larva) emerges from an egg in approximately four days. After a tiny caterpillar emerges from an egg, it is hungry and needs to eat the egg shell because it is rich in protein. The larva eats the egg in a circular pattern. Then the caterpillar climbs to the top of a milkweed leaf and becomes a munching machine. If there are other holes it may be remains of other eggs. It could be that a spider, mite or even a monarch caterpillar ate the eggs.
Caterpillars have lively colors with bands of yellow, black and off-white striped skin. A young larva may roll up in a tight ball if handled. Perhaps the caterpillar is trying to protect itself from being attacked. A caterpillar will grow beyond its skin five times and each time the caterpillar needs to shed its skin. This is known as molting. Stages between molts are called Instars. A caterpillar remains soft and vulnerable until a new skin has a chance to harden and it is best not to handle caterpillars because of molting.
There are several threats to the caterpillar. Tachnid flies look for a host for its own larvae and may lay eggs on milkweed or on a caterpillar. The parasitic wasp is also a threat. Additionally, there are various bacteria and viruses that could be harmful. Notice how big the caterpillar is in the illustration? The larva appears to be in its fourth Instar.
A caterpillar has three body parts: Head, thorax and abdomen. There are two sets of tubercles, one at the head and another at the end of the abdomen. The antennae like tubercles may confuse predators because the larva mimics two heads. The front tubercles aid in sensing and smell.
The thorax segment has three pairs of true legs. All insects have six true legs. There are four sets of prolegs or false legs in the abdominal segment. Usually these are visible as in the illustration. They look like pads and have little hooks that help the caterpillar attach itself to a leaf.
There are prolegs at the end of the abdomen in the illustration; the anal prolegs are used by the caterpillar to spin a white silk button. When a caterpillar splits its exoskeleton for the last time, the larva hangs upside down and starts to molt first starting with the head. When the old skin is near the rear end of the abdomen, a cremaster is exposed. This is a strong dark appendage that is uses to attach to a silk button that a caterpillar made before it started to pupate. The newly formed chrysalis will harden and hang upside down on the underside of a leaf or twig until a monarch butterfly is born.