Antelope Horns and Monarchs

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
Our family moved last September to a home in Texas Hill Country. It's been an adventure in many ways, not least of which has been learning new flora and fauna.

The property we have was overgrazed to the point that neighbors referred to it as "the moonscape" at the time we bought it. We've been working on just figuring out what plants are on the property and taking action from there. We've been clearing out exotic invasives and in doing so a few weeks back I discovered a plant I hadn't noticed on the property before.

It turned out to be a native Texas variety of Milkweed commonly referred to as Antelope Horns. I went out to photograph it one night and noticed a caterpillar on the ground underneath it. It was located near a fire ant nest, and it took only a few moments for me to realize that this was a Monarch caterpillar who wasn't going to make it back to his plant. I brought it and a second that I found inside on a stalk of milkweed and quickly sterilized the aquarium (that had just finished with the Leopard frog tadpoles we had rescued from a pool in September) and got them set up.

I thought it would be fun to post a few pictures of the progress. Enjoy.
 
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
Here's a photo of part of "the moonscape" from the time that we moved in that shows the lack of vegetation other than Ashe Juniper and Horehound. We've been pulling the latter out by the roots in an effort to keep more seeds from spreading, and it was in doing that that we found several Milkweed plants. They are thriving now.
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Here is the milkweed photo that caused me to notice the caterpillar on the ground.

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The last photo is one of the healthy milkweed plants that we liberated from a huge patch of horehound a few weeks back. The blue flowers are a different plant.
 
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
Here are photos of "Zippy" and "Skippy," the first two caterpillars that I brought in. They were already pretty big at that time. DSC09352.JPG DSC09357.JPG
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
My young children named them, by the way. Zippy was a pretty fast crawler when she decided to explore the new environment.

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The woody stem and the little leaves in the background are not milkweed. Caterpillars sometimes like to leave milkweed to pupate elsewhere so we were supplying some variety in their environment. They used it like a jungle gym.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
As Skippy and Zippy grew, so did their appetites. They could demolish a milkweed stalk in one night, and then they started eating during the day, too, which we hadn't seen before. In gathering food, I found a tiny egg which we brought in on its leaf and housed separately, and my five year old found "Marie" who moved in with Zippy and Skippy.
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
It was an exciting day when my children awoke to find Zippy and Skippy both in a "J" shape, getting ready to pupate. Then that same morning the egg started showing a little dark spot, the tiny caterpillar's head getting ready to emerge.
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
When the caterpillar is about to pupate, it withdraws its body from its extremities. The filaments start to look pretty limp and twisted. It took about an hour for anything to happen, but then it was all over in a matter of minutes.
 

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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
It was a good thing that we watched Zippy so closely and saw that molt because Skippy wasn't far behind, but it happened so fast that we missed it while we were eating dinner just a few feet away.

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Neither one chose to use the plant I had supplied as cover for pupating. They really liked the screen.
 
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
Marie formed a J the next day, but she didn't survive to make that molt. She had evidently been parasitized by the tachnid fly while she was still living outside because she shrank instead of growing and was being eaten from the inside out by larva. Her body was removed.

The new hatchling (Vic--either Victor or Victoria as we hope to find out in time) was eating and excreting frass. He showed us evidence of health but stayed under his leaf.

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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
In changing out Vic's drying leaf for a fresh one from my milkweed supply, lo and behold I met Pierre. (No, I have no idea why that particular child chose that name.)
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
Like typical younger siblings, Vic and Pierre have to use hand-me-down salad containers because the older ones got the aquarium first. There aren't very many photos of the younger ones either.

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They're resilient, though, and they have the older ones from whom they can watch and learn.
 

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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
Last Wednesday (ten days after the final molt), Zippy and Skippy started showing some little signs of darkening. Thursday morning we knew something was going to happen soon.
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We had an appointment that morning, and we knew it was close when we had to leave. The chrysalis was turning transparent, and those orange wings were showing through (and were really hard to photograph).
 
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
When we got home, this is what we found.

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She was pretty new, so we waited until we saw that she flapped her wings a bit (and confirmed that she really was a female as the children had predicted from the chrysalis), and we took her outside. She crawled on the children's hands before they put her in the pomegranate tree where she stayed for about 90 more minutes before flying away.

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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
Skippy (a male as my children had predicted from the chrysalis, though I had thought them wrong when he first eclosed because the spots don't show up from the underside) was released just before lunch. My children got to have a picnic lunch to watch him in the pomegranate tree before he flew.
 

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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
Vic and Pierre, meanwhile, keep eating and growing as good teenagers do, and they finally got to move into the big room when the older siblings moved out (and it had been sterilized).
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To be continued ...
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
85,092
South Puget Sound, WA
Great rescue and science lessons for the kids.
 

fbelec

Minister of Fire
Nov 23, 2005
2,888
Massachusetts
thanks totally enjoyed watching. kids in school would not have got a better presentation.
 

Soundchasm

Minister of Fire
Sep 27, 2011
1,297
Dayton, OH
www.soundchasm.com
Seriously, the detail is fantastic! I'd be exhausted after such an effort. I did check into my memory of one migration requiring FOUR generations. It's true. I even read a statement that the Monarch's find the SAME TREE their great-grandfather/grandmother left from!!

Out of all the amazing things on this planet, to my limited knowledge, this seems unique.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
85,092
South Puget Sound, WA
The diversity and intelligence of the natural world is amazing.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
Thank you for the kind words and the interest. It truly has been an exciting project for the family. I have been particularly impressed by some of the records my children have kept. My kindergartener mostly insists on writing her work herself, and she does it beautifully. My other children amaze me with some of their illustrations.

Vic and Pierre (Victor and Pierra after the sexes were revealed) eclosed the same morning a couple of weeks ago now. I just haven't taken the time to get the photos up, but I thought some of you who had looked at the thread would enjoy the update.

Vic pupated one day before Pierre. DSC09744.JPG DSC09746.JPG DSC09772.JPG DSC09775.JPG DSC09782.JPG DSC09785.JPG DSC09797.JPG
 
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
There are some pretty exciting changes that let us know when to watch more closely.

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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
682
Texas
My eight year old son was allowed to be the press photographer for this eclosure. Here are some of his better shots of Victor after he had dried and Pierra as she was in the process.


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