The last few days I have been searching for Monarch caterpillar eggs. Monarch butterflies have been visiting my garden for the last week or two so I am assuming that they have been laying eggs on the milkweed. This will be my third year raising Monarch caterpillars.
Monarch Caterpillar Eggs Ready to Hatch
Because this is my third year, I now know what Monarch caterpillar eggs look like. Here is a picture of one that is quite new. So as I search, I recognize them much more quickly. I had been watching two eggs for the last two days. Today the top of the egg became much darker. So I knew that the caterpillar was about to emerge. These are a great series of pictures of the monarch caterpillar egg hatching. You can clearly see the black head of the caterpillar at the top of the egg which is what I saw today.
Growing Monarch Caterpillars in the House
The first year I had lots of caterpillars and then slowly they started disappearing until I could hardly find any. They were being eaten in my garden. See my post about Saving the Monarch Caterpillar.
When I saw that the caterpillars were about to emerge today I cut the leaves off to bring into the house. I like raising the caterpillars in the house. The last two years I have raised between 20-24 Monarch butterflies successfully. It’s quite easy to raise them if you have lots of milkweed leaves to feed them, which I have. Here is a picture of the monarch caterpillar a few hours after it had emerged. You can see it compared to a dime. They are very small when they first emerge, almost like you can’t see them. They eat voraciously and grow very fast.
Bad News About the Monarch Caterpillar Eggs
Unfortunately my two baby caterpillars died. I think that the milkweed leaf that I had in with them got too dried up. I am heartbroken and devastated. They had actually crawled off the leaf. I found them and put them back on. Now, in retrospect, I think they were looking for more moisture. After doing some research on the internet I found this great article on raising baby monarch caterpillars. THE LEAVES THAT THEY FEED ON SHOULD BE LEFT IN WATER OR SPRAYED WITH WATER TO KEEP THEM MOIST!
As a Beginner Collect Larger Caterpillars
This was a hard lesson for me. All the caterpillars that I raised in the past were larger than these newly hatched babies. They were stronger and seemed fine with the milkweed leaves that I put in for them to eat. I replaced the milkweed leaves every day when they started looking old. So if you are a beginner I would recommend raising larger caterpillars at first until you become an expert at that. Then if you want to raise them from eggs keep the leaf stems in water so the leaves stay hydrated. The link above has very good information about raising Monarchs from eggs.
Repairing Broken Plant Stalk–Sunflower Repair Operation
I decided to take on the task of repairing broken plant stalk after a small injury occurred to one of my largest sunflower plants. If you check my last post you will find out how my beautiful sunflower stalk was broken by squirrels eating sunflower plant! I had some long wooden stakes that I had bought. Thinking I would try to put up some kind of deer fence, but I never managed to do that. So I pounded that into the ground right next to the almost broken sunflower stalk.
I used this really cool velcro plant tie to tie the stalk to the wooden stake. I just bought this velcro plant tie this year. There have been several opportunities to use it and I find it very quick and effective at holding the plants to their stakes. If you would like to order some see the picture link at the end of this post. Clear packing tape was next in my repair operation. I wrapped the stalk where it had cracked starting above the crack and going below the crack.
Sunflower Repair Operation Successful
After a few days I could see that my operation had been successful. The leaves and flowers looked normal, not wilted or drooping. My first solution to squirrels eating sunflower plants has worked! So far, I haven’t seen the squirrel cavorting in the sunflowers. Though I am sure he will be back. I am putting out some bird food suet which the squirrels like. Maybe that will keep the squirrels away from the sunflowers. One solution on the internet for keeping squirrels away, is to put out other food for them.
Other Sunflowers Damaged by Wind in Rain Storm
We had a bad, windy rainstorm the other night. I found some more damage to a younger sunflower plant. Two side branches were almost completely ripped off. They were barely hanging by much stalk so I decided to just cut them off. I don’t think there was enough plant material there for water and nutrients to travel up the stalk to nourish those flowers. So if you decide to work on repairing broken plant stalk, make a personal judgement. Try to determine if there is enough plant material there for a successful operation. And if it doesn’t work, you will probably learn something from the experience. That is why I don’t mind trying these things because I always learn something new!
I looked out my window the other day at my garden and saw my sunflower plants waving back and forth. My first thought was that is odd, why are they moving like that? I knew we had deer problems but I never dreamed that the squirrels eating sunflower plants would be a problem! But sure enough there was a squirrel at the top of one of my beautiful sunflowers trying to eat as many seeds as he could. He also seemed to be going after the newly budded flowers. Maybe squirrels consider the small newly formed flowers a delicacy.
These are not the huge sunflowers. They are the smaller ones called Autumn Beauty. I plant them for the birds to eat the seeds. And believe me, when they are blooming the American Goldfinches are very busy out there!
Squirrels Eating Sunflower Plants-More Than One Problem
Ok… so, I thought less flowers, less seeds for the birds and less beauty for us! I could live with that. But then I see the squirrel at the very top of one of the plants. The plants are top heavy anyway because the flowers are heavy. And all of a sudden the squirrel and the sunflower plant are on the ground. The sunflower stalk actually broke a little bit. It didn’t fully crack in half but it was cracked. Other sunflowers were leaning over, but none had broken. And there were at least 10 beautiful flowers at the top all growing in different stages. I did not want to lose this beautiful plant.
Sunflowers Bring Pollinators and Beautiful Birds
The American Goldfinches love eating these sunflowers. So I decided I would try to save this beautiful sunflower plant with lots of flowers growing at the top of it. Autumn Beauty sunflowers come in lots of colors, yellow as you can see in the squirrel picture! See the picture on the left of a goldfinch eating a burnt orange sunflower from this seed packet. You can see why I would like to save this plant because of all these beautiful bird visitors! If you would like to order these seeds click on the link below. See my next post for info on how I saved this sunflower plant. Here is a youtube video on how to protect your sunflower.