Welcome To Our Backyard 2006

Most Recent Observation

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.February 15, 2006

Thus far, early in the winter months, the monarchs have not been abundant in either adults or larva, but it has been cold.

April 16, 2006

Here we have not experienced the population explosion fairly common with monarchs in February and March. This winter has been cooler and dryer than the norm. The larva appeared to be coming along in small, but steady numbers. We were gone on vacation the latter part of February, the normal peak, so I can not comment directly on this period, but the average number of surviving monarch larva over the winter has been usually only a dozen or so a week. They never did strip down the milkweed plants. I can not comment for other locations, but through the winter months, there seemed to be fewer adults flying also until recently.

Over the past two weeks I collected six fully developed larva which formed pupa normally. The last of these emerged yesterday and appeared, as did the others, to be full size, well marked, and healthy. Over the past few days, I collected five more fifth instar larva and located one chrysalis hanging from a dried, dead stem of one of the succulents in the yard.

I have noticed the wasps are now more actively hunting, and with the warmer weather, we are in the seventies and low eighties, the ants are also now foraging in earnest. I have not found any smaller larva, only the five large ones, although I do observe females laying eggs almost every morning. I am assuming they are being predated and that this may be the end of the season here for the larva.

Actually, over the past two weeks, I have seen more adults on the wing than through the cooler weather. I do not know if they developed in the yard or arrived from elsewhere, probably both, but they're are at least seven to twelve flying at any given time.

The milkweeds are covered to a great extent now with aphids, but they are doomed. There are lady bug and hover fly larva now on the plants, and the adults of both are laying more eggs. I observed one pair of lady bugs mating this morning and at least a half dozen out sunning themselves in the early morning. I observed there were several adult hover fly about, so I sat down for a minute to watch and observed them laying eggs. They lay their eggs one at a time near a cluster of aphids just under the edge of a leaf. It was fascinating. I had never observed this before.

As far as the other butterfly species, this spring I have observed red admirals, giant swallowtails, gulf fritillaries, orange barred and cloudless giant sulphurs, palamedes swallowtails (I have some red bay on the property), polydamas swallowtails, white peacocks, a long tailed skipper or two, and other smaller butterflies about. Actually, along with the monarchs, the sky is full around here with adult butterflies.

August 23, 2006

All summer, monarch butterflies have been flying daily here. Females have been around most of the time laying eggs on the milkweeds, but no larva have survived since the earlier report. Wasps and ants among other probable predators have simply taken them all. Across the board, reports from the dplex list at Monarch Watch indicate that in the northern breeding grounds there are high numbers of monarch butterflies this year. As I write, there are reports from Canada that the monarchs are gathering to begin the long migration south. I expect them to arrive here in St. Petersburg in mid October.

As far as the other butterflies, this year I've seen polydamas swallowtails, giant swallowtails, palamedes swallowtails, white peacocks, giant sulphurs, and gulf fritillaries regularly all summer and occasionally, eastern black swallowtails. I had some zebra longwings in the spring, but have not seen any for some time now. I introduced julias to the yard this spring and they are still around.

We will post further observations as warranted.

Dale McClung

St. Petersburg, FL

Thanks for visiting.

Dale & Peggy McClung