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Raising Butterflies Can Be Heartbreaking!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We are three months into developing a butterfly garden and enclosed sanctuary. If you have seen my previous blog, you will know that we started with Pipevine Swallowtails and quickly moved to include Monarchs and lastly Sulphur Butterflies. We started out doing great and had released about 28 butterflies when our neighbor sprayed with pesticides for the first time. There is a fair amount of distance between our houses, but within hours, our Monarch caterpillars started dying. The ones that didn't die had problems forming a chrysalis and sometimes only got half way developed before they died. The ones that had successfully formed chrysalis produced butterflies with wings so badly deformed, they couldn't fly and ended up dying within two days. We had 30 Sulphur caterpillars that all died within a day. We had been growing plants especially for the specific type of butterfly and rotating them as the caterpillars devoured the plants. We were also watching for predators and protecting them from ants, spiders, frogs and lizards. We had the area sealed, but predators seem to get in somehow, so you always have to be on the lookout for them. You can imagine our devastation when our hard work started going down the drain. The spray didn't seem to effect the Swallowtails, perhaps because they are stronger. Swallowtails and their host plant (the pipevine) are actually poisonous when eaten. After being wiped out, we washed down all the plants and set them outside. Before long, we had Monarchs laying eggs and Sulphur butterflies too. Once again, we brought the eggs inside and nurtured the new caterpillars. After calling around, we found that the county also does mosquito testing and if there are a lot of mosquitoes in the area, they spray with airplanes. This happens in the evening or early morning. So, now when we hear planes as night, it is like a drill to get all caterpillars and butterflies inside the house. So far, we have managed to raise a new generation of Monarchs, Swallowtails and our Sulphurs are in the caterpillar stage. I know this isn't like losing a dog or cat, but these have been our babies and I did feel the loss. To date, we have released 44 butterflies, so we feel proud of that. I can't help but feel we have saved some lives. The process is slowing down because the season is almost over. But, we will continue to refine our process so we will be ready for next year and can enjoy the butterflies for a long time to come.

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
MEADSBAY 9/17/2010 8:47PM

    Oh, Cynthia- this is achingly beautiful- and heart breaking at the same time!
What a lesson we can all learn from this about pesticide use.
I won't let Lucy play on our grass (here at the condo) because they spray.
BTW- my son, who was bringing a boat down to Annapolis from Newport reported seeing hundreds of Monarchs heading south- about 50 miles from any land!

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DOGSTARDADDY 9/17/2010 6:14PM


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MOMFAN 9/17/2010 12:27AM


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LEANVIXEN 9/16/2010 7:56PM

    What you're doing is so wonderful! Butterflies are such beautiful creatures and with the recent dying out of Monarchs especially it's so great that people like you are helping to support the population. It stinks that things didn't go as planned because of the spraying, but those that you do raise are SO grateful to you!

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GEEMAWEST 9/16/2010 7:56PM

    This is absolutely amazing, Cynthia. I am in awe! Keep up your good works.

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S3XYDIVASMOM 9/16/2010 6:34PM

    Thanks for sharing your passion and your pictures.

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CHANGE188 9/16/2010 5:28PM

    I'm so sorry! I love butterflies too, I am working on being certified for a Monarch Waystation. I'm worried about what my neighbors spray on their lawns and how that will impact my butterflies. I think if people really knew what they are spraying on their yards and exposing their children to all of the lawn service companies would go out of business.

I commend you for what you are doing, keep up the good work, you're making the world a better place

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FITAT50 9/16/2010 4:23PM

    How sad :-( you've put so much time and love into these beautiful butterflies. I hope you have a huge crop of "babies" next year.

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KOPSBABY 9/16/2010 3:24PM

    I've always liked butterflies. They are so fragile, yet strong. You are really dedicated to what you are doing. emoticon

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BELG64 9/16/2010 2:33PM

    What a neat thing you guys are doing!

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PAMNANGEL 9/16/2010 1:54PM

    They may not be dogs or cats, but they are still living creatures and you put a lot of yourself into caring for them. I think that's wonderful.
I am trying to get things together so I can buy a house. One of my first orders of business will be to plant a garden. Fruits and veggies as well as a butterfly/hummingbird garden.

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IFDEEVARUNS2 9/16/2010 1:39PM

    How amazing! Good for you.

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LW8843 9/16/2010 1:15PM

    Wow that is so sad that your neighbor killed so many. It is great what you are doing. Keep it up!

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ANEPANALIPTI 9/16/2010 12:09PM

    I think what you're doing is beautiful!!!!

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    What a great thing you are doing.

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BUGGYS 9/16/2010 11:40AM

    I have a cottage on Lake Michigan north of Milwaukee and Labor Day weekend we experienced a massive monarch migration that lasted a good two days...I have never seen so many...but in the precess, we noticed so many getting caught up in the waves, washing up on shore and granddaughter and I managed to save about twenty by helping them out of the sand, letting them dry their wings and eventually releasing them to the granddaughter kept saying that they are going to Mexico for the winter. Anyway, sorry about your monarchs and happy that you were able to save a few!

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