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.