WINTER MONARCH CATERPILLARS

A mild Florida winter and a few milkweed plants extended butterfly reproduction into December and January. I found myself inviting the neighborhood children into the yard to show them my monarch caterpillars. Most of the children are under 10 but I was amazed that one 5-year-old already knew about caterpillars and butterflies. When I was 5, I buried my dead goldfish with his head above the dirt so he could breathe. Obviously, the idea of caterpillars becoming butterflies would have been beyond my comprehension. I’m still a little slow. Most children today come into the world with the ability to thumb type on cell phones. I still poke at the keyboard with one finger. Sigh.

The 5-year-old also managed to set my gag reflex in motion when she wanted to pick up a caterpillar and hold it in her hand. My hysterical mind began to scream, “Are you kidding me? Aack! Aack!” Not wanting to dampen fearless curiosity, I allowed her to gently pick up the caterpillar for a quick crawl on her palm while I stepped back a foot.

A few days later, on January 6, I called the Butterfly Lady, Cee. When she answered her cell phone, I said, “Come get my worms.” She laughed. She was a tad busy as she had just returned from a trip. It was up to me to deliver my 12+ worms to her larger food supply. I had my brother transfer them to a gallon water jug with the top cut out. I covered the jug with enough netting and duct tape to safely imprison them should I encounter a hurricane on my 23-mile trip. I also strapped them in the seat beside me where I could keep a wary eye on them.

 

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST CATERPILLARS

Cee’s attitude towards winter butterflies is “survival of the fittest” because she takes a break in the winter from all the work of hatching butterflies. It takes a lot of time to bleach eggs, habitats and milkweed to minimize OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha). Other butterflies, such as swallowtails, don’t require all that bleaching even though she still bleaches the habitats between batches. If you want to know about bleaching eggs, this video explains it.

 

MANUALLY MOVING A CATERPILLAR FOR THE FIRST TIME

On January 24, I once again discovered a lone caterpillar on the same milkweed plant. The milkweed had only 2 cold-burnt leaves remaining. I knew the caterpillar had to be moved to a larger food source. Wanting to overcome my unreasonable aversion to caterpillars, I donned a pair of garden gloves to move the caterpillar to the Hairy Balls Milkweed. My brother had mentioned it was hard to get them off the milkweed as they hang on for dear life and I found this to be true. I walked towards the Hairy Balls Milkweed with outstretched palm just in case I tripped. As I was encouraging junior to grasp the milkweed, my head snapped back when my peripheral vision picked up movement. There was a large caterpillar claiming home-ownership of that milkweed plant. I was beyond surprised – this was late January and this caterpillar had not been on this milkweed at the time I delivered the others to Cee. If it had been, it was too small for the naked eye to see. Once I got junior on the milkweed, I stepped back to assess the situation. Seven caterpillars and one of them had the audacity to be hanging out on the other Hairy Balls Milkweed that had 3 hairy balls on it. I was not happy.  I did not want caterpillars mowing it to the ground before I collected seeds from the 3 hairy balls as this was my first time growing this type of milkweed.

 

FREEZE PROTECTION FOR CATERPILLARS

Our weather headed into a freeze on January 29 that was to last 3 days. I was afraid the caterpillars would die in a sustained freeze so I covered them with two bed sheets. They were uncovered the morning of February 2. They didn’t appear frozen — color was good and they were still attached to the milkweed but they were not moving. On the other hand, the caterpillar I left uncovered because his milkweed was too hard to cover, was moving and feeding. I checked on the sleepy heads an hour later and they were finally moving. Eight caterpillars survived the freeze. Across town on the same day, Cee found several caterpillars on the milkweed she had intended to trim.

 

UNUSUAL PLACES CATERPILLARS WENT INTO J-FORMATION

The J-Formation is the term used to explain when the caterpillar attaches itself by a silk pad to begin the metamorphosis from caterpillar to chrysalis. This usually occurs on a plant stem but Cee has found the caterpillars or the resulting chrysalis in unusual places.

 

monarch caterpillar attached itself in J formation to ridge of clay pot
Caterpillar on the ridge of a clay pot. Photo by Cee.

 

Chrysalis on a pillow sitting on patio furniture. Photo by Cee.
Chrysalis on a pillow sitting on patio furniture. Photo by Cee.

 

Chrysalis on antenna of decorative butterfly
Chrysalis on antenna of decorative butterfly. Photo by Cee.

 

One of her caterpillars went into J-formation on her Staghorn Fern. Cindy and I marveled that the caterpillar had to climb up the bumpy oak tree bark and slither down the chain holding the Staghorn Fern. The only other possibility is the monarch butterfly accidentally laying an egg on the Staghorn Fern instead of milkweed. As we wondered about this, I was standing there, camera in hand, but it did not occur to me to take a picture of the chrysalis or the tree or the chain. I  later asked Cindy to shoot the photos for me. Honestly, I need adult supervision.

 

Chrysalis on Staghorn Fern. Photo by Cee.
Chrysalis on Staghorn Fern. Photo by Cee.

 

 

This is the oak tree with the Staghorn Fern hanging from the chain. Photo by Cee.
This is the oak tree with the Staghorn Fern hanging from the chain. Photo by Cee.
Chrysalis on screen room guide wire.
Chrysalis on screen room guide wire. Photo by Meta.
Chrysalis on top of door frame. Photo by Meta.

SAVE THOSE PHOTO CALENDARS

how to recycle photo calendars into envelopes

It’s that time of year when you toss last year’s calendar and start all over with a new calendar. If you are starting a New Year with the same resolutions, don’t despair. At least you can do something artsy with the calendar that failed to cooperate. Use those pretty calendar pages of cats, flowers, or horses to make envelopes!

  1. Remove your favorite photos from a calendar with roughly 8-1/2 x 11 photos. The calendar photo should be vertically oriented because your envelope template is about 10 inches in length. You’ll understand this the first time you try to make an envelope out of a mountain landscape and the photo is not as tall as your template.
  2. On the web, get yourself a free A2 size envelope template. The A2 size is for cards with a finished size of 4-1/2 x 5-1/2. Or an 8-1/2 x 11-inch letter that has been folded into fourths.
  3. Print the template out on copier paper then run it through your printer’s copier onto a piece of cardstock.
  4. Cut out the cardstock envelope template. A cardstock template is not ideal because you can’t see through it. If you envision yourself going off the deep end making envelopes, consider purchasing a transparent plastic template such as the one made by JudiKins. I’ve had mine so long it actually has 1994 printed on it. Copying onto a transparency didn’t work — the inkjet ink smudged off.
  5. Keep in mind where your address sticker will go and move the template around on the calendar page to get the best view of the cats, flowers, or horses. This is why a transparent template is best – you can actually see the image on the calendar page. I have never used the big cat envelope pictured below because I didn’t think about the address sticker.
  6. Trace around the template.
  7. Cut on your tracing lines and then fold on all the lines that form the 4-3/8 x 5-3/4 rectangle. If you want to be very precise, use a ruler with bone folder or ball stylus to score the envelope lines. In a pinch, a butter knife will work.
  8. Use double-stick tape or a tape runner like Tombow Mono Permanent Adhesive for the two side flaps and the closure flap.
  9. Avery address labels don’t always stay on the glossy calendar envelopes long enough to reach the intended destination. I would suggest using clear tape over the address label or adhering the back of the label with a Xyron Mega Runner. That stuff sticks!

 

Left to right: envelope template, two envelopes, ruler, stylus, bone folder, Tombow adhesive and Xyron Mega Runner

Envelopes can also be made from magazine pages, gift wrap, scrapbook paper, sheet music (or a copier version), or recycle interesting junk mail. You can use the template to scale up or down in size by carefully moving it left or right.

If you are a free spirit like my long-time mail art buddy in Ohio, there’s an even easier way to make envelopes. She carefully tears apart an existing envelope, places it on the calendar page and proceeds to trace or cut around it. Sometimes her envelopes have been fashioned in such a way that I’m not quite sure how to get into them. Prior to 9/11, we had a lot of fun testing the mailman’s sense of humor.

So what do you think? Does this look like fun mail?

CORK OPEN STUDIOS 2018

I am a fan of touring artist’s studios when they are open to the public. It’s a great chance to see the studio spaces of painters, photographers, print makers, sculptors, and textile artisans as well as purchase their artwork. I learned about the CoRK Open Studios via an email from Yelp three days before the event. The CoRK tours have been going on for years, possibly as early as 2013, but the last open studio tours I knew of were held at private homes in the Riverside area in the late ’90’s.

I was disappointed that their website had none of the history of how the The CoRK Arts District (an acronym for corner of Rosselle and King) came into being. I found some of the history in our local newspaper, The Florida Times-Union.  Mac Easton, a partner in Pine Street/RPS, decided artist studios were the best use for 80,000 square feet of warehouse space. The location was no longer suited to industrial or retail use. He approached the artist, Dolf James, with the hope that Dolf would attract other artists, and Dolf moved his studio to one of the warehouses in April 2011.

On Saturday, November 17, I showed up at The CoRK Arts District along with several hundred others who were interested in seeing inside an artist’s studio that is normally not open to the public. The sheer lack of parking is the probable reason the area is not suited to industrial or retail use and parking that could have been used at other buildings was roped off. I started the self-guided tour near where I parked my car. At the third building, I got my hands on a full-color, 4-page brochure with a map on the front page. Not that it helped. You’ve heard about the dimwit who gets lost in an elevator? Yes, Virginia, I kept getting turned around in the hallways of those warehouses and wished I had brought bread crumbs.

It appeared from the map that CoRK encompassed four warehouses named North, South, East and West plus 3 other buildings. I completely missed the recording studio and I’m not sure I saw everything I was supposed to see at CoRK South.

The following photos are a sampling of the 70 studios that were open on the tour.

 

YELLOW HOUSE

Yellow bungalow with the word ART painted in black and turquoise
Yellow House

 

Prints by Hope McMath, who is well known in the local arts community.
Prints by Hope McMath, who is well known in the local arts community.

 

Artfully rendered school bus in the yard of Yellow House.

On the hood of the bus, above the headlights, was this quote: “Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.” – Rosa Parks

 

AROUND CoRK

The next two photos are murals painted on the exterior walls of the various warehouses.

 

 

 

Multi-color diagonal, overhead, string art in one of the warehouse hallways
Multi-color string art in one of the warehouse hallways.

CoRK NORTH

Douglas Eng’s studio fascinated me. He had a lot of beautiful tree photographs and we were allowed to take a postcard of a cypress tree. One of his photos was a section of a huge high rise apartment building in Hong Kong where people live stacked on top of each other because of population density. You can find it and see more of his photos at dougeng.art. I heard him explaining something about a “sandwiching” technique to achieve the long, horizontal tree photo below.

 

long horizontal photo of trees hanging above piles of branches
Douglas Eng — long photo of trees hanging above piles of branches

 

Douglas Eng - Odd-shaped structure of photos of trees. On wheels.
Douglas Eng – Structural photography of trees

 

Zentangle and rubber stamp art.
Zentangle and rubber stamps. This was inside Douglas Eng’s studio but I believe it was a different artist.

 

Tiffany Manning’s art studio stairs. The entire phrase is “Happiness is doing the things you love in the place you love with the people you love.”

 

Huge chalkboard wall in studios of Karen Kurycki, Amy Ploss-Samson and Jen Arevalo

 

Artwork above chalk wall.

 

Artwork on wall to right of chalk wall.

CoRK SOUTH

There were supposedly two artist studios at CoRK South but other than a lot of pottery and this chicken art, it was unclear if there were actual studios to visit. A sign with arrow would have helped.

Cartoonish painting of chicken with "Chicken Got My Mojo" phrase.
This piece of art was in Jeff Whipple’s area.

CoRK WEST

 

The front nameplate of an original Heidelberg printing press in the studio of Crystal Floyd.
The front nameplate of an original Heidelberg printing press in the studio of Crystal Floyd.

 

I believe these exposed wall tiles were also in Crystal Floyd’s studio.

 

I <i>think</i> this was Sharla Valeski's textile art hanging in a public area of the warehouse.
I think this was Sharla Valeski’s textile art hanging in a public area of the warehouse.

 

Exposed wooden wall in Sharla Valeski studio with a segmented wooden 5 hanging on the wall.
Exposed wooden wall in Sharla Valeski studio.

 

Sharla Valeski -- rusty box springs used as a wall to hang framed art.
Sharla Valeski — rusty box springs used as a wall to hang framed art.

 

Canvas attached to front door of Paul Ladnier studio.

CoRK EAST

I greatly admired this piece of art. Periodic Table by Princess Simpson Rashid.
I greatly admired this piece of art. Periodic Table by Princess Simpson Rashid.

 

 

 

EASY CARE FOR 9a — HURRICANE LILY

Lycoris radiata, also known as Hurricane Lily, Red Spider Lily, and sometimes Resurrection Lily, Surprise Lily, and Magic Lily is a bulb plant. It often produces a flower stalk without any foliage, magically popping up out of the ground on 1 to 2 foot scapes and unfurling into an exotic flower for two weeks. Other years it doesn’t bloom at all. A pencil-width leaf with a silver-gray stripe running down the center appears after the bloom.

Hurricane Lily, Lycoris radiata

 

Hurricane Lily, Lycoris radiata, bloom begins to unfurl
Hurricane Lily, Lycoris radiata, bloom begins to unfurl

 

Hurricane Lily, before and during the bloom
Hurricane Lily, before and during the bloom

Hurricane Lily blooms in August and September usually after a heavy rain much like the Rain Lily, Zephyranthes. It prefers partial shade in soil that is moist but not boggy during the bloom season. It likely will not bloom the first year planted whether new to your yard or divided and replanted elsewhere.

Hailing from China and Japan, Hurricane Lilies have naturalized throughout the southeastern United States but also grows in California. It is poisonous and probably not a good plant to have around if you have a dog or other animal prone to digging. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and convulsions.

For more information, see the University of Florida’s Solutions for Your Life.

ZONES AND PLANTING

Hurricane Lilies are winter hardy from USDA Zones 5b down to 10. Above 5b, it should be overwintered indoors. Plant bulbs 9″ apart with the top 1/4 of the bulb exposed so the flower bud can develop.

MY ZONE 9a EXPERIENCE

Hurricane Lilies are a member of the Amaryllis genus with a growing habit similar to my Amaryllis Belladonna or Naked Ladies, Lycoris squamigera, a pink flowering bulb whose foliage appears before the bloom, and my Golden Spider Lily or Golden Hurricane Lily, Lycoris aurea, whose foliage appears afterwards.

Supposedly, it is quick to form large clumps because it spends no energy producing seeds. I thought it did produce seeds when I encountered what looked like green seed pods after the bloom faded but the pods ultimately withered away. One just never knows because the Southern Rural Route orbits the Crooked Moon.

Seed-like pods on red Hurricane Lily after the bloom
Seed pods?

The most likely method to acquire any of the lycoris bulbs is as a pass-along plant or through a mail order source. Mine was acquired in Texas through friends. I planted it beneath the shade of a cypress tree. I have ignored it at all times except when it blooms. I don’t fertilize it or cover it in the winter but it is in an area that gets occasional water. In the summer, when the bulbs are dormant, the soil should be on the dry side.

It does not seem to be bothered by pests or diseases.

 

 

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES — PARASITES, PREDATORS & DISEASES

Monarch butterflies have a mortality rate of over 90% due to parasites, predators and diseases. A Monarch butterfly flitting through your garden is a miracle of survival. It victoriously made it through the entire life cycle — egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult. After all that striving, it will live a mere 2 to 6 weeks as an adult butterfly.

This blackened Monarch caterpillar showed up in a small patch of milkweed I provide as a host plant for monarchs.

 

I consulted my friend, Cee, the Butterfly Lady, to find out what happened and she provided me with several possibilities.

 

PARASITES

Monarchs in tropical areas have the highest rate of infection from Ophryocystis Elektroscirrha, mostly referred to as OE probably because no one can pronounce it. OE is a parasitic single cell organism infecting only milkweed butterflies in the Lepidoptera order. The most well-known of these are Monarchs, Queens and the Luna Moth.

The Tachinid Fly, another parasite, attacks anywhere from 10% to 40% of the Monarch population by laying eggs on the caterpillar. The egg hatches and the fly larva bores into the butterfly caterpillar where it becomes a maggot that feeds on the caterpillar from the inside out. Doesn’t that sound awful?

 

PREDATORS

The list of predators is long. Ants, mites, spiders, Chalcid and Trichogramma wasps, plus larval forms of other insects can attack the Monarch eggs. Birds and rodents can also attack caterpillars. As an adult, the Monarch may not make it to old age because of birds, dragonflies, mantids, parasites, wasps, rodents, and insecticides.

 

DISEASES

The two most common infections that result in “Black Death” are Pseudomonas and NPV. In both cases, the caterpillar shrivels up, turns black, and goo seeps from both ends.

Pseudomonas is a bacterial infection that likes warm, moist environments. It is found all over the world in soil, water and plants. It’s a good idea to allow your plants and soil to dry after watering to discourage development.

NPV, or Nuclear polyhedrosis virus, is most evident in areas with short or mild winters. The longer growing season allows time for NPV to spread. It causes caterpillars to crawl toward the top of the plant and then hang in an inverted V when it dies. Each caterpillar can have a billion virus particles. All that goo seeping from both ends spreads the virus.

A freeze might kill the plants on which virus particles from dying caterpillars exist but it does not kill the virus. Six hours of direct sun will kill the virus but, of course, the sun does not reach shady areas.

It’s hard to tell whether Pseudomonas, NPV or a predator killed a caterpillar because the caterpillar death often looks the same.

This is not a natural progression of a chrysalis. It became spotty, discolored and stayed that way for several days. The change to dark happens more evenly and rapidly in a healthy chrysalis. Photo by Cee.

 

More examples of infected chrysalis. Photo by Cee

THE GOOD NEWS

Despite the discouragement of parasites, predators, and diseases, the female Monarch can produce 200 to 600 eggs in her short lifetime which means the 90% mortality rate still leaves almost 10% of caterpillars becoming butterflies. When you see one of those 10% flitting about in your garden, recognize the miracle you are witnessing.

You can help the caterpillars become butterflies by making room in your yard for native plants. According to Jim McCormac, in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, “Nearly all caterpillar species shun non-native flora.”

The University of Florida offers a list of host and food plants for Florida butterflies. You can’t go wrong with a few varieties of milkweed plants which are host plants for the Monarch, Queen and Soldier/Tropical Queen butterflies.