silent thunder

Taoist Immortal Monarchs: Alchemy in Nature

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Hornet raided the plant this afternoon. 

Perhaps one or both of the first Instar were small enough to evade notice.

The others were carried off, injected, or eaten on the plant.

 

roughly 2% of eggs survive to adult Butterfly.

 

and the cycle continues...

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One recent hatchling avoided notice yesterday and continues.

Such tiny resilience... to remain unoticed.

                        yin potency

        while eating voraciously yang

 

to quote a friend... both, same time.

 

It was a paper wasp, or several, that got the others, not hornets.

They tried starting a nest in the corner of our balcony several weeks ago.

Been hanging about recently and scoping the balcony and eaves.

 

 

Edited by silent thunder
spelling...
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Moved the hosting plant inside some days back.  It's temporary home is the top of our cat tower.

 

Found a second Instar 1 on the plant outside a few days back and brought it inside to the host plant.  Wasps are still scoping the balcony regularly and the outside plant is recovering slowly and has but a few tiny leaves to offer as cover and food.

 

Found an infestation of Milkweed Aphids on the indoor host plant and dealt with it by wiping them off the underside of the leaves with a damp paper towel after a bit of research.  They appeared at first like a yellow pollen, but pollen doesn't manifest on leaves, so we got out the magnifying glass and then id'd them.  These aphids are non-native and invasive, they spread very quickly and may kill the plant if enough of them proliferate by piercing leaves and siphoning plant essence.  They also prevent further eggs being laid as they carpet the underside of leaves, stems and branches.

 

So of our current two fosters, one just molted to instar 3 and is eating partially severed leaves in the inverted pose.  Should be ready to Chrysalis in another 5-8 days.  Instar 2 has hidden so well, we've not seen her for two days now.

 

 

 

 

 

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Few minutes ago... another gal, (HUGE!) regaled us of a few more eggs on our balcony plant. 

 

We've decided to keep the main plant just inside the screen door on the cat tower.  It keeps the wasps away and should prevent another aphid incursion.  We'll transfer the caterpillers to the indoor plant when they hatch as the outdoor plant is still recovering so provides minimal food and cover and the wasps continue to cruise...

 

The egg laying season here has been longer than i anticipated and longer than research indicated... I'm curious how long we'll have females laying eggs. 

 

Also, having the plant at eye level indoors has been a real window expansion into their activity... their eating habits seem very structured, ritualized comes to mind as i watch the 3 and 4 instars, sever a leaf's main vein, cutting off flow and causing the leaf to droop steeply.  They then reverse and move to the tip, upside down and begin feeding their way back up the leaf while it dangles (to my ignorant eyes) by a seeming thread, precariously. 

 

After working their way back to the branch backwards, pick the next leaf and repeat.

 

They also consume their own shed skin as they molt through the first four Instars.  I'd been looking for the shed skins to observe under the microscope, but they don't let them go.  Repurpose those minerals mate!

 

yin love

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So the big female who visted, was either a male, or did not have any eggs left.  There are no eggs on the outside plant.  I was surprised that there'd still be females laying this late.

 

Evades the Wasps as I've come to think of her, made her transition to Chrysalis this morning. 

My gal caught it on video, though too big to post here.

 

Got some decent pics of her final day of inverted feeding:

5f0cc517effc3_Instar4feeding.jpg.87adc8698756e0dd22ad96b8e6f1268e.jpg

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and of her making her anchor

5f0cc55740b2f_Anchoring2.jpg.d3e0ebe69b0a684944efced2abd67401.jpg

and then heading into J pose.  She held J pose for 14.5 hours!  Curled up and holding steady... (reminds me of Zhan Zhuang) starting @ 8:05pm last night.

5f0cc5714aed8_JPose.jpg.d1ce327f424b06e05c6da4bf36437437.jpg

 

 

10:30am this morning, (I was still asleep as I've reverted to nocturnal habits in our months long isolation) my gal noticed her starting to wiggle which is the prompt they're going to Chrysalize.  Shortly after they start wiggling their skin splits on the back of the head and then they pump and wiggle their body until the skin splits the entire length and eventually is wiggled off.  Took just under four minutes from first wiggle to full Chrysalis...  utterly incredible to watch. 

5f0cc592c0a91_Chrysalis2.thumb.jpg.9bd544bed9a5d07357fed1b1316b4a6a.jpg

I woke to her fully transitioned form and the video my gal caught of it.  They really anchor themselves well and wiggle rather tenaciously even a few minutes after the skin has detached.  (saved it for microscope viewing, I'll dig the microscope camera out for some pics).

 

Simply stunning process.  She should emerge in about a fortnight...

 

 

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Evades the Wasps emerged @ 10:19 this morning.

IMG_5626s.jpg.e56054956e0d708761cfc99df5d5a9b4.jpg

 

 

We sat with her for a little over four hours while she inflated, dried and then stretched her wings.

 

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Purging her abdomen of the unused fluids for the wing inflation, she eventually fluttered off the to North.

 

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and the cycle continues...

IMG_5695sc.jpg

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This morning, I spotted another caterpiller, happily munching away.

Instar 3 or 4 already... impressive that he was here for a week without being spotted.

No wasps have been spotted for a while now.

They're drawn to the presence of aphids and we've been sweeping the plant regularly.

Even so, we've brought him inside the screen to develop in peace... and to stare lovingly.

 

Gal named him Houdini.  Impressive yin visual evasion technique dear sir!

 

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So Houdini has some interesting eating habits not displayed by any of the others we've hosted.  After stripping every leaf from the top of his chosen stem, last night we watched him climb to the top and eat an entire seed pod... casing, seeds, tufts... everything.  Then after everyone had gone to bed, I walked by and saw him gnawing on the stem of the plant for a good long while.  He eventually went down for another leaf, but after that leaf, he buggered right back up to the top and started gnawing on the stem, again. 

 

So fascinating... I wonder how much force their bite generates.

 

IMG_5703.JPG.5f077520d55f1512a8475f261b0d8335.JPG

 

 

While on the subject of seed pods... This plant has been producing 2-6 pods at a time regularly over the last two+ months and rather than having them dump all over our balcony and reseed in other pots with current occupants, my son and I have undertaken an Urban Guerrilla Gardening campaign.  There are a few prime spots, empty lots and unused spaces along our usual walking route, where we take the pods that are opening and disperse the seeds on our midnight walks.  (The true full name for the project is the Guerrilla Gardening Urban Resurgence Dispersal Joyously Each Fornight Federation...  or G. GURDJEFF for short)  :lol::wub:;):ph34r:

 

simple joys...

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Here's Houdini having at one of the seed pods for breakfast.

IMG_5704s.jpg.5d99b637f249310fe0875b8587a24efe.jpg

Though to be honest, I don't know what meal to call it, when this guy hasn't stopped eating since we found him.

He could easily out eat a Hobbit.

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About 6pm Houdini started making the anchor for his Chrysalis.

He latched on fully and entere J Pose @ 10pm.

 

He held J pose for 17 hours and 20 minutes.

Then, in 3 minutes and 50 seconds, transformed from this:

 

5f29ed867ae79_HoudiniJPose.jpg.2e030f8a676b62311457e59e092581d8.jpg

to this:

5f29ed8d4556b_HoudiniChrysalis.jpg.bb9ee0dd92f9c87ae7fcd59e3216d8d8.jpg

17 1/2 hours in one inverted crunch pose... 

Universe:  alright, you get wings now...

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Agreed my friend. 

 

Houdini emerged about an hour ago, just before 8am.

His wings are drying now.  Gal got his emergence on video.

Pretty sure he's a he.  Though it's tougher to tell when their wings are closed.

5f38097ff2abc_HoudiniDryingWings.thumb.jpg.91b7c0b4c4f498613ea02eadf9f61463.jpg

Here he is just after inflating his wings hanging out while they dry...

What a truly stunning process.

 

Talk about Alchemy!

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Their straw like proboscis mouths are in two parts when they emerge...  Watching him flex them as they slowly fuse together to form the tube structure.  When Evades the Wasps, emerged, I spent a bit of time confused as I could only spot four legs... I just never saw the third pair.  More research into this and it turns out the third pair of legs are not observed being used very often, but they are present and remain close to the body located right near the face/head.  They do seem to use them to help align the two halves of their proboscis though.

 

Just incredible to witness this.  So small, so intricate, such a stunning process to transform from egg to a full flight Monarch.

 

 

Weighing a quarter of an ounce and able to travel thousands of miles to a place it's never seen, aside from in the memories of ancestors, which is what I've always considered 'Instinct' to be... one being able to recall the memories of one's ancestors as one's own.

 

Just incredible... humbling and inspiring simultaneously.

 

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Houdini took off a few minutes ago.

 

It's a perfect morning for flying... warm, dry, just the slightest of breezes.

Edited by silent thunder

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It's almost time for Monarchs to begin passing through... again.  I hope.

 

We're getting three bushes this year.  Two will remain outside for hosting eggs and initial hatchings.

One will remain behind the screen and we'll transfer the cats there as a haven to safely finish their process and avoid another Wasp assault.

 

Unfortunately I read a few weeks ago that Monarch populations have potentially plummeted this year.   If reports pan out to be accurate, it looks bleak.  Observer's counts in several key and historically significant areas numbered only in the hundreds, while others reported none, or a a mere few thousand. 

 

When my wife and I encountered that sleeping cluster in a Eucalyptus Grove in Big Sur, back in the early 2000's, there were so many ladening down the branches of a dozen trees we couldn't see the branches or leaves...  now those Groves may be bare. 

 

While it is the nature of that which has form, to pass away and I embrace this.  I also am unflinchingly aware that within my own field... there exists an abiding and a deep longing to see this pattern of Monarchs in nature to endure, for whatever reason.

 

So... three Milkweed bushes will be picked up soon and we'll invite any passing Mothers-to-be, to devote their young to our fostering observations and nurturing.

 

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Posted (edited)

Picked up our first of three Milkweed bushes for this year's Momma Monarch Migration.

 

I remain hopeful, though reported sighting numbers are very grim.

Edited by silent thunder
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