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Western Monarchs Surviving Freezing Temps Outside with Protection

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  • Mona Miller
    I don t normally do this, but I remembered a very informative email from Gail Morris on the subject of late Monarchs and how to keep them warm outside.  This
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 6, 2011
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      I don't normally do this, but I remembered a very informative email
      from Gail Morris on the subject of late Monarchs and how to keep them
      warm outside.  This was sent to me on a discussion that we were having
      on the Monarch Watch dplex-L email list, parts of it are from the
      Monarch Watch dplex-L email list.  A friend in VA has found live
      Monarch caterpillars that have survived hard frost here in VA.

      > From: Gail Morris <gail-marie@...>
      > Date: Sun, Apr 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM
      > Subject: Re: [DPLEX-L:43696] Re: Eggs - 9 days and counting
      > To: Mona Miller <runmede@...>
      > Thanks, Mona. I wasn't sure anyone believed what we see here. Tatsuyo and I were very aware of three cold dips we had in the Phoenix area. The first freeze was right before Thanksgiving but it was just enough to freeze our tender plants, not a hard freeze. We had a second freeze, this time a hard freeze, the nights of Dec 31 and Jan 1. It dipped to 25 in my yard those nights and hers. To help the monarch larvae I believe she put a 60 watt light bulb nearby, but kept them outside. I found a 4th instar monarch caterpillar at the base of my A. curassavica that I had covered in the garden on January 4th - only 3 green tiny leaves left, the rest toast.  This caterpillar of mine survived but later had tachnid. By February 1 through 3 we had the worst freeze. Again Tatsuyo put the 60 watt light bulb nearby and they survived. That night it again dipped to 25 and with that small added heat they survived. BUT....she later found a few other monarch caterpillars who survived without any help. They burrowed deep in dried leaves at the base of the plant. We'll never know how many perished and I'm sure others did. But amazingly some survived. I don't know if this helps any. Its fascinating. I try not to push Tatsuyo too much - she's older and I know she loves the monarchs but asking her to do too much is hard on her and I don't want her to stop working with me. But she is so willing to let me come in and do anything I want to observe them. She tags each one and tests them for O.e.
      > I also wanted to share an interesting observation re native and exotic plants. I'll be honest, I'm not a purist but I lean towards native plants. While I plant curassavica, I have far more native milkweeds on my property (and Tatsuyo found that the winter monarchs were usually on those since we have evergreen milkweeds.) Right now I have several monarchs in my yard and one more chrysalis that should eclose in a few more days. The monarchs are nectaring on Asclepias linaria (in abundant bloom), Asclepias subulata and the Wooly Butterfly bush Buddleja marrubiifolia, and sunflowers. Asclepias curassavica is in abundant bloom - they are ignoring it. Lantana is in lush bloom - they are ignoring it. In the fall these last two are monarch hot plants - they are all over it. The Gulf fritillary is favoring the curassavica for nectar and the Black swallowtail is just flying through and sampling the lantana, but not feasting on it. Since it just started blooming it may not be at its full nectar yet. Just interesting to see.
      > Anyway, I'm getting long winded here, back to monarchs in Phoenix. From my observations this winter I believe that Tatsuyo had reproducing monarchs on South Mountain. Their cycle was prolonged but she pretty much had monarchs from when they arrived in late October through last week when the last one eclosed. On the other hand we had a small number of overwintering monarchs at Rio Salado. I monitored them several times a week. They survived the hard freezes - thick tree canopy and small streams winding through created a protective microclimate. No mating/eggs until Feb 7 when we saw mating the first time and the end of February where we saw egg laying. I tagged eight so I know they stayed the entire time - we had only 4 by February (numbers dropped after the freezes.) That first generation of eleven (6 males, 5 females) all eclosed about ten days ago.  So in the Phoenix area we seem to have both breeding and monarchs in diapause in the winter - just like Urquhart predicted in the books you recommended.
      > Enjoy your day, Mona. Thanks for your interest. Chip did suggest we find some nearby temperature reporting stations but all the ones were too far from Tatsuyo's house to be accurate. Gail
      >
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: Mona Miller
      > To: Gail Morris
      > Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2011 5:31 AM
      > Subject: Re: [DPLEX-L:43696] Re: Eggs - 9 days and counting
      >
      > Actually many of us are very interested in how Monarchs can survive colder temperatures.  I think this accounts for those Monarchs overwintering outside of the normal overwintering areas.  Most of this information is not documented.
      >
      > On Sat, Apr 23, 2011 at 10:31 PM, Gail Morris <gail-marie@...> wrote:
      >> Just to you since I think I've exhausted everyone's attention span with this!  She used a mesh laundry container on the south side of her house in a place similar to the milkweed they were found on. No rocks, just the plant in the mesh container. Somewhat hear a building but not right against it. Not full sun - mountain top behind her. Hope this helps.
      >> Gail
      >>
      >> ----- Original Message -----
      >> From: Mona Miller
      >> To: dplex-l@...
      >> Sent: Saturday, April 23, 2011 5:18 PM
      >> Subject: [DPLEX-L:43696] Re: Eggs - 9 days and counting
      >>
      >> It would be interesting to know what type of enclosure that she was using.  Were they kept near a building?  Were rocked used to weight down the enclosure?  Rocks absorb heat during the day and release it at night.

      --
      Mona Miller
      Herndon, VA (USA) }i{ }i{ }i{
      Washington Area Butterfly Club
      Education, appreciation, conservation of butterflies.
      Membership for 2011 & 2012 only $10 to help keep us flying.
      http://leplog.wordpress.com/washington-area-butterfly-club/
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