Unfortunately, we had no success with our "space monarchs"...they did eat the artificial food, but it dried out fairly quickly. Glad I saved aside a little at home in the refrigerator. When I signed up to do the project with a 4th grade teacher, I expected to be back at the school full time but it did not work out that way and I was only able to stop by the school occasionally to check the project - things might have gone smoother if I had been there to monitor daily.
I was wondering if anyone noticed a difference in the caterpillar "batches" they sent, 3 in one container and 3 in the other. I made two identical habitats out of "salad bar" clear containers placed vertically as instructed on the website. In my experience, one container did much worse than the other. Container A had 2 caterpillars die and the third made a very strange looking chrysalis, almost "shriveled". When I heard from the teacher that there were some problems, I went in and found that the containers were probably getting dried out by being too close to the heat vent. I added a moist paper towel in the bottom of the second container which seemed to help some, and all three of those did make chrysalises around Dec. 2, but none of them were able to stay attached to the top of the container. I had netting in the bottom in case they fell, and that "saved" them. One looked very odd and never emerged and the other two had the butterfly body push the "top" off the chrysalis (section between cremaster attachment and the ring of gold dots) and their fat little abdomens were popping out and looked stuck. The first one I tried to help free from the chrysalis when I noticed it... it was able to hang onto the netting once it emerged, but seemed very weak and did not pump wings... legs seemed abnormal as well. It emerged on 12/20 and was still hanging and alive on 12/22 with tiny wings...I fed it Gatorade and it drank like crazy, but still weak and then it was not alive when I checked the next day. The other chrysalis which had looked the most normal emerged on 12/24 and was the same as the other...empty chrysalis looked "grayish" in color, again the "top" came off instead of pushing through the "trap door" on the side as a normal one would do...and it seemed stuck, but this time I waited to help it in case it needed to struggle to get the wings to work. I finally freed it, but this one had even weaker legs and could not hang on the netting and was not able to expand its wings either. Also, it took much longer than expected to finally make the chrysalises and many more days than expected to emerge.
Could it be they were infected with OE? That was my first thought when I saw the "gray" looking chrysalis and that the butterflies were exceptionally dark and weak. I am going to try to get a microscope to see if I can identify any OE spores, but have not done that before. I know the conditions were less than ideal with the temp and humidity fluctuations, and some people have had success, but wondering if anyone else experienced what I did.
I was hoping to be hand-feeding a monarch it's Christmas dinner, something I have not been able to do in the past here in Ohio, but unfortunately that did not happen. Hope most of you had better luck that we did. It will be interesting to see the results of the survey! Happy 2010 to my fellow monarch lovers!
Each day is a gift, filled with possibilities...