Sunday, September 14, 2014

Zebra Longwing caterpillars 9.14.14

On 9.9.14 a few of the Zebra Longwing eggs hatched. Here are 2 little ones. They are yellow when they are this small.

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A few more but they are really hard to see. I have to use a magnifying glass. There are actually 3 in the circle on the R.

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Today is the 14th and this caterpillar is starting to grow. It is about 1/2 inch long….white with black spikes. You can see one that is much younger on the R and a couple munching on the leaf on the L. I have one leaf with 5 on it of varying sizes. They seem to like being together.

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Still have about a dozen of the Gulf Fritillaries in here and a dozen Queen caterpillars in the other house.

Cant wait to see this one pupate.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Butterfly House for Zebra Longwings & Gulf Fritillarys 9.6.14

When we saw the Zebra Longwing laying eggs on the Passion Flower Vine…028csJim decided he’d build me a Butterfly House for them and the Gulf Fritillarys. They both use the Passion Flower Vine as a larval plant.

The Zebra Longwings lay their yellow eggs on the tips of the new growth. The Gulf Fritillarys lay on the leaf.

We used lumber that we already had so they did not come out alike, but the Passion Vines don’t need as tall a house. I have a Giant Milkweed that is put in the Monarch/Queen house when I have a lot of caterpillars…even then some of the stalks have to be bent over.

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We have wild Passion Vine down the road …I cut some and put it in a vase and moved the vase with the cuttings from Debbie’s plant into their new home.

The plant on the L is much coarser than the one from Debbie…but both are accepted by the caterpillars.

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While we were building the house I had a Queen and a Gulf Fritillary they were almost ready to emerge so I set the camera up while we were outside. I just missed the Queen emerge but caught the Gulf Fritillary and also a Queen caterpillar pupating at the same time.

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This little one has just shed it’s skin…you can see it behind him, and his spikes are still light. They’ll be black in a few hours.

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Not a good picture of the Zebra Longwing but you can see both are interested in the Passion Flower Vine.

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Here is a flower in the Butterfly House that is just starting to open. They are about 3” across when in full bloom. Beautiful flowers.

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We can sit in the screen room and watch the Honey Bees, the caterpillars grow and Hummingbirds feed on the Jatropha Bush and the Bottle Brush. Every now and then a Raccoon will check us out. We keep hoping the Bob Cat will stop by but haven’t seen it in the back yard yet.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tiger Swallowtail

One of the biggest wingspans that come to our yard. Most of the Swallowtails are black with yellow or blue and they flutter their wings when feeding…not so the the Tiger Swallowtail. It sits there as if posing for pictures.

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It has a beautiful yellow fuzzy body, with big eyes.

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I believe the orange spots at the base of the blue indicate this is a male.

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This Jatropha bush is always busy in the morning. Lots of Peacocks, Swallowtails, Monarchs, Queens, Gulf Fritillarys, Sulphurs, Zebra Longwings and even a Viceroy visit.

The only thing I have seen the Honeybees come to this bush for is the pollen.

Even the underside of the wings are beautiful.

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Here’s a close up of the body …

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I believe the Sweet Bay Magnolia is a larval plant. We do have some wild Magnolias behind the tractor barn but I cant get high enough to see if there are caterpillars on it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

We have a tenant in the new bat house 8.29.14

I am not sure how long it’s been there. A week or so ago I was watching it around dusk, 8pm, and spotted a bat that seemed to come from nowhere…but couldn’t be sure. It happened again a few nights later so now I am really watching.

Night before last I went out to the shop..set up a fan to keep the skeeters at bay….sat on a bucket and watched the bat house. Sure enough…out dropped a bat. At the time I couldn’t tell which chamber it came from.

The outer chamber is 7/8 “  to attract the Big Brown Bat and the inner chamber is 3/4” to accommodate the Little Brown Bat and the Freetails.

I took this picture from the video and you can just see the little guy leaving the outer chamber….Big Brown?

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And away it goes….

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I did see two flying around a few nights ago but was so happy to get this video I didn’t stick around to see if there were more. I’ll keep watch tonight.

The chamber it picked to roost in is away from our screen room. That is why I was sitting in the shop.

Short video but you can see it leaving.

We are thrilled!!! Did not really expect to have anything move in till spring…sure hope it stays and brings friends.

Gulf Fritillary caterpillars, chrysalis, pupating 8.28.14

6 of the caterpillars have gotten very big. Here’s one…it was about the same size as the one near the top when I brought it in.

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You can see 5 of them here.

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When they first shed their skins they are a light orange…the spikes a cream color and within a few hours they are as beautiful as these two.

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3 of them went to the top yesterday and put themselves in the “J” formation…similar to the Monarchs and Queens.

You can see that it is losing some of it’s color…it is getting ready to pupate.

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I had never seen the Gulf Fritillary pupate so it was pretty interesting. It does push it’s skin to the top and shake it off like the Monarchs, but there the similarity ends…

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The video shows how it’s done. The other caterpillar is looking for a spot to do the same.

This is what it looked like a few hours later.

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This is the next day…it is starting to angle itself, and will be almost parallel with the wood.

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It’s a very interesting process , but can’t say I think these chrysalis are as pretty as the Monarch’s and Queen’s.

I read it takes about 8 days before the butterfly emerges. Can’t wait to see that!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Passion Flower Vine & Gulf Fritillary caterpillars 8.24.14

My friend, Debbie, gave me a small Passion Flower Vine. She has a big one growing on a trellis and this one popped up in her butterfly garden.

It was about a foot tall when I got it. Now it’s about 4 ft tall.

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I also noticed there were caterpillars on it. Very pretty ones. Orange with black spikes.

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I checked www.bugguide.com and the Passion Flower Vine is the larval plant for the Gulf Fritillary

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I noticed the wasps checking the plants for them so decided to go down the road and take some cuttings from a wild Passion Flower Vine and put them in a pot with rooting compound on them and bring the larger caterpillars into the Butterfly House. Here are 4 of the 7 I brought in.

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By bringing them inside it will give the plant outside a chance to grow. There are already 6 little hatchlings on it and she was laying again today. Pretty little yellow eggs.

This one  is on the inside plant.

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Their chrysalis is completely different than the Monarchs or Queens. Cant wait to see them.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

We’re Going Batty!!! 8.5.14

At least we are trying to.

We’ve had 3 bats get aboard our boats. Two on the Albin Trawler, Slow Motion, and one on Meander, the boat we have now. I was able to catch one with a towel on the trawler and let it out and we guided one out. The one on Meander just kept flying back and forth in the boat until it found the open door and left on it’s own.

Little Brown Bats can eat  500 – 1000 mosquitos in an hour…imagine if they ate all night….and believe me….we have tons of mosquitos here.

The Big Brown Bat can eat hundreds of beetles a night. Hope they like hive beetles. They also eat wasps, flies, stinkbugs, dragonflies and flying ants.

I think both bats like moths…and wax moths can be a problem for a weak bee hive.

We went to the local hardware store and bought a bat house. Once home I did some research and that little house just wasn’t what they suggested for a good house…so we returned it.

I found some plans for a “Rocket” bat house. It will have less windage during hurricanes…and I liked the look.

Jim figured out what he needed for materials and got started.

Since we were using finished lumber instead of rough cut…he had to score all the boards that the bats would be using. This will fit over a 4x4. All the groves will give the bats something to cling to. The spacers are 3/4 of an inch. Small Brown Bats should fit in here comfortably.

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Jim had to do every one of those scores with his skill saw. Table saw just wasn’t doing the job. Very time consuming.

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The bats will be in that narrow space.

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One box is longer than the other….that gives them a landing board. The next spacers were 7/8 of an inch so Big Brown Bats could fit. Not sure which we have flying overhead at night so trying to accommodate either.

Both sides of this had to be scored. He also put 4 cross over holes…2 (opposite sides) up high and 2 lower. (He forgot to take pictures so I drew them in)

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The outer box is on. The bats have 2 landing boards.

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I was afraid the flat roof would be a good place for hawks to sit so Jim put some styrofoam on and made a peaked roof.038cs

I put a couple coats of water based stain on it…a medium color since we are in Florida and it should be in full sun all day. Jim put the black spots on so it would look like a bird house. When we got done I thought we should have put a clock on it instead…and had our own clock tower.

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We sank 2 4x4s about 3’ in the ground and filled with concrete. There are 2 bolts in them. The top one will be for the pivot and the bottom to lock it in place. This will allow us to lower it in the future should it need work.

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Guess it’s time to get it in the air.

The pole is made of 2 2x4’s screwed and bolted together. We did it that way because untreated was needed inside the house. Bats like temperatures up to 100*and treated can cause vapors.

The rope is so we can pull on it to raise the bat house.

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The bat house is about 4’ long and weighs about 50 lbs. We set the pole on a short step ladder and put the house in place.

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Jim pulled on the rope so I could put the taller ladder in place.

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It was a struggle but we got it done. The loops in the rope are for me to stand in and Jim will go up the ladder and push it up as high as he can.

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Once my weight brought the top loop to the ground Jim came over and together we got it raised. It had a bit of a “fishing pole” effect with even a light  breeze so Jim went back to Lowe’s and got 2 treated 16’ 2x4s …stained them and screwed them to the opposite sides. It really beefed it up.

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I like the look. It can still be lowered if necessary.

Now I check it each morning to see if there is any bat poop on the landing board or pole.

We may have gotten carried away a bit….but I sure do like it. Because we are surrounded by so many trees it really needed to be fairly tall.

I hope the bats move in and like it as much as we do. I sure hope I will be posting pictures of bats flying out before long. They do say that spring is the best time for them to find a home…but maybe somewhere nearby it’s getting crowded and a few need a new home.

Bats, Bees, Birds, Bob Cats, Butterflies….looks like we have all the vowels covered in the “B”s. Of course, we don’t see the Bob Cats as often as the others.

If you ever consider putting up a bat house…go to http://www.bathouseforum.org/forum/  and learn all you can. It is a great site. They can help with building plans or suggest where to buy one. Your bat house doesn’t have to be as big as ours but they can definitely help you get one that has a chance of being occupied.