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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Butterfly House back in operation 7.22.14

I don’t have a lot of milkweed plants but haven't seen too many Monarchs or Queens around here for awhile.

I checked my plant and found a few caterpillars…

I brought in the few plants that I had and they ate them right up so had to buy a few more.

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The plants above are tropical milkweed. They had eaten most of my Giant Milkweed and I put it back outside to regrow.

Here are the 3 in the top circle.

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They only take about 8- 9 days to get to this size and boy can they devour a leaf.

Here is a caterpillar in the “J” formation. It usually is like this for around 12 hrs. . You can see its feelers are still pretty firm.

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I’ve watched so many that I know the signs when one is going to pupate. This is the same caterpillar that’s in the picture above. Notice how limp the feelers are now. Once it gets like this I start watching for  a lot of motion. I think it is pushing down into the bend …that is where the skin splits.

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Same caterpillar….skin has split and it is working it to the top.

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Here are two chrysalis and one that has just pupated. It is rotating around trying to throw off the skin at the top. It will  just keep shrugging till it’s up there.

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I have seen them gyrate so much they come loose and fall but most are very securely attached to the screen.

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You can use the “search” box at the top of the page to find videos of pupating caterpillars and some of emerging butterflies.

This is a Queen caterpillar. You can see an extra set of feelers on the Queen.

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This is a Monarch.

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I’ve since bought more plants…and found  more caterpillars.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Installing Green Bee Hives Small Hive Beetle Trap 6.19.14

A few months ago I ordered 2 Small Hive Beetle Traps from Greenbeehives.com.

When they arrived we were already for a 6 wk trip to NY, VT and points in between. I didn’t want to put them on and leave without having time to check them.

We got back last week and I noticed one hive had a lot of beetles ….so we installed one of the traps. The other hive is doing well and didn’t want to break it down right now. We’ll get that one next week.

The landing board box the tray fits in didn’t have it closed off very well so Jim did some modifying.

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He added a wider board to the end of the tray so there would be overlapping wood to prevent insects from getting in to an area the bees couldn’t control.

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He also cut the “porch” at a slant so rain drops would splash away from the hive instead of inside it.

The screen will let the beetles and larva pass through but not the bees.

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The tray is filled with mineral oil. Some use vegetable oil to attract the beetles but I am afraid it will get rancid here in the hot southern weather.

Here is a video of the installation….

In the video you can see me removing 2 inner covers. One is a standard inner cover the other is a frame with window screen. I have screen on the inner cover but had to cut a hole in it to allow the bees to pass through this winter when I was feeding them.

We  killed at least 50 beetles on the inner cover when we first opened the hive to install the trap.  The bees had the beetles trapped between the inner cover and the screen….made killing them fairly easy.

We didn’t finish until late afternoon. Got rained out the first try. Here is what we found the next morning at 9am.

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Fri 6.20.14        

We left them until the this morning then strained the oil through a paint filter and this is what we got. Unfortunately there were 3 small Honey Bees in it also. Don’t know why…maybe they were dead before they went in.

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Sat   6.21.14

Opened the tray today and only 2 or 3 beetles.

We’ll strain the oil again tomorrow…then we’ll leave it for a week.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Swarms 6.14.14

On May 3 we caught a swarm and put it in the Top Bar Hive. It is still there.

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My neighbor has been checking on them for me, so I wasn’t surprised to see they were still here.

This is a peek in the window in the rear. I think there are 8 or 9 drawn comb.

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I need to go in and move the divider board to give them more room and remove the empty honey jar I left in there.

We mowed and knocked down the grass around the hives with the weed eater today…then it rained. Tomorrow might be a good day to do it.

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I was surprised to see the ones in the squirrel box…

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They’ve been there for awhile because there is comb in there. Look close near the bottom of the picture. Also see 2 bees with pollen  coming in.

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It will be interesting to see how they manage. I don’t have anymore equipment and don’t need another hive so we’ll let them do their thing in the home they chose.

Looks like the comb goes below the entrance.

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It is about 15 ft. off the ground. Guess the squirrels will have to find another spot.003