Saturday, April 15, 2017

"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses."
~Hanna Rion

The end of the Container Butterfly Garden draws nigh.

I began dismantling the garden with the expectation of a move from California to the Prescott Valley area in Arizona. The house here has been sold and another was bought in a little town called Dewey. We held a garage sale at which most of the butterfly plants with containers were sold. The new owners wished to keep some of the plants and containers to continue the butterfly garden, but it's only a mere shell of what it was.

The original plan was to visit Laguna Beach one more time with a trunk load of butterfly plants to give away, allowing me the opportunity to say goodbye and pay my respects to those who I've come to know, befriend, respect, and eventually hold deep affection for. The planning was impeccable; the timing sucked.

The date of escrow closing has been pushed up by a week, which has made it impossible to schedule enough time to visit.

The new house features a very small yard surrounded by the ubiquitous presence of gravel, just like almost every other residential home in the area. Arizona too, as with California, is plagued with the absence of dependable water sources. I am taking a few smaller butterfly plants with me, but the scope will not be as "grand" as the one in San Marcos was.

As a last bit of butterfly related info, below are two photos illustrating how to determine the gender of Monarch chrysalides:



Take care, and Happy Butterfly Gardening!

“Be a child again. Flirt. Giggle. Dip your cookies in your milk. Take a nap. Say you're sorry if you hurt someone. Chase a butterfly. Be a child again.”
~ Max Lucado

Monday, February 13, 2017

Just a quick little update and comment on the previous post by reader Margot Norris. She pointed out that Transition Laguna held a potluck for migrating Monarchs January 24th, plus the City of Laguna Beach gave a grant for the start of a Laguna Beach Monarch Way Station. This is very good news! Looks like the ball is beginning to roll...

"The Daily Pilot local newspaper had an interesting article this morning titled "Monarchs in need of local help." It mentions that "the city of Laguna Beach gave $5000 to the environmental group Transition Laguna," (see
. The group's leader, named Chris Prelitz, is also talking to "groups like the Laguna Canyon Foundation, the Laguna Library monach project, the Garden Club and others in Orange County to unite efforts."
So let's hope there's some progress on this front in Laguna.



Saturday, February 11, 2017

“Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.”
~ Vladimir Nabokov

Hello everyone! Long time no correspondence. On to business:

West Coast Monarch overwintering sites post increases in the last November census count which could partially be contributed to more census volunteers counting heads than any other year previous. An encouraging sign of increased overwintering butterflies is the discovery of several new sites. Below is a link for more on the story.

Western Monarch Count Reports More Monarchs than 2015, but Numbers Remain Low

  Excerpt from the article:

"Conservation efforts are underway to protect and restore the western monarch population. Monarch Joint Venture partners are working on habitat protection and restoration, research and monitoring, and education and outreach in the west. To learn more about these efforts, visit our Western Monarchs Partner Projects page, and find out how you can get involved in monarch conservation today." 
 I sent an email to Monarch Joint Venture regarding info on how to approach and interest corporations -- especially local government corps -- in evaluating and setting up areas for Monarch migration overwintering sites.

Laguna Beach had at least one historically significant overwintering site at Smithcliffs before it was developed. It would be nice if a mitigation site or sites could be created by the city with the help of local citizen scientists and partnerships such as MJV under the auspices of the city. Many of the city's parks and canyons could be assessed, and then act upon recommendations of principle parties such as MJV.

Where Laguna Beach is located, its topography, and with its lush landscape environments, it really wouldn't take much to implement one or even several sites. One already existing overwintering site (at least it was one 15+ years ago) is located on the Festival of Arts grounds.

Filled with eucalyptus and various species of pine, including the very rare torrey pine, plus the fact it's protected from strong onshore winds, these grounds would be ideal to help bolster the site in attracting and supporting more Monarch butterflies. This would be easy to do by simply planting nectar plants on the festival grounds that would help nourish and sustain an overwintering butterfly population. With the advent of an expanding overwintering population and local resident education on the gem they have in their possession, I'm sure quite a few of these residents would gladly plant for butterflies, therefor adding to the food source.

I do hope there are serious citizen scientists in Laguna Beach that would love to work in concert with the city in identifying and developing potential overwintering sites. Besides drumming up community interest, the first order of business is to overcome the apathy of the city fathers. For the life of me, I can't understand why such a forward-looking local government is so apathetic to such ideas.

Fiscally, the cost would be be very low, considering the overall big picture in running a city. All of the infrastructure is already in place in the form of its parks and canyons. Basically, all that needs to be done is to I.D. these areas and simply improve upon them.


On recent hikes I've been taking in my local preserves and greenbelt areas, I've spotted only one specie of butterfly so far, the Sara Orangetip. I used to see them quite often up in Alta Laguna Park during the winter and early spring months, especially behind the baseball field and in the butterfly garden.


 The Container Butterfly Garden? I believe our own moon is hosting more visitors at the moment.  👻

Saturday, December 10, 2016

“Life is short. If you doubt me, ask a butterfly. Their average life span is a mere five to fourteen days.”
~ Ellen DeGeneres

A total of 21 hand-reared Monarchs have been released at the Container Butterfly Garden for the 2016 butterfly garden season through September. Since then, things have slowed way down around here butterfly-wise from barely perceivable to next to nothing. I decided to call it quits early this year cage rearing Monarch cats, as a dearth of these harvestable creepy crawlies was the norm for the last half of the 2016 butterfly season.

From all indications, tachinid fly parasitism was rampant this year, at least in Orange and San Diego counties. From correspondence with others -- especially in San Diego County -- it was a grab all the eggs you can scrounge up before they turn into fly fodder. Without egg harvesting and the subsequent release of healthy adults, the container garden would not have seen any signs of Monarch caterpillars, save the few at the beginning of the season back in March/April, before the tachinids arrived. That would make a cool sci fi movie title: Arrival of the Tachinids

About the only thing that has been happening here is general plant maintenance, with very few patrons visiting. I'm rather disappointed at the general lack of butterfly visitors to the garden, as I assumed many would show up if enticed. Alas, such is not the case. Situated in a veritable landscape desert devoid of trees and basic landscape plants (Gravel Landscape Mobile Home Park syndrome, or GLMHP as I prefer to call it), there are much better hunting grounds surrounding the mobile home park, so they circumvent it completely. As with politicians, they follow the money.

There may be some major changes coming down the road that will affect the Container Butterfly Garden and this newsletter if things turn out like I would like them to. I put my house up for sale and will be submitting an offer on a home in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Real estate selling/buying contingencies prevail.

If the move happens, I'll be creating a new butterfly garden over there in USDA zones 7 & 8 that I've never gardened in before, hoping to lure butterflies we normally don't see here in SoCal, and of course, some of those we do. I was amazed at how many butterflies I did see cruising around in the various parts of the valley I visited back in November.

Bits and Pieces:

Parks for Monarchs is a "national strategy" for restoring monarch populations to sustainable levels. (cough-cough... Laguna Beach?)

Why two California farms give me hope for the monarch butterfly

-EDF Environmental Defense Fund

A Prevalence of Ophryocystis elektroscirrha Infections in the Monarch Butterfly...

A very well written, planned and organized school project by Danielle, a 12th-grader from south Orange County, California. I hope she received college scholarship offers for her work.

-Danielle, grade 12

"Migratory monarchs wintering in California experience low infection risk compared to monarchs breeding year-round on non-native milkweed" is an abstract published on the Oxford Journals site by Oxford University Press. Short and sweet, filled with gooey creamy info and delicious scientific observations.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

“How does one become a butterfly? They have to want to learn to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”
~Trina Paulus

I've been on hiatus the past couple of weeks doggie and house sitting for some friends in Murrieta. Upon my return, a list of honeydews and neglected chores greeted this nanny warrior: back at it now.

Latest total adult Monarch release count for the season: 21.

Tony Gomez from Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been an inveterate student of butterflies and a raiser of caterpillars -- especially monarchs -- for the past 40+ years, according to his web site. A deep fountain of information on planning a butterfly garden and raising caterpillars, his Caring for Baby Caterpillars is the first in a new how to series.  

Some seasons, caterpillar predation by various diseases, predatory wasps, parasitic flies, etc. are especially problematic. The caterpillar mortality rate in the Container Butterfly Garden  has been astronomical this year, and as the season progresses, has gotten worse.

I went out into the garden recently to harvest some milkweed for one, lone, 2nd instar, that happened to show itself a few days before, and for two tiny 1st instars that hitched rides into the house on some propagation cuttings I started.

Simultaneously looking for Monarch eggs, found only one. There were some empty shells, meaning a predator has been attacking the eggs themselves, or has been pouncing on the newly emerged cats. Could be wasps, or some other bug that is lurking unannounced amongst the plants.

Pathogens such as Oe and bacterial infections can be moderated. The hard part is mitigating predators such as tachinid flies and braconid wasps. Two ways are to harvest eggs and place found caterpillars in some sort of cage or container to keep predators at bay, if they haven't been compromised already.

For more info how to raise eggs and cats, make your own cages, for different container ideas, or purchasing ready-made, head on over to Raising Butterflies--How to find and care for butterfly eggs and caterpillars.

Butterfly kits make great children's presents, helping to teach them about nature firsthand!

"Laguna Beach mayor pledges to help save dwindling monarch butterfly species" -- WHAT?

 Oopsie! Meant to type in "Topeka". Read here how the city of Topeka, Kansas is installing monarch way stations within their own parks and common areas


Saturday, July 23, 2016

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
~ Laurence J. Peter,
The Peter Principle

Eight new chrysalides, of which four eclosed and were released Friday. Released sixteen so far this season.

The Xerces Society has published the "State of the Monarch Butterfly Overwintering Sites in California" report recently, which you can access here:

The report shows a sharp two-decade decline in the number of monarchs which overwinter along the California coast and prioritizes the top 50 overwintering sites most in need of conservation and management attention. State of the Monarch Butterfly Overwintering Sites in California provides an analysis of western monarch population trends. A comparison of the average number of butterflies overwintering in California during the periods 1997–2001 and 2010–2014 shows a decline of 74% since the late 1990s, a figure that is comparable to declines documented at monarch overwintering sites in Mexico.

For those that have a penchant for Monarch butterflies, this report is a must read and worthy of keeping for future reference.

Let's not forget the potential downsides of  planting year-round milkweeds in our gardens. If possible, stick with native milkweeds, preferably ones native to your area. If you do grow perennial milkweeds such as Asclepias curassavica and wish to keep growing it, it's highly recommended to cut them way back each fall and winter to minimize unnatural overwintering of migratory Monarchs:

Another Damning Research Paper...

For some more exciting municipal government news, the City of Oakland, California has stepped up to the plate in support of our native butterflies and other pollinators through their system of city parks, via one of their employees, Park Supervisor Tora Rocha.

 Victoria 'Tora' Rocha. Park Supervisor, City of Oakland, California


Tora has been instrumental in introducing and cultivating pollinator plants in her parks with blessings from city management. Not only that, but the City of Oakland even allows volunteer citizen groups to help out in the parks. Not a new concept, but a very foreign notion to some municipalities; at least to the City of Laguna Beach, apparently.

 Garden volunteers at Oakland's Gardens at Lake Merritt.

For those that know me and have been following this blog for some time, I have been at odds with the CLB (City of Laguna Beach) management regarding planting for butterflies and the use of citizen gardening volunteers, ever since I was employed as a Parks Gardener there. Hopefully, citizen awareness and a grass roots movement may sway city fathers to reconsider their aversion to the concept.

For more information on Tora Rocha:

Perhaps those LB warriors with like interests could contact Tora for some mentoring on how to achieve similar goals within their own borders.

Will someone please help take over this abandoned Laguna Beach butterfly garden? The current city gardener is doing his best maintaining and improving it, given the allotted time, resources, and management indifference he must contend with:

Saturday, July 9, 2016

“Entomologists use that word 'foul' often when referring to the flavor of a caterpillar. They are rarely more specific than 'foul' or 'tasty.' I expect that is because they are leaving the assessment up to birds, and birds have a very binary approach.”
~ Amy Leach

Found five more eggs this Thursday. If they all make it to adults, that'll be 17.

One man's vision and quest to repopulate the California pipevine swallowtail in his northern California neighborhood:

-Vox Science and Health

There are scattered reports of pipevine swallowtail communities in various parts of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties. I planted their host plant, the pipevine, in several areas of Alta Laguna Park when I was Parks Gardener for the City of Laguna Beach to attract and retain any pipevine swallowtail drifters that may wander in, but since my retirement, the vines have all vanished.

The Pipevine Swallowtail

I threatened to illustrate my technique of moving and reattaching Monarch butterfly chrysalides using jewelers tweezers and bits of cellophane tape in a previous post. Here goes:

At times, it may be necessary to moves butterfly chrysalides for whatever good reasons. For the Container Butterfly Garden, it usually means I didn't get the chance to place 4th and 5th instars in the eclosing cage before they pupated. As such, they must be moved.

-Andrew Kliss
Four Monarch chrysalides hanging inside of 4th and 5th instar rearing bucket.

-Andrew Kliss
Flipped the lid over to access chrysalides.

-Andrew Kliss
With pointy jeweler's tweezers, I carefully loosen the silk webbing around the chrysalis that attaches it to a surface. It is then grasped by its tiny stem (cremaster) on the little green chili pepper, and then carefully lifted off.

-Andrew Kliss
¡Voila! Safely removed with silk still attached.

-Andrew Kliss
Sticking the silk on to cellophane tape. Be careful not to place tape on the chrysalis itself.

-Andrew Kliss
Affixing it to the inside wall of the eclosing cage.

-Andrew Kliss
Ultimately, we end up rewarded with a beautiful living jewel such as this recently eclosed female.