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.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

“The most satisfactory definition of man from the scientific point of view is probably Man the Tool-maker.”
~ Kenneth Oakley

A couple of things:

Butterfly sanctuary attraction in Buena Park, California:
"Rubin Stahl wants Orange County residents stepping into Costa Rica.
His Butterfly Palladium in Buena Park will be as authentic an experience as any outside of the Central American country.
“I’m recreating Costa Rica in its entirety,” Stahl said. “It’s going to be something special.”
Stahl joined city leaders to break ground in late May on the $25 million butterfly pavilion that’s expected to open on Beach Boulevard next summer." ~ Orange County Register

-O.C. Register

-O.C. Register

To read the article:

Released the remaining Monarch June, 27th. A healthy little girl again.

Girls: 11
Boys: 1

After releasing her in the butterfly garden, I prodded around the milkweed plants looking for more eggs. There they were, six of them. The 28th has produced five more eggs, plus I found a lone, little 2nd instar Monarch cat I promptly scooped up and took inside for safe rearing. I hope tachinid flies or parasitic wasps haven't discovered it before I did.

At this point it would be a good segue into some of the tools I use for rearing butterflies.

I use several different types of containers for different phases of a caterpillar's life cycle. There is some overlap in this post with a previous one dated Saturday May 21 2016, so please bear with me. 

From collecting eggs to releasing adults, containers get progressively bigger:

-Andrew Kliss

4oz. and 24oz. Ziploc containers.

From egg until roughly their second instar, they stay in the 4 oz., upon which they are transferred to 24oz. Ziploc containers. At 1st and 2nd instar stages the cats are fed individual milkweed leaves. Depending on how many cats there are at one time, they eventually outgrow the 24oz. and must be "potted up", so to speak. They then go into a 2gal. paint bucket where they can be fed whole stems with leaves.

 Milkweed stems are placed in floral tubes filled with water, and then stuck in a chunk of Styrofoam.

-Andrew Kliss

-Andrew Kliss
2gal. paint bucket modified for raising cats.

Besides what I list, just about any clean and secure container can be used. Plastic shoe boxes, plastic product containers; you name it, as long as they aren't too deep and can accommodate the needs of your charges. Be resourceful!

(Other butterfly enthusiasts enclose whole plants found growing in the garden or in containers with netting to protect their cats. One downside to this practice is that one may inadvertently secure pests and predators along with them. Again, the fox is locked up in the hen house along with the chickens.)

Ultimately, they go into the eclosing cage at their 4th or 5th instar to pupate. Sometimes I'm a bit too late and they form chrysalides inside the 2gal. paint bucket. I then have to delicately move and reattach them to the eclosing cage.

Eclosing Cage

The particular eclosing cage I use is a Whitmor 18 inch collapsible laundry hamper purchased online at Amazon. They list a boatload of different hampers from different companies to suite particular needs. I like this one because it is large, inexpensive, and features a zippered lid. Local brick 'n mortars such as Walmart, Target, etc. sell them too, but none offered both the size and zippered lid the Whitmor does.

This is the tool set I use for working with caterpillars.

-Andrew Kliss

  1. Fiskars Stainless Steel Blade Micro-Tip Snip. Used for cutting out eggs from plants, harvesting whole leaves and also stems with leaves for feeding larger caterpillars. Bought mine from Home Depot.
  2. Small paintbrush for picking up and moving 1st and 2nd instar cats. Cut back the bristles to make them stiffer if need be to accomplish this purpose.
  3. Jewelers tweezers. Used for picking up eggs on little leaf square cutouts, moving around 3rd instar cats, and for relocating chrysalides that have formed where unwanted. I inherited mine from dad who was a jeweler and watchmaker.
  4. Beading tweezers. Used for 4th and 5th instar cats, and for picking up and moving larger objects. Bought these at a local bead shop.
  5. Plastic slide pencil case. Houses and transports these tools. Fairly ubiquitous wherever school supplies are sold.

-Andrew Kliss
A magnifying glass is also used to evaluate eggs.  

-Andrew Kliss

I also use Scotch Tape regularly to rehang chrysalides that had to be moved for whatever reasons. A rather delicate procedure, but actually very easy to accomplish. Get your first one down pat, the rest are a breeze. I'll illustrate the technique in a subsequent post. This is where the jewelers tweezers become very important.


There are several other uses for Scotch Tape, one being for entertainment. Visions of hanging decorations probably come to mind first, but no, we can aspire to aspiring to higher aspirations than hanging milquetoast decorations: we can use it to create facial art.



(Please do not attempt this at home. For illustrative purposes only. If you do decide to try this, please send photos for posting so we can all have a good chuckle.)