Butterflies Abound!

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Chrysalis found by 6-year-old girl on her birthday at the PPL Lake Wally Butterfly Garden

Ed Wesley’s program on Saturday, September 8 was fantastic! We had 31 eager participants despite the weather forecast of rain and high winds. Milkweed seeds were given out for people to plant in their gardens at home. With milkweed growing, monarch butterflies will be attracted to the location. Milkweed is the other plant that monarchs like to lay their eggs. The young caterpillar eats the milkweed leaves once it emerges from the egg.

Children helped Ed with tag butterflies that will be released on a nice day. The predicted 60 MPH winds would make for a rough start to the long migration to Mexico. A little round tag is stuck to a particular spot on the butterfly’s wing. There is a ton of microscopic information on this tag, used for identifying where the butterfly has come from.

Down at the PPL Butterfly Garden, the audience became the biologists as they searched for butterfly eggs and chrysalises. One little girl, stayed longer than all the rest, found many eggs and even an chrysalis hanging from a blade of grass (as seen above). Ed was so impressed with her enthusiasm, he sent her home with a chrysalis to care for as the caterpillar changes into a beautiful monarch butterfly.

-Jenna Wayne, PPL

If you would like to raise your own caterpillars with a school or scout group, kits are available at many online nature websites. For more information about PPL programs, visit our “Calendar of Events” at pplpreserves.com.

The Beauty of Butterflies

It stood over six feet tall, had huge, faceted eyes, a long tube of a snout and a series of breathing holes in its body. The strange creature tasted with its feet and smelled with its antennae. Its four wings just could not get it airborne. If you are wondering what this is all about, it was just part of PPL Montour Preserve’s annual butterfly day. This year, the public program featured Rick Mikula, aka Butterfly Rick, of Hole-in-Hand Butterfly Farm, Hazelton. Mikula offered an informative and entertaining presentation on butterflies and, to the delight of the audience, transformed himself into a huge butterfly.

Butterfly expert Rick Mikula demonstrates butterfly adaptations at Montour Preserve recently.

 The event, held on Sunday, Sept. 9, included the tagging and release of about a dozen Monarch butterflies. Tagging a butterfly is like attaching a tiny license plate to each one. Each tag has a unique set of letters and numbers that goes into a database kept by the University of Kansas, home to Monarch Watch, a conservation and education program about Monarch butterflies. Tagging Monarch butterflies helps scientists determine how far Monarchs migrate, how long they live and their survival rate. Ninety kids of all ages attended this year’s butterfly program co-sponsored by the Central Susquehanna Valley Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. To learn more about Monarch Watch follow this link: http://www.monarchwatch.org/. For information about the North American Butterfly Association, follow this link: http://www.naba.org/.

Butterfly Observations

Photo by Ed Wesley. Faded monarch extruding an egg from the tip of her abdomen.

As I was just about to close up the Environmental Learning Center on Friday before Labor Day, I noticed Ed Wesley of the Butterfly Barn walking up our drive. He was interested in looking at some milkweed plants that had sprout up in the restricted area of the dam, just outside our environmental gardens. Specifically, he wanted to know if there were any monarch eggs on the underside of these new plants so he could preserve them for next week’s Butterfly Abound program at the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center.  I walked him down to the entrance of the dam to take a look.

Photo by Ed Wesley. A fresh Giant Swallowtail

 He must have sensed my interest as he told me more about migrating monarch butterflies. Recently he has noticed the butterflies in our garden flying across the lake towards the sun after getting the nectar they need. He then told me an interesting fact: butterflies who flutter around nectar sources such as the butterfly bush are locals; while butterflies who simply stop by for nectar and then fly directly toward the sun, are migrants on their way to Mexico. Our local monarch generation (which lives 5 or 6 weeks) is still around, and may continue to lay eggs, though I seldom find them after the first week of September. These monarchs overlap with young migrants, who cannot lay eggs. Migrants do not mature sexually until late next winter in Mexico. That’s when they mate and the females then fly north and many will lay eggs on milkweed sprouts along the U.S. Gulf Coast and in north Texas. The locals here are pretty much done laying their eggs, but some are still active, which is why he wanted to check the new milkweed plants that may not have as many predators such as mites or spiders on them. Unfortunately there weren’t many eggs to be found, and the few we did find were empty, meaning a predator had already gotten to them. We wound up finding a few highly detailed empty eggs that will serve as great examples for the program on Saturday. 

Photo by Ed Wesley. Tattered Giant Swallowtail.

Ed has been observing migrants here in our area already, as well as a lot of other local activity which he later detailed in an e-mail with some great pictures he has shot, seen below. Since 1996, Wesley and his associate Barbara Yeaman have rescued Monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars from threatened habitats and raised them in the Butterfly barn in Milanville, Pa.  With the help local school children, they’ve nurtured and released almost 3,000 adult monarchs.

 If Friday’s meeting with Ed was a preview to his Butterfly Abound program, I can’t wait for Sept. 8. I hope to see you all there as well!  Below are some of Ed’s observations and great photos he has taken in the area. 

 “Monarchs have begun their migration thru Hawley – Wednesday afternoon I watched nearly a dozen drift onto Butterfly Bush flowers – then drink nectar and pretty soon fly straight toward the southwest (and the sun), across the north end of Lake Wallenpaupack. Keep an eye out for monarchs flying in a bee-line toward the sun.

Photo by Ed Wesley. Tattered Giant Swallowtail.

I also spied a Giant Swallowtail butterfly on a butterfly bush near the Library in Hawley. BUT, it was very tattered, as if birds had pecked away a lot of wing tissue. The tattered “Giant Swallowtail” in my pictures is a southern butterfly that frequents orange groves.  I saw a fresh one in our garden, and a week later found a tattered one in Hawley – probably 4 or 5 weeks old. These were firsts – in 20 years of observing local butterflies I’d never seen a G. Swallowtail (although plenty of yellow Tiger Swallowtails, which are native here). It may be another indicator that our local climate is warming – along with an ice-free Upper Delaware River the past three winters.” -Ed Wesley 

 For more information on the Saturday Sept. 8 Butterflies Abound program with Ed Wesley, as well as all our free public programs, visit our calendar here.

 -Sarah Hall, PPL Wallenpaupack

PPL’s Environmental Gardens Full of Color and Buzzing with Activity

Monarch Butterfly on Inula
Photo by Sarah Hall

 

 PPL’s Environmental Garden is in full bloom! Come to the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center to witness the beauty of our gardens down by the dam! PPL prides itself in being responsible stewards of the environment. While you’re visiting the butterfly garden and hummingbird heaven areas, we hope you’ll learn something new about wetlands, butterflies, hummingbirds, and even bats.

 The garden is filled with many species to promote and support a healthy butterfly population, including Phlox (Phlox sp.), Butterfly Bush (Buddleia alternifolia), Daylily (Hemerocallis sp.), Lavender (Lavandula sp.), and many more.

Bumblebee on Butterfly Milkweed
Photo by Sarah Hall

Our garden also supports hummingbird populations with several feeders in place under the trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), which is a natural source of nectar for hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are among the most important bird pollinators of plants in North America, so it is important to support their habitat. Learn more about how to create your own hummingbird and butterfly heaven while visiting the environmental garden at Lake Wallenpaupack!

 Directions to the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center can be found at: http://www.pplweb.com/citizenship/environment/preserves/lake-wallenpaupack/programs-and-workshops.aspx

 

Winged Invasion

This past week has brought an aerial invasion of sorts. From the east coast to the midwest, Red Admiral butterflies have been showing up in numbers like never before. These striking butterflies are returning northward from wintering in the south, from Texas to Guatemala. They begin traveling north in March. With the extremely early warm weather, mony more than usual have survived the journey. Some will stay in our area to breed and lay eggs. Later in the summer months we should see a large number of the next generation of Red Admirals.

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