Pickles & Butterflies
Lots of stuff happening up here in the stormy Midwest at the moment. Using a great recipe from Rodger and Mark, I made pickles over the weekend. It will be November before they can be tried, but the finished product came out looking very pretty. Per the recipe, I tucked a grape leaf into the bottom of each jar. The only real problem that I had with the recipe was difficulty with finding alum, which is used as a crisping agent. I made do with a package mix that contained salt, alum, and spices. I’m hoping that the grape leaves will provide most of the crisping anyway. I’ll pick up some alum in the canning section next time I’m in Farm and Fleet.
Jars of pickles in the hot water bath
The butterfly restoration work is going better than ever. We currently have over 100 (112 at last count) chrysalides of silver-bordered fritillaries. The first adults have already begun emerging, and I anticipate having enough for a field release late next week or early the week after. I wonder if I’ll blog about that? We have enough going at the moment that we should be able to hold some back to do another generation in the lab. One thing that makes this species nice to work with is that they have at least three generations each year. In addition to opening the possibility of doing an additional generation in the lab, we will get to look for the offspring of the released butterflies in the field a mere month after we release them. Given that most of the species that I work with have but a single generation annually, this seems like instant gratification.
People have left questions about the butterfly restoration efforts, and I thought I’d answer them here.
Robin Andrea asks:
So what are you doing to make the lab particularly agreeable for the metalmark and fritillary?
The changes have mostly involved hygiene. We were given an entire room in the museum in which we do nothing but raise butterflies. Until recently, we were rearing large numbers of caterpillars communally in containers. No more. We now make individual cages out of paper cups. Each one holds no more than 2 caterpillars, at least in the more mature stages of caterpillar growth. We use lots of bleach and lots of hand sanitizer. Cages are cleaned every three days. The result has been excellent survival of our larvae.
I hope your new transplants flourish! Is there a particular plant they prefer? Maybe you could deliver any "extras" to Cook County!
Thanks. The host plants are various species of violets, such as marsh violet, that grow in wet prairies and sedge meadows. This species turns out to be relatively easy to work with, and it is my hope that we can do additional sites. I am considering a second release this year in DuPage County. The main issue is having sites that are ready to receive the butterfly. Given that, I’d really enjoy trying a release on a Cook County site.
Let me know when you're hiring.
Heh. You Florida boys would never survive a Chicago winter. Kidding aside, very similar work is going on much closer to your home (and virtually in FC’s back yard). The McGuire Center for Lepidoptera (out of UF Gainesville) is doing restoration work with a number of imperiled Florida species, including restoring the Miami Blue in the Florida Keys. Volunteer work is available through the Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network.