Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

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.

Dave asks:

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.

Thingfish23 asks:

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.

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At 17:47, Anonymous Lemuel said...

hmmm. homemade pickles. i keep throwing hints at my wife to make some of her bread and butter pickles.

At 09:51, Blogger robin andrea said...

I made homemade dill pickles one year back in Santa Cruz. It's funny, though, I don't remember doing the hot water bath. I also used the grape leaf. While the pickles ripened the lovely aroma reminded me of going to delis when I was growing up, where there was always a large pickle barrel and the smell of dill permeated the air. Yum.

Glad to hear that the butterfly restoration is going well. All those efforts should pay off in the flurry of new wings.

At 18:13, Blogger Jyoti said...

Would these fritillaries be released in the Judy Istock haven??? I would love to see them and take their shots, if possible ...

Thank you very much for your comment on my blog. I really appreciate it.

Very honestly, I hardly know anything about butterflies, and I've just started learning ... Judy Istock is a wonderful place to create interest ...
Please feel free to correct if I enter wrong names of butterflies.

At 21:28, Blogger rodger said...

Yippee, you made the pickles! I wish you all the success we've had with the recipe.

What type of peppers did you use? We have some with serranos and some some with habaneros for the hardcore spice-lovers like me.

You should have Leon guest blog when the pickles are opened. But only if they're good. ;)

At 09:14, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Lem- It's lots of fun. You should try it yourself.

Robin Andrea - I remember the pickle barrel from a deli/restaurant that we used to go to when I was a kid. Mark and Rodger's recipe tastes a lot like them.

jyoti - Thanks for stopping by, and for such a wonderful blog about the Butterfly Haven. The species that we are rearing are for release into the wild rather than into the exhibit. That will always be the case for the endangered species that we work with. The silver-bordered fritillaries are not endangered, and we may try flying some of them in the exhibit at the very end of the year, if we have enough.

Rodg- We used serranos. If the recipe works well, we will try some with habañeros next time. I'll see if we can get Leon to do a guest spot when we open them.

At 18:41, Blogger Jyoti said...

I am really glad you liked the photos ... I started the Butterfly haven Blog just this Saturday [11 August, 2007] ... and I want to include many more things ... but I need to learn a lot and it will take some time ...
Thanks for all the help.


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