Gossamer Tapestry

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

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nitey Nite

Shh! We've just put 850 Regal Fritillary caterpillars to bed for the winter. They are all in the Larva Lounge, our new refrigerator that's just for caterpillar cold storage. What does a Regal Fritillary bed look like?

Fritillary Caterpillars on a Yurt

We start by placing the caterpillars on yurts- bits of corrugated cardboard. The larvae settle down in the grooves of the corrugation.

Toledo Cage Insert.
It's a plastic tube sliced near the top. A thin sheet of organza silk is stretched over the bottom piece, and the top piece reattached with acrylic glue.

The yurts are placed on Toledo cage inserts. These were invented at the Toledo Zoo (Go Mudhens!) as a way of storing caterpillars in a refrigerator without having them dessicate.

Toledo Cage awaiting lid

The Toledo cage is completed by placing the insert, with yourts, inside of a pint canning jar, and adding water to about 1/3 the height of the insert. Another sheet of organza is stretched over the top of the jar, and the lid band screwed down. The idea is to keep the caterpillars in the jar and out of the water, but to keep plenty of water around. Refrigerators dry things out very quickly, and this kills caterpillars.

Over the winter, we'll check the larvae weekly, looking for mold and dessication. If we see mold, everything will go into a fresh, clean setup. If we see dessication, we'll wake the caterpillars up and give them a drink of water before putting them back to bed (see, it's just like trying to get kids to sleep through the night).

Next spring, we'll wake the caterpillars up and rear them on to adulthood. Then we'll release this endangered species onto a site in southwest Cook County to establish a new population.

Regal Fritillaries
Photo: Ron Panzer

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At 10:51, Anonymous Beetles In The Bush said...

What an ingenious idea the Toledo cage is!
regards -- ted

At 12:15, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Most excellent! Not often I get to see the word "yurts" in a post either :)

At 13:27, Anonymous Mark H said...

Most cool...looks like your Portland trip has come to be valuable in your work.

Me, though, will need more than a yurt today...it's 40 out there!

At 14:46, Blogger Floridacracker said...

Now that is neat. Good work!

At 17:17, Blogger cedrorum said...

Great, interesting post. I hope you much success! And I really wish getting our boys to sleep through the night would have been as easy as giving them a little water :)

At 17:32, Blogger Lemuel said...

Sleep tight, little ones! :)

At 18:07, Blogger T.R. said...

he's the larvae whisperer....

At 09:01, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Ted- I agree. They're smart folks over at the Toledo Zoo.

Dave- I love the fact that the Portland and Seattle folks called these 'yurts.'

Mark- The working part of the Portland trip turned out to be of incredible value to us. I enjoyed the fun part, too.

FC- Thanks

cedrorum- Well, I hope that keeping them asleep and alive goes smoothly. Fingers are crossed.

lem- You're welcome to sing a lullaby.

TR- Well, of course I was whispering. I'm trying to get them to sleep.

At 22:56, Blogger Ur-spo said...

i wish you would put me to sleep for the winter as well.

At 10:51, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Spo, why does your question remind me of Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter saying "I'll give you eternal rest..."

At 11:17, Blogger Texas Travelers said...

Nice post. Thanks for the info and great photos.

Thanks for the visit,
Troy and Martha

PS: We stopped by Central Market last night and picked up some cheeses, tomatoes, and olives for a Pizza tomorrow. We make our own dough and great homemade pizzas.

While I was there, I got a small package of Humboldt Fog cheese. Thanks Doug, for putting me on to this great cheese.

At 01:06, Blogger Gallicissa said...

Looks like a lot of hardwork is involved. We can do with such recovery programs for some of our rare and endangered species here.
In certain species we do not even know their food plants.

At 09:33, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Troy and Martha- Suddenly I'm hungry. I'm also realizing that I haven't had Humboldt Fog in some time. I'll have to rectify that.

Gallicissa- It's a challenge all over the tropics. There are so many species for which the host plants aren't known. On the other hand, it leaves open lots of research possibilities.

At 23:42, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Doug, that's a lot fo TLC! Their Mom's couldn't do it any better! But how do you wake up caterpillars and give them a drink?


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