First Freeze

It is a bit unusual to have overnight freezing temperatures this early in the year so I do not blame this little guy for being unprepared:

monarch sleepover
monarch sleepover

I spotted him munching on milkweed yesterday, apparently completely oblivious of the weather forecast. I felt it was only neighbourly to invite him inside to spend the night. By morning he was eager to return home and as I walked him to the door my husband looked relieved that I wasn’t actually turning our house into a hostel for homeless insects. The National Weather Service promises this monarch caterpillar has at least a week of fair weather to get his pupa together.

The bees weren’t fooled:

Ready
Ready for winter

Only two weeks ago the edge of the wax spoke of yin yang energies. Yesterday and just in time, the entrance hole was completely covered. I had to get up pretty early to get this shot. By the time the sun directly touched the box, the entrance became as busy as an international airport during the holidays.

EDIT: This just in. I found out that Monarch Butterflies are WAY tougher than I imagined. Check it out: Cold Tolerance of Immature Monarchs

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33 thoughts on “First Freeze

  1. Sorry to be late – I’ve had to make the rounds, apologizing… Technology issues here, hopefully attended to now.

    I think what you saw from the trees could have bee transpiration. Part of the water cycle and especially noticeable under crepe myrtles and bougainvilleas year ’round. It is like the tiniest most gentle rain imaginable. Only not.

    You are a regular Snow-White-in-Training. Pretty soon you’ll be observing and reporting on natural wonders while birds sit singing on your shoulders while they wrap you with floral garlands, Disney- style. : )

    That was a wonderfully generous impulse to take the caterpillar inside, needed or not. Plus, it spurred your further investigations which have now better informed numbers of others, so tough caterpillars or not, you’ve definitely helped out monarchs. And that, as somebody might say, is a VERY good thing. I was encouraged to read the migrating mass numbers are thought to be increasing again. Every caterpillar counts.

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    1. Oh gosh. Thanks, Deb. And really no need to apologize. Sorry to hear about your tech issues. Blah. Hope they all get straightened out.

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  2. Caring for your caterpillars is a wonderful thing to do. Even if they don’ t need it, the thought was there. And if we only had these beautiful Monarch butterflies here I would do the same. Not for Cabbage Whites though. They don’ t need any help from me to shred my brassicas every year.

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    1. I had a feeling the standard story about the Monarch story had to be wrong or incomplete because every year I see Monarch caterpillars in October and November. I was really happy to find out that these late bloomers are perfectly capable of surviving.

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    1. Thanks for saying so, Eliza. He is pretty and nearly there. The spots on his feet suggest he needs one more moult and then he’ll be set for the really big change.

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    1. Oh thank you so much for these. I had to look up the number of days from egg to chrysalis to see if he had any chance at all. And I just knew the standard story about their generations and the migration had to be incomplete or simplified. There are almost always outliers and subtle variations in these systems.

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    1. I knew that bees will fill in small gaps to keep the hive insulated over the winter. I did not know they could fill in such a large hole. I think what we can see is wax — maybe the backside of comb. The sudden spurt filled me with a lot of relief. It means the population is still pretty large. If they survive this winter they will be the toughest bees ever. We had a spring flood, a summer drought and in the fall there was a wildfire close enough that the air was hazy with smoke. It was like the whole world was conspiring against them.

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      1. What amazing brave and hardy little creatures, they well deserve to be surviving the winter. I hope that they do, we need bees so badly since the bee population is diminishing. Fingers crossed. Do you feed them during the winter?

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  3. The bees hunker down, warm and cozy and buzzing until the sun comes out and then, they’re back at it. I didn’t freeze at all–no thin sheet of ice on the birdbaths, no wilted lettuce-looking plants. I’m glad: I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to blooms just yet. I hosted caterpillars last fall in the house. It was an interesting experience….

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    1. I was thinking of you when I brought him inside. =) And thanks to your adventure I knew he was a Monarch caterpillar and not a Queen.

      I don’t think it got cold enough for long enough to cause any damage but when I was out and about in the morning once the sun was up I could see what looked like the finest rain falling from the tree canopy. Small water droplets that melted?

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  4. I’m not sure that I’d ever take an insect into my house for “protective custody” … wait a minute, yeah, I’m sure I wouldn’t. Like old doll heads and clowns, insects just freak me out too much. But you did it and good for you.

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