Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Are Bees really disappearing?

When I use to see a bee I would run the other way. I did not like the idea of being stung. But now I see bees differently. I find myself putting my nose right up to them to observe them. God created these little creatures for a special purpose.

honey bee sipping nectar honey bee flying

Honeybees are responsible for 80% of all pollination. They help create seeds in flowers, we use beeswax in many products, we use honey for bread, and they help in the forming of fruits, vegetables, and some nuts. Wow, they are really important!

Recently, I heard that something called, “Colony Collapse Disorder” is affecting honeybees across our country. I was greatly concerned so I decided to do research on different people’s theories. I have grown to care about these little creatures and want other people to know that they are in danger.

“Colony Collapse Disorder” is caused by Tracheal and Varroa mites. A few weeks before the bees collapse they appear healthy. Then the adult bees disappear from the colony leaving behind a hive full of honey. The honeybee population across our continent has gone done as much as 70 percent! 

On Guideposts web-site I found a story about a farmer who went through this disorder with her bees. Please go to  http://www.guideposts.com/story/backyard-beekeeper?page=0,0 to read this amazing story. In this article it talked about a theory of why bees are dying. I think it makes logical sense so I decided to include it in my post.

A healthy bee will groom itself and shed off the mites. When bees go to forage on fields sprayed with pesticides, they get weak and can’t fight back. This results in death.

Many farmers use chemicals strips to try to kill the mites. They are suppose to kill the mites but not the bees. These strips are fatal to humans if inhaled! How could these chemicals help save the bees if they are fatal to humans? The farmer in the link I posted found a different solution without the use of chemicals.

How can you help?

1. Buy organic produce.

2. Avoid the use of chemical pesticides in your garden area. There are environmentally friendly alternatives. encourage natural predators in your garden like ladybugs for aphid control. ( I go to the extremes of picking off pests by hand. )  

3. Buy local honey from small honey bee farmers.

4. Plant native wildflowers from your area for bees to get pollen from.

Please enjoy these pictures I took of different bees.

Bumble bee 2 Bumble bee one

IMG_0183 IMG_0185

Monday, May 25, 2009

My brother is a detective!

IMG_0099 Detective Joshua ( my brother ) is looking for a missing twenty dollar bill. Please join him as he looks for clues and solves other mysteries.


Detective Joshua discovered a frog sitting on our sliding door. This frog must be waiting for a tasty lunch. Could this be a clue?

IMG_0160 Another mysterious creature! This snake was discovered in our bushes. It was trying to make a lunch out of our lizards.


Look at this spider that was in Joshua’s shower! Month’s ago Joshua came running to mom saying “There’s a huge spider in the bathroom”. But when mom got there all she found was a friendly lizard. So we finally found Joshua's HUGE spider , after all.

Joshua old mann

Could this old man be a suspect of the missing money?


This young man looks suspicious. He is wearing one of my recycled knitted plastic bags on his head!


We never found a twenty dollar bill, instead we found a pile of money! Good work detective Joshua.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The butterflies are here!


I was able to release fifty-five healthy butterflies into our backyard. I am keeping five butterflies in my new butterfly pavilion so I can observe them. One flew out, so now I have four.


It finally stopped raining long enough for us to release these butterflies. When it started to rain again they found shelter in our hedges. I have seen several flying around in our yard. I also saw some on my sunflower.



IMG_0119  IMG_0125

Joshua enjoys helping me release my Monarch butterflies. As you can see they like him! We were so surprised when this butterfly flew off Joshua’s finger onto his hair. We were laughing so hard!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How to make your own butterfly pavilion.

IMG_0093 IMG_0094

I was in need of a bigger area to raise my butterflies so I wanted to use my birthday money to buy a butterfly enclosure. In my search, I only found one butterfly pavilion that was costly. So my mom went on e-bay and I purchased a pop up screen enclosure for the beach. My mom and I sewed window screening in the bottom to keep unwanted creatures out and wandering caterpillars in! Our home-made butterfly home was a success. Just look at all my new monarchs. I am able to walk in my 6ft x 6ft butterfly pavilion to care for them and take pictures.


 Elizabeth Mann is the winner of caption contest!

I entered a caption contest at http://www.butterfliesetc.com/.

Please click on the link below to see my caption with the picture.


Thank you to all my friends and family that voted for me. I included the paragraph that was posted in the newsletter that announced me as the winner.

My winning caption, "Grab a straw and join me!"

Elizabeth Mann is 15 years old. Elizabeth is a homeschooler, has taken college level courses, and she tutors her brother in third grade. She dances classical ballet at the Russian Academy of Ballet in Orlando, FL.
This spring Elizabeth started researching and raising Monarch butterflies. At present she has around 70 Monarch chrysalises in her new walk-in butterfly pavilion.
To keep her friends and family up to date on her butterfly experiences and research she has developed a blog, http://elizabethssecretgarden.blogspot.com/. Her blog also contains video footage she produced with her father on the "Life Cycle of a Monarch".

Egg Decorating Contest


My latest contest to enter was at my orthodontics, Dr Gittess. (I get my braces of next Thursday!)

They are having an egg decorating contest. I decorated mine to look like a Metalmark butterfly. It took me about three days to finish it. I find out May 29th, who wins the contest!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Making a Chrysalis

After eating for two weeks, a Monarch caterpillar is big enough to make a chrysalis.

These caterpillars have picked where they will make their chrysalis. After forming a silk pad with their mouths they will stick themselves to it. Then slowly they will release each pair of legs until they look like the letter ‘J’. IMG_0057 IMG_0066
They all made their chrysalises the next day.
Monarch making chrysalis IMG_0062

These caterpillars stayed in a ‘J’ all night before they split their skin. It was amazing watching the green skin start to appear as the caterpillar’s old skin got pushed to the top. Watching the forming of a chrysalis reminds me of what an awesome God we have! My dad made a video of Monarch caterpillar making a chrysalis. It is posted in my video section.

This is what a Monarch chrysalis looks like before it is dry. almost finished making chrysalis Now that it is dry, you can see the gold line and dots on the chrysalis.CloseUp_Chrysalis

My Monarch caterpillars have made their chrysalis in the strangest places. I found them on our roof, gutters, pots, curtains, in dirt, on sticks, leaves, and even attached to my plastic greenhouse! I wonder where I will find them next!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hungry caterpillars!

Monarch caterpillars are big eaters. When they reach one inch long they can eat one leaf every hour! They can eat Milkweeds to the ground. Devouring the flowers, leaves, seed pods, and even the stems.



In just a few hours they stripped this plant of it’s leaves.


The eighty caterpillars I was raising quickly ate up my five milkweed plants. My mom found a local nursery in Seminole County that sells Milkweeds. She bought eleven! I was very excited.


To my surprise they ate the eleven new plants too! Most of them were big enough to make their chrysalises. The few caterpillars that still needed more food I put on my milkweeds planted out in my garden box. The reason I ran out of food is because I thought I had forty caterpillars when I really had eighty!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Different Caterpillar Sizes

This May I raised another brood of caterpillars. I had eighty. I included pictures of them in all different stages. 


This little caterpillar just hatched. It is about the size of an ant. The yellowish objects on my hand are Monarch eggs.

little caterpillar

This little caterpillar is probably a few days old. They grow so fast! Each time a caterpillar sheds it’s skin it gets bigger. A caterpillar shedding it’s skin is called molting. The time in between each molt is called an instar. In their first few instars they almost double in size every day.


This caterpillar is in its second instar. It has shed its skin once.

This caterpillar is preparing to molt (shed skin). Before molting the caterpillar attaches itself to a leaf and stays very still for hours. Right now it is in it’s 4th instar but after it sheds it’s skin it will be in the 5th instar. 

IMG_0016 Look how big this one is. It is one inch long.


This caterpillar is in it’s 5th instar. It is now starting to wander in search for a place to shed it’s skin one last time. When it sheds it’s skin for the last time it will be a chrysalis!

Elizabeth’s “Green” tips

God has given us a beautiful earth to enjoy. It is up to us to take care of it. The earth is like a huge garden. We can choose to destroy it or preserve and take care of it. Below are a few ways you can help keep our planet clean.

1. Instead of using plastic bags at the grocery store switch to fabric bags. They are only a dollar each and are now sold at many stores including Wal-Mart. The fabric bags hold as much has three plastic bags! By using fabric bags you can help keep plastic bags from cluttering our landfills, killing wild life, and using up our fuels. Did you know we use over a million bags per minute?

2. Using reusable stainless steel water bottles is great. Not only will it help keep our environment cleaner but it will save you money. Buying water bottles to take with you for daily outings can add up fast. Sometimes we put our plastic water bottles in the dish washer so we can reuse them. Remember to recycle water bottles when you are done with them.

3. Most of the food we get from the grocery store comes from far away states. For example, in Florida we have a Plant City that sells strawberries, but our grocery store sells strawberries that come all the way from California! That is a lot of gas miles. You can help stop that waste of fuel by buying fruits and vegetables from your local Farmer Markets instead. Our local Farmers Market also sells meat at half the price of the grocery store. Buying vegetables, fruit and meat gives the local farmers income so they don’t have to sell their land to land investors!

Visit http://planetgreen.discovery.com/ to see many more “Green” tips.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Story of the Lost Caterpillar

I was out watering in my garden when I spotted a Gulf Fritillary Butterfly flying around a Pipe Vine we had planted for the Pipevine Swallowtail to lay eggs on. I rushed over to take a closer look. I was not to late it was still hovering around the plant. To my great surprise it laid an egg right before my eyes, but on the wrong plant!

This is a Pipevine. It is the host plant for the Pipevine Swallowtail.pipe vine Our Pipevine has these strange looking pipes that grow on it.pipe vine 2

Most people would not care. They would think to themselves, it’s just an egg, it would probably get eaten anyway. To me it is more than just an egg. It was created by God and is my responsibility to care for the lost caterpillar that would be hatching from this egg. I am thankful that God allowed me to see that Gulf Fritillary laying an egg so that I could save the caterpillars life and now share the story with you.

part two…

Gulf Fritillary in container

When the little caterpillar hatched I had two options, one, buy the host plant or put it on it’s host plant. We live five minutes away from a nursery that sells it’s host plant. My mom took me to the nursery to transfer it onto the correct plant, a “Passion Flower” vine. If that caterpillar had a mind I can only imagine what it would say about the moving container we carried it in. It was a glass jar with fruits on it and a panty hose across the top!

After we found the correct host plant we transferred it.  
transporting Fritillary caterpillar
“Passion Flower” vine
passionflower host plant 2


Gulf fritillary big 2 When the Gulf Fritillary gets big it will look like this. This caterpillar is almost ready to make it’s pupae. Then soon after come out as a beautiful butterfly.