Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How To Make a Netted Caterpillar Sock


Raising caterpillars in a container is great, but you have to put fresh leaves in daily. If you have a busy schedule, but still want to protect your caterpillars this enclosure will work well for you. All you have to do is tighten it around the branch of your host plant with your caterpillars inside. It is easy to make and low cost.


To make my netted sock enclosure I used scraps of window screening. You can cut out a square of any size depending on the branches size. This window screening square measures 19” x 17”.

marked window screening

After cutting out your square you will need to fold it. To sew around the edges I used clear fishing line. It is strong and blends in well. You can use thread if you don’t have any. Because you fold your window screening over you only have to sew the top and side. Leave the bottom open so you can slide your enclosure over the host plant.


After you sew both sides, you can turn it inside out so in looks better. The last step is weaving in the string to tighten the enclosure. After picking out your yarn, insert the string at the bottom of the bag. Next, sew all around the bottom until you come back to where you started. When you are finished don’t tie a knot so you can tighten the bottom of the bag and reopen it.


This small bag I made can protect small caterpillars and eggs from predators.


1. Make sure the branch you enclose has enough leaves for    hungry caterpillars. You can move them to another branch when the food is eaten. If the caterpillars don’t have enough food they will eat each other.

2. I’ve learned from experience that if you don’t tighten the enclosure very well, the caterpillars will squeeze through the space to get out and wasps can get inside. They are sneaky!

3. The window screening bag can get weighed down by rain so securing  it to another branch or wooden pole will make it more sturdy.

4. After collecting chrysalises out of the sock enclosure, you can sanitize it to use again.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hover Flies in My Garden

Hover Fly (resized)

After I started gardening I began discovering new creatures that I never knew about before. My newest discovery is a Hover fly I saw resting on my Passionvine plant. In America they are also called Flower Flies. This name fits them well because they are often found hovering around flowers to drink the sweet nectar. The way a Hover fly flies is similar to a Hummingbird. They can hover in one place while their tiny wings beat countless times.

After doing research, I discovered Hover flies come in many sizes and colors. Some mimic the appearance of bumblebees and wasps. If you catch one they will pretend to sting you in an attempt to get away. Don’t worry though these little creatures are harmless and are greatly appreciated in my garden. There are over 110 species of Hover fly larvae that eat aphids and plant lice.

Hoverfly larvae 

Like butterflies Hover flies start out as eggs, hatch into hungry larvae, make a pupa, than emerge as adults. Thankfully for gardeners these larvae consume lots of plant sucking aphids. When I first discovered this tiny creature, I was not sure what it was. After watching it suck up a aphid through its snout and searching the internet to confirm my theory I realized it was a Hover fly larvae. The larvae in the picture is almost fully grown and will soon enter the next stage.

Hoverfly pupa in milkweed Hiding in all these aphids is a Hover fly pupa. Inside it will change  into a Hover fly adult.

Hover Fly pupa (croped)

I love this close up picture because you can see the stripes of the Hover fly through the pupa! It was worth the torture of my major aphid problem to be able to watch the lifecycle of this amazing creature. After the Hover flies made their pupas, I had to trim back my Milkweeds before the aphids killed the plants! I did my best to find all of the Hover fly pupa. I put them in a container so they could emerge.

If you have a aphid problem like me another way to kill aphids is to take a hose with a very powerful spray nozzle a knock the aphids off the plant. Also using your fingers to wipe of the aphids as you spray helps. 

Hover fly Emerges

hover fly pupa eyes are visible

The hover fly larvae inside has now changed into an adult. you can see its eyes through the chrysalis.

hover fly wings crumbled

It just emerged and its wings are not fully opened yet. It must dry them like a butterfly. This is a female Hover fly because there is a space between its eyes.hover fly emerged

Its wings are fully expanded now. The Hover fly’s wings look like  glass cut in different shapes then glued back together. In a couple of hours it will be ready for flight and begin this lifecycle again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My New Portable Butterfly Pavilion


My parents spent two weekends building me a new butterfly pavilion. My old enclosure deteriorated from the sun. My mom designed this butterfly condo to have two floors. The measurements are 7 ft. tall x 4 ft. deep x 5 ft. wide. The lower level houses my milkweed plants and seedlings. The top floor I will use for breeding butterflies and raising caterpillars. For breeding you need a space that measures at least 3 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft. The structure is built with 2 x 4’s. Outdoor screening is used for the sides and below each floor. The floor boards are wooden fence slaps with about a one inch gap so the water can run through. To keep the rain from injuring the butterflies in the top of the condo we used a sheet of thick plastic over the screening to make a roof. After the first rain the roof was sinking from the weight of the rain. We took a two inch board that was slightly taller and wedged it in to allow the water to drain of the roof. Another option would be to build your pavilion with a slanted roof. To make the pavilion portable we added large outdoor wheels to the bottom. If a bad storm comes it gives me the option to roll it under the lanai for safety.

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Here are photos of my pavilion under construction.


I would like to encourage everyone that you can have your own garden and butterfly conservatory whether you have a large yard or no yard at all. My portable butterfly pavilion and garden box are my contribution to establishing a safe habitat that is pesticide free. Elizabeth’s Secret Garden is the perfect place for my research.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Butterfly Pavilion in Albuquerque New Mexico Botanic Gardens

Rio Grande Botanic Garden 

In Albuquerque, New Mexico they have a BioPark. At the Rio Grande Botanic Gardens you can see a miniature train, aquarium, and even a butterfly pavilion.  http://www.cabq.gov/biopark/garden/butterfly.html


The park host a Butterfly Pavilion open spring through fall.


Inside the pavilion are many butterflies that are native to North America and also their host plants. The pavilion is constructed of wood beams, window screening, and wooden walk ways. Underneath is a stream that contributes to the peaceful garden.


New Mexico has many of the same butterflies we have in Florida where I live.

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This Monarch and Queen are enjoying the sweet nectar of Lantana.


This Giant Swallowtail is posing for the picture.


A White Peacock butterfly! I got to raise eight of them and released them in our yard.


This is a Pipevine Swallowtail.

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The Zebra Longwing and Julia Heliconian both eat Purple Passionvines. They live only in warm states.


This amazing giant dragon covered in ivy protecting his castle greets you at the garden.


In the garden there is a miniature train track that crosses over a stream.

Disiney characters

The picture of the train crossing the bridge was my favorite train picture until I saw this one. After studying the picture closely I realized that the passengers in the train are fictional characters! The Seven Dwarfs, characters from Wallace and Gromit, Winnie the Pooh characters, and I think one is Herbie The Love Bug.


  Next stop, Aquarium


God has filled the Earth with so many amazing creatures. Just look at this GIANT grouper fish!


This is my favorite picture at the aquarium. Jellyfish are made up of more than 90% water. Jellyfish can swim in swarms of hundreds or even thousands! They come in so many different sizes and colors. Some are so pretty they take your breath away. (I searched pictures of colorful jellyfish on the internet). Who would think such simple creatures (almost all water) could be so pretty.


Here is a Sea Turtle. Unfortunately its head was looking the other way! Sea Turtles are endangered and need protection.

I wanted to end my post with beautiful pictures of New Mexico.

IMG_1573  The Jemez Trail takes you through the mountains. The picture above shows the layers of dirt exposed on the side of the mountain.


We found this tunnel down a one way road that goes through the mountain only to look over a cliff with a river running below.


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The Jemez Mountain Trail also has Jemez State Monument, Jemez Springs, Soda Dam, Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos (where the atom bomb was made) and many other museums.

I will also let you in a secret, there are REAL cowboys walking around in cowboy boots and hats. My mom bought me a set for Christmas and I can’t wait to post you a picture of them!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Polydamas Butterfly Emerges


Right after making a chrysalis, the Polydamas Swallowtail’s chrysalis is a yellowish color. The yellow rubbed of causing a stain on the Kleenex. After drying though, the chrysalis darkens to be a green color.

Polydamas chrysalis black (origanal) 

When the butterfly inside the chrysalis has completely developed, the chrysalis will change to a black color. This means the butterfly inside will soon come out to reveal its beautiful wings. When ready to come out it uses its front legs to push through the chrysalis.

To fit in the chrysalis the butterflies wings must be all folded up. When it comes out, it finds a place to hang and starts pumping the fluid from its abdomen into its wings. It only takes a few minutes for its wings to be fully lengthened, but it takes hours for its wings to be dry enough to fly.Polydamas Swallowtail (origanal)

Polydamas Swallowtails (also known as Gold Rim Swallowtails) advertise their bad taste by their bright colors. On their body they have orange spots and orange triangles along their abdomen. On their wings they have strange red squiggles.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

Most Swallowtail butterflies have “tails” on their wings, but Polydamas Swallowtails don’t have any on their wings. Can you find the tail on this Black Swallowtail in the picture above?

Polydamas Swallowtail On Pipevine (origanal) 

Its wings are ready for flight so I placed it on its host plant Pipevine. Because I have been releasing many Polydamas Swallowtails I’ve been seeing them flying all around our yard. They love Milkweeds and Pentas. They jump all over them sucking up nectar with their long proboscis.