Monarch Chrysalis Christmas Tree

Ed. Note:  We thought this was such a lovely photo and such a marvelous example of a Bug Humanitarian that we are passing on the holiday greetings to our readership regardless of faith or denomination.  As arguably the most intelligent life form on this planet, we humans have a responsibility of stewardship for the environment, including the lower beasts.

My Christmas tree this year
Location:  This is in Jacksonville, Florida, on the banks of the beautiful St Johns River.
December 20, 2011
This is my Christmas tree this year, and I love it.
A late hatching of Monarch caterpillars during a cold snap made me carry many of them inside for protection.  Now they’ve gone into chrysalis form (I have video!).  Obviously, I transferred them from their chosen sites (not always good choices) to a little bonsai tree, where they’ll all have clear “take-off” points.
The black chrysalis (on the right) is about to hatch – they turn black before they break out.
Merry Christmas!

Monarch Chrysalides as holiday ornaments

Dear Lane,
Thank you for the lovely holiday greeting which we are featuring as a post.  We are also tagging you as a Bug Humanitarian because of your rescue intervention.  Could you please provide us with a location for the photo?

Of course!  This is in Jacksonville, Florida, on the banks of the beautiful St Johns River.
I must add a sad but educational note:
These Monarch caterpillars were laid and fed on first-year Mexican milkweed.  But I’ve learned that that species harbors a parasite that kills the caterpillars before they can chrysalize IF they feed on second-year plants.  Mexican milkweed (not native to Florida)  tends to live through the winter so produces second-year plants.  It’s a real threat to Monarchs here.
The sad part is that I had a dozen healthy caterpillars but my plants were eaten up so I went to a friend for foliage and her clippings must have  come from older plants as all the caterpillars that fed on it died.  It was very sad to see healthy caterpillars collapse and die a slow death from the parasites.
I’ll pull up this year’s plants and use native species next year as they do die back in the winter.
Thank you for your fascinating and helpful site.  You do great good for the bugs of the world – and the humans too.
Happy holidays and New Year,
Lane Welch

Thanks for the information on the milkweed dilemma.  We were unaware of that threat.  Various native milkweed species are found in so many parts of the world that we would always encourage butterfly gardeners to plant native whenever possible.

Dear Daniel,
I’m very honored and proud to receive the Bug Humanitarian citation.
My tree could be a “tree of life” or “tree of renewal” – its significance is equally applicable to any religion or frame of belief (or lack thereof).
No one can be offended by the breathtaking beauty and complexity of all of nature.
Best wishes,

I agree.  Before I knew about the problem I just bought what was at the big-box hardware store.  Maybe the Mexican species, being so hardy, is easier to ship – that or some other cost-motivated factor is probably behind it’s availability.  Next year I’ll seek out native plants.
Speaking of those big stores, their purchasing power has effects on the environment of which most individuals are unaware.  For example, cypress mulch is produced by horrible destruction to Florida and Louisiana coastal areas.  Cypress mulch should not be produced – they’re slow growing and no such thing as an excess of them.  I’ll get off my soapbox now!

Why stop now Lane?  We sometimes feel we are perpetually on a soap box, preaching about unnecessary carnage and the like.

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