Surprise at the Wildscape

by Catherine Johnson

While I was watering and checking milkweed at the Wildscape, I discovered for the first time, Monarch caterpillars. 

Wildscape caterpillar

So many creatures can kill them, and the fowl were roving (it is, after all, a chicken farm). I decided to take them home and raise them in my house. I have done much research on this topic and also took home milkweed stems.

They stayed in a covered container with damp paper towels in a warm bedroom.  I have since received an enclosure and vials.

The enclosure

One baby from my house was added to three from the Wildscape.

Three from the wildscape and the “baby.”

One night the Wildscape Caterpillars formed J’s . Next morning, only one was alive and shaking. My baby was ok. I saw head parts in the paper towels and was relieved to see they had shed their skin for the last time and were now a green chrysalis. I left about 20 minutes and missed seeing the last one turn! 

Shed skin and chrysalis
Chrysalises, through their screen

Baby is still going thru instars. Right before they emerge, I will space them out so they can spread their wings, dry and be released back to the Wildscape. We hope to release hundreds in the future.

Vials and chrysalises

Interesting fact: bigger caterpillars will eat babies emerging from eggs.

Monarch Butterflies (Danus plexippus)

by Donna Lewis

So you thought we didn’t have many monarchs here in Milam County…

These little beauties were in my pollinator garden just a few weeks ago (the last week in October).

They were nectaring on blue mist flowers, which are very easy to grow.

Yes, we can make a difference for our monarch friends. This is what we do as Texas Master Naturalists. We protect the natural world so that those who come after us will get to enjoy them like we do. What an honor for us.

Make sure you plant what the butterflies need to survive. And keep on learning!

In the Dark

by Catherine Johnson

In January 2019, Master Naturalist Donna Lewis and I met at 5 am in Gause so we could go to Spring, Texas to attend a program on Monarch butterflies.

We drove in the darkness for two hours in all manner of construction and traffic that started in Plantersville and went to “sleepy” Magnolia. We continued through a forest into Dennis Johnston Park.

The speakers were enjoyable and knowledgeable, and we saw greenscapes surviving in the city.

We traveled at dusk to Navasota and Bryan. My limited experience with my rental car and weak vistion caused some tense moments along the way!

Back in Gause at Donna’s truck, she fed a stray cat, and we both drove home…in the dark.