A Site of Beef by Ann-S-Thesia
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10/29/2000 - 11/04/2000
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07/22/2001 - 07/28/2001
07/29/2001 - 08/04/2001
08/05/2001 - 08/11/2001
08/12/2001 - 08/18/2001
08/19/2001 - 08/25/2001
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09/23/2001 - 09/29/2001
09/30/2001 - 10/06/2001
10/14/2001 - 10/20/2001
10/21/2001 - 10/27/2001
10/28/2001 - 11/03/2001
11/04/2001 - 11/10/2001
11/11/2001 - 11/17/2001
11/18/2001 - 11/24/2001
11/25/2001 - 12/01/2001
12/02/2001 - 12/08/2001
12/09/2001 - 12/15/2001
12/16/2001 - 12/22/2001
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Saturday, August 11, 2001

Me in my rubyslipperesque nail polish holding a little Monarch on a twig.

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posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 7:20 PM || link it email me


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Three more Monarch chrysalises bringing the total to seven, however the one on the mesh part of the screen doesn't look like it's alive. There are a dozen large-ish caterpillars left in the aquarium and several small ones in assorted jars that are awaiting the move.

Below are a couple Swallowtail (I believe Eastern Black) chrysalises. Note the color differences...I think it's a gender thing. I'm betting that the brown one is a female, but I have no idea. We have three of each color...what are the odds? We got some fennel plants cheap at Felley's the other day to release ours on when they hatch, and Stan saw a Black Swallowtail butterfly in our yard today. Hoping that this will bring them back next season.

swallowchrys.jpg

posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 7:11 PM || link it email me


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Bug Journal, Day 11

It helps to take clearer close-ups if you figure out the macro function on your digital camera first. (Duh!) This picture (that is much clearer than earlier ones, I may add, now that I located my Canon manual) was taken this morning of several full size ones feeding on milkweed leaves. We use natural clay Cat(erpillar) Litter at the base of the aquarium...that was my idea...it really helps absorb the moisture in their droppings. Otherwise, cleaning would be a chore that we'd have to perform several times a day at the detriment of disturbing the caterpillars. I believe it's best if they are handled and disturbed as little as possible.

The one we quarantined in a separate jar acted like it wanted to chrysalize and I believe it is another victim of the dreaded tachnid fly. One died in the aquarium yesterday...we quarantined its body and it did release fly larvae. All the ones that this happened to seemed to be of the same age, as if a fly was rampant in our yard laying eggs on caterpillars at the time.

On the bright side, we have found a few more in our yard (hopefully, they are parasite free) and we now have about six on the top of the screen waiting to chrysalize, as well as the existing four chrysalises. They all seem to prefer to form their chrysalises on this black plastic trap door on the screen, staying away from the mesh screen itself. Only one formed its chrysalis there, and the chrysalis looks weird...brownish-orange markings on it. I do not know what that means whether it is bad or neutral.

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posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 11:52 AM || link it email me



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Friday, August 10, 2001

And if central air started the decline and fall of western civilization, Crap like this will surely cement it. Is it just me, or is there just something inherently evil about the trends in popular culture that serve as forums to humiliate people? Game shows that humiliate? "Reality" shows that humiliate? And who cares what the internet populace cares about the way you look, your artwork, your pets, vehicles and tattoos? Why should their opinion matter? This stuff is just vile.
posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 1:35 PM || link it email me


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We now have four Monarch chrysalises, and three mature caterpillars on the top of the screen. Don't know the fate of the sickly quarantined one yet, but I fear the worst. At the stage it's at, it should be eating voraciously, but it's not, it's just atop the jar lid, waiting to die I assume. It's like the Tachnid fly larvae inside simulates the same sensation the caterpillar experiences before it chrysalizes. Or perhaps the act of chrysalizing simulates the feeling of dying.

The heat from the preceding few days is now gone...I actually slept with a blanket! I can now think clearly, and don't feel like my mind is set on auto-moron anymore. Living with such hot weather sort of simulates the flu, like you have a bad fever and have hallucinations. Despite how much I hated the heat, I still hate Central Air more. A room air conditioner is good, like the one we have upstairs. We used it constantly during the day to cool off the upstairs which houses my computer room/dog room, my studio and the former, now empty, bedroom. At night, we opened up all the windows. Downstairs we have nothing...just a large fan that we put in our bedroom window to suck the air out of the other window (we reverse it--it seems to work better that way). We took long dips in the bathtub together for extended periods of time. It was fun. If we had central air, we wouldn't do that...we'd be too chilled. We'd have all our windows closed. It would be stuffy and gross. Although I can see the need for it in hot climates like San Antonio or Tucson, the proliferation of Central air in private residences in the north is rather absurd and unnecessary. There are those that directly tie the decline and fall of western civilization to the advent of the air conditioner. And I tend to believe them. Well, I'm not going to blame rock and roll.
posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 1:02 PM || link it email me


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Bug Journal, Day 10

Good basic information and clear photographs of the Monarch Butterfly and caterpillars

For the most part, all 'pillars are doing fine. The six Swallowtail Chrysalises are still there. Still have three Monarch chrysalises, and one hanging 'pillar is about to shed its skin at any minute, and two mature 'pillars have crawled up to the top of the screen to get ready to change.

Last night had another sad maggot tragedy, this time we caught it in time. One caterpillar that was not mature enough to chrysalize was acting strangely, curled up in a C-shape on the glass and spinning filaments (it is natural for the caterpillar to spin filaments both when it molts in its various instar stages and in its final stage as it fastens its body to become a chrysalis). It was too old to molt its final instar skin, yet too young to chrysalize. When it went up to the top of the screen and spun filament to attach itself and started to hang, we knew it was time to remove it from the aquarium. As soon as Stan reached in and put it in a jar of its own, it died. Its skin was darker than normal. In the morning, there was a maggot in the jar.

This account of Monarch migration also tells exactly what happened to my unfortunate caterpillars: Tachnid fly larvae. What absolutely evil parasites. I read in another reference that they serve a purpose of keeping Monarch populations in check, but what with their overwintering habitat in Mexico being destroyed and the eradication of milkweed in roadside ditches, do we really need this parasite's help? Am I wrong for wanting a beautiful species to continue and become populous and an "evil" species to become extinct instead? Am I speciesist? Am I shallow for liking the "pretty" one?

This morning another not-totally-mature caterpillar headed toward the top of the cage and started spinning filaments madly. I removed it and placed it in a jar. It is now on the jar lid...I'm afraid it too will be a goner.

This tachnid fly thing is so frustrating. I'm just hoping that I'm right in my assumptions that these are not ones that we raised from eggs or from VERY young hatchlings, but instead ones that were already in their 2nd, 3rd or 4th instar stage when we found them. I can't see how they be infested while in our possession. The only way we could know for sure is to place every hatchling and every egg and every caterpillar we find in their own jar, complete with reference label and documentation, but we just don't eat that much peanut butter or salsa! Most jars become art studio paint jars. Many get recycled when we run out of room. I can't imagine having thirty odd jars around just on the chance we'd get another bonanza caterpillar year. But then again, maybe we should plan ahead.

It's so ironic, the previous years when we didn't have as many caterpillars, our milkweed plants were filled with ants, whic made it extremely hard for the laying female Monarch to light on the plant to lay her eggs. Since our ant population is low this year, hence more eggs and caterpillars, it also means there are no ants to scare away the tachnid flies. Frustrating. Heartbreaking. We feel so sad when one of them die...one less jade gem chrysalis, one less floating orange flower to grace our skies.

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Our next door neighbors are getting a new puppy (part Chesapeake Bay retriever...part ?) and I dreamt last night that it had arrived at their house. It was on their roof though, and it jumped down to the ground, unhurt. I went over to pet it, but it was large, like a full-sized dog. It looked more like a Bloodhound crossed with a Clumber Spaniel, though.
posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 11:14 AM || link it email me



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Thursday, August 09, 2001

Bug Journal, Day 9

Several fat caterpillars all the same size should be going up to the top of the cage to chrysalize (word?) soon. Everyone doing well so far...no horror stories like the other day to report of. Running out of milkweed...Stan will have to supplement from the field by his job. They eat like there's no tommorrow.

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Um...looks like this domain is down. Ironic, since it's my OTHER domain that I'm doing a host switch on. If any domain should be down, it's ann-s-thesia. But no. It's this one. How much sense does THAT make?
posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 1:49 PM || link it email me



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Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Bug Journal, Day 8

Monday evening we had one Monarch chrysalis, and one Monarch caterpillar that started to turn to a chrysalis before we thought it was mature enough. It was one we found in our garden at an older stage, not as a hatchling or as an egg. It seemed unusually small to go through the change.

Early Tuesday morning I checked on them. When Monarch caterpillars are about to change before they shed their skin for the final tme, they afix their hind legs to a high surface with an extremely strong filament. Their body forms a “J” shape as they hang upside down. The caterpillar that had gone to molt early was not in “J” form. It was straight. It looked very wrong. It looked dead. I went back to sleep. It was very hard to sleep as it was the hotest day of the year. When I woke up shortly afterward, I checked on the caterpillars again. It was obvious this time the caterpillar was dead. Funny how one gets attached to these little things and despite all the successes, one feels like a failure. However, it was obvious that this was not my nor Stan’s failings. This was nature at its cruelest, nature’s version of “The X-Files” or “Alien.” I looked at the floor of the aquarium. There was a maggot crawling around. When I checked it a few minutes later, there was another maggot. These were not newt maggots (i.e., “newt chow”). It would have been impossible that newt chow could have gotten into the cage as we were all out at the moment, and all newt chow goes straight from the refrigerator into the newt’s water. These maggots, that had not been there earlier, came out of the dead caterpillar.

Yes. Gross.

This is what happens: A fly or probably wasp lays its eggs on a live caterpillar. Eggs hatch, hatchling maggots bury inside the caterpillar’s body and mature along with it. Caterpillar is stimulated to pupate when the mature maggots are ready to hatch. The maggots essentially eat their way out of the caterpillar.

It is sad. This is why it is important when raising caterpillars to harvest early and harvest often. The younger the caterpillar is found and “rescued”, the greater the chance it is “alien-free.” That is not to say all full-sized caterpillars are incubating parasitic wasp maggots. Many will be healthy. But the chances are reduced. I have had best luck with the caterpillars that we raised from eggs or hatchlings.

On the brighter side, all six of the Swallowtails are now in chrysalis form. I was even lucky enough to watch some of them transform and wiggle their way out of their old skin. One very unique thing about these chrysalises is that we have three that are bright green, and three that are brown. Initially I thought they were different species, but Stan suggested that it might be a gender difference, and I suspect he is right. I can’t wait to see what these hatch into.

As of today, we now have about 18 caterpillars in the Monarch aquarium and three chrysalises. I also harvested more eggs at home and Stan found more tiny hatchlings in the field at his job. I am not counting hatchlings or eggs; it is too difficult. I’m only counting the larger ones we put in the aquarium.
posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 5:02 PM || link it email me



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Monday, August 06, 2001

Bug Journal, Day 6

Bad photos, I know...it's hard to capture them behind glass up so close. The image on the left is one of the Swallowtails getting ready to turn into a chrysalis on a stem of fennel; the one on the right is a Monarch getting ready to do the same thing on the plastic opening on the top of the screen.

prepupas.jpg prepupam.jpg

Don't know how many I have at the moment...it's so hard to count. Found a couple more yesterday, but it's really hard to take a good tally because they're all burried under leaves. It'll be easier to keep track of the chrysalises.

My shoulders hurt from working on my new computer on the kitchen table. Table's too high and the chairs, which are a lovely sort of moderne metal leather pseudo Frank Lloyd Wright/Euro creation...high subtle curved chair back with cutout squares that look like they'd be uncomfortable but they're not, are not designed for extensive computer work, although fine for dining.
posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 9:36 AM || link it email me



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Sunday, August 05, 2001

One of the jars with the oldest Monarch caterpillars we found in our yard last week. They've grown quite a bit since Tuesday.

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posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 4:51 PM || link it email me


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Another shot of the Swallowtails grazing on fennel.

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posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 4:49 PM || link it email me


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Close up of Monarch caterpillar...actually, this picture and the one below are pretty much representative of life size.

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posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 4:45 PM || link it email me


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Close-up of Swallowtail caterpillars consuming mass quantities of fennel.

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posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 4:40 PM || link it email me


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Oh my gawd what a day. It was really hot early this morning and I couldn't sleep so I got up and took some pictures of the caterpillars and was really eager to load them onto my hard drive. I did not realize in my Canon "Powershot Browser" program that if I delete existing photos it doesn't just delete them from the browser window...it deletes them. Off the hard drive. Poof. Friday I had just downloaded two month old photos that I'd taken of the Titan Arum-past-its-bloom at the UW greenhouse...irreplaceable photos of the Arum with this little trap door device that the Botanists/Horticulturists created on it so that they could pollinate it. I'd already erased my flash card, and now they were neither there nor on my hard drive. The frustrating thing is, I could see them, using Sherlock. I just couldn't open them. They were in a directory called "501" inside a directory called "./Trashes." I tried using ResEdit. That didn't help and I was probably barking up the wrong tree with that one. I tried Norton Utilities. No luck. I posted my problem on a Mac discussion forum over at Apple. A man gave me some instructions on what to do, but it was waaaaay too technical for me to comprehend (something about line commands?). Someone then suggested "Super Get Info," a shareware utility by BareBones Software, the makers of BBEdit (which helped lead me away from WYSIWYG programs and into the realm of text editing for my html pages). After going back and forth (restarting) between OS X and OS 9.2, futzing with this and that, I was finally able to retrieve my lost files. My first foray into hacking. Heh heh. This is way too frustrating, and my neck hurts. Give me a bunch of paint (digital or chemical) any day. Hey diddley-dee...it's not a hacker's life for me.

But I'm glad I have my pictures back.

Now I'm off to pay my shareware fee to BareBones.
posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 4:02 PM || link it email me


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Bug Journal, Day 5

What an incredible year for butterfly caterpillars!

Last night we aquariumized the six Swallowtails and one mature Monarch, separately. We got some fennel from Stan's place of work (It is growing outside one of the buildings) to feed to the Swallowtails.

This morning I found two more Monarchs (about half-inch long) on a butterfly weed in the front yard. I added those to the aquarium with the mature Monarch, plus added some more to the aquarium from another jar. I did a Monarch count and came up with this:

Container A (Aquarium): 1 (one) mature (2"), 6 (six) 1/2"
Container B (Jar): 6 (six) 3/4-1" (I did not disturb this jar earlier to combine with the aquarium because the largest one in the jar is presently molting.)
Container C (Jar): 4 (four) 1/2"
Container D (Jar): 2 (two) less than 1/2"
Container E (Jar): Assorted unhatched eggs (no turd evidence of hatchlings yet)

The above jars may also contain eggs as well. This only counts visible caterpillars...some recent hatchlings may not be visible or may be hidden beneath leaves.

That brings my tally to 19 Monarch caterpillars and 6 Swallowtail caterpillars.

This morning, the mature Monarch in the aquarium climbed up to the screen top where it will stay for about a day and ready itself for its chrysalis stage. It will then afix its hind legs to the top of the screen, then release the rest of its body so it will look like it's hanging upside down from its feet. It will be motionless and look dead for a while, then it will shed its skin to reveal the green chrysalis with metallic gold dots. The chrysalises of Monarchs are beautiful...like jade inlaid with gold. As I recall, Swallowtail chrysalises aren't anything noteworthy...or at least they're not gemlike like the Monarchs. They don't hang upside down, but rather afix a "belt" of silk around their body attached to a vertical surface...picture a person working on a telphone pole with one of those devices.

I realize what we are doing might be futile, but I hope any little thing people can do to ensure the safe life and transition of a caterpillar to a butterfly will help keep butterflies around for generations to come. I don't really understand the scientific basis of this, but according to many sources I've heard, genetically engineered crops produce something in them which is causing Monarch caterpillars to die. Others will dispute this and say that more Monarch caterpillars are killed by tractors in fields than by genetic engineering. And granted, here in the city the caterpillars aren't going to come into contact with tractors, but they could and do come into contact with other things--raccoons, birds and assorted other pests and predators. Probably the worst is humans...little kids that tear them to bits...well meaning little kids that put them in a jar to see what they do and accidentally end up killing them because they don't know the proper care and feeding...people who innocently kill them by stepping on them unintentionally...people that kill them because they think all bugs are bad. Admittedly, when I was a kid I used to chase butterflies. I had a collection, yes, mounted butterfly bodies. My parents encourged me to do this, or at least they didn't object. I'm sure they thought it was a good basis for a budding scientist (ha!). Yet back in 1970, butterflies were plentiful. Now it is not the case. I'm sure everyone has noticed that there aren't as many of them around as when they were kids, despite the seemingly odd bounty of Red Armirals this spring.

By removing them from our yard or Stan's place of work, we are ensuring that no one will accidentally squish one underfoot. We are removing them from the elements and allowing them to fully mature in the kindest conditions possible. Yes, in previous years I had a few that did not make it to butterfly, but they wouldn't have made it in the wild either. We are removing every possible threat and giving them unlimited food in a low-stress environment. Of course once they sprout wings, they're on their own. But I'm hoping our incubation period helps a few survive that wouldn't have normally. The proof is that each summer we seem to find more and more eggs and hatchlings on our milkweed and butterfly flowers. It is a genetic memory that keeps their progeny coming back to the place where their ancestors laid their eggs.

And on top of all that, it's fun to do this and to watch them grow.
posted by Ann-S-Thesia at 11:08 AM || link it email me




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