Monarchs and the Crazy Squirrel Lady

I’ve been getting out fishing. Creeks, Fox River, secret ponds and a heavily pressured state park. Caught fish at all of them. Some good, some not so good.

Going through one of my bouts of ADD, ADHD, OCD or some combination of all three. Keeps me from focusing on words. Can put down an interesting sentence, but that’s about where it ends. Then I get bored and don’t bother with any more sentences. Partial blame I place on rethinking, reinventing myself yet again. Taking too long this time, but that might be the boredom thing again.

Have been enjoying just wandering around, sitting around and taking a few photographs.

The first week of May we had two monarchs cruise through our yard. My wife and I were wondering if they could be the offspring of the 100 or so monarchs we’ve raised and released over the last two years. We let them go right in our yard and we’ve read that they somehow implant this into their genetic makeup and pass it on to successive generations. Who knows, but it’s an interesting thought.

The other day we went for one of our wanders around the lake at Silver Springs State Park, a five minute drive down the road from our house. We were coming across quite a bit of milkweed sprouting. My wife was wondering if their would be monarch eggs on them. I said, “it’s too early.” Not five seconds later a monarch lifts off of a milkweed plant. Of course this got the wife off on her search.

By the time we made it back to the car, she had collected 36 monarch eggs. In past years, we never even bothered looking till mid summer with most of the eggs found occurring in July and August. This was truly odd.

In case any are wondering, she then puts the milkweed leaves in small containers with a bit of water in the bottom.

In case you’ve never seen a monarch egg, they’re usually on the underside of a milkweed leaf and look like a tiny white speck. Once you find one, you get used to seeing them. You can see one on the leaf off to the left.

Two days later, they already started to hatch. They’re barely an 1/8th of an inch long when they first hatch and easy to miss.

They start gnawing away at the leaves immediately.

They grow fast and eat voraciously. We transfer the leaves into small clear storage boxes with lids we modified to have screening across the top. Fresh leaves have to be added almost daily. Basically they eat and shit all day long. By noon today we had 10 of them hatched. Time to go pick more leaves.

Also the other day, my wife got it in her head that she was going to train the neighborhood squirrels to eat peanuts out of her hand. She did this with flying squirrels a few years ago and thought it would be a good idea to try with your standard variety squirrel. I know she had the flying squirrel sitting in her hand once, but this was the best picture I could find.

I didn’t get a picture of it, but she actually got a squirrel to come up to her and take a peanut out of her hand. For the last two days, she’s been slowly coaxing other squirrels to keep getting closer.

They are extremely curious and know they want that peanut she’s offering, but it’s become a real cat and mouse game around the tree.

I think it’s going to be a matter of a few days and the damn things will be knocking on the screen door wondering where the peanuts are.

In this same tree is a squirrel nest. Back in March, we found three baby squirrels lying on the ground. They had fallen out of the bottom of the nest. They were all breathing, but lying still. We assumed it would be a matter of time and they would all die. The mother squirrel ran around in a panic. I always assumed squirrels picked up baby squirrels like cats pick up kittens, by the back of the neck. They cram practically the whole damn thing into their mouths. She did this and we watched as she carried them all to a hole in a nearby oak tree. We didn’t see them again. Again assuming they all died.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the squirrel was busy rebuilding the nest. One by one she led three baby squirrels back into the nest. She and the babies got so close to us that we could have reached down and picked them up. Since then we’ve been watching the three little ones playing in the tree, practicing to be squirrels I guess. Hanging upside down, making short jumps from one branch to another, but never coming down to the ground or the feeder.

My wife is hoping to train all of them to feed out of her hand.

And yes, I’ve already been reminded that these are pets, not future stew.

But you never know, accidents do happen.

6 thoughts on “Monarchs and the Crazy Squirrel Lady

  1. walt franklin

    Ken,
    Interesting critter experiments. I’d have thought monarchs were still skipping their way back from their mountain in Mexico, or do some overwinter in the U.S.? I don’t know how you got a daytime photo of a flying squirrel but that’s something. I’ve seen them only at night, as a nuisance in the house (occasionally in the woods). And squirrels? How do you keep them away?

    Reply
    1. Ken G Post author

      That was actually a night shot Walt that for once turned out well. It didn’t turn it into an evil red eye squirrel. We have quite a few more dark, out of focus, the usual.

      The squirrels are everywhere. Thankfully they can’t get on our roof. I once had a dozen of them in the yard. Our house has become a safe haven. Lots of new neighbors with lots of annoying dogs. They know were to seek respite.

      Reply
    1. Ken G Post author

      Bob, I’ve been giving myself one hour when I sit down to write something up. This includes picking all the photos, processing them and putting it all together. As far as I can tell, I’m not even out there thinking about it till I sit down to do it.

      Reply
    1. Ken G Post author

      Now we have to go collect milkweed leaves for them to eat. Brought home three more eggs with that. They are everywhere.

      I keep warning her that sometimes they will grab on and bite, but she won’t heed my warnings. I’ll be taking video of that. Documentation of “I told you.”

      Reply

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