Last year I did not find any eggs or caterpillars until the last week of July. This year I am finding them left and right and it's only July 10th! So far I found 39 on July 7th, 25 on July 8th, and today I have found 14. Mostly I am finding eggs but I have found 3 second instar caterpillars and 5 first instars. I just went out on my lunch break and found 6 eggs in one small area:
These four were on 4 different plants. I also took a full size milkweed plant by the root and put it in a vase in my office so that I can feed them. There are 2 more eggs on that plant!
Finding them so early means that I won't just be raising ones that take off to Mexico. I will get to release them in the same areas I found them and then hopefully collect eggs that they lay!
I am trying to be smarter about how I do this each year. Prepping ahead of time by collecting milkweed leaves and cuttings that I can have ready to go when all these eggs hatch, and also cutting paper towels for easy cage changes. I ordered those little plastic things that you put on the end of a flower stem to keep it in water so I can keep more fresh stalks of milkweed in my house.
I am also going to try really hard to keep a running log of how many I find each day, what stage they are in, and where I found them. It is hard because I feel a sense of urgency to get them in their cages and get the milkweed cleaned up before it wilts. Milkweed is so dependent on being planted as its sap runs out very quickly once any part of it has been separated from the plant. We have also had record high temperatures here so things dry up fast. There are thunderstorms heading for us today so I am glad I was able to bring in what I did this morning!