Breeding: Natural vs Hothouse

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    OK we’ve had lots of discussions about butterfly houses and greenhouses and the like. I thought about it a lot and I prefer the natural way. I would just have some sort of frame with insect fabric all round the sides, maybe a sheltered roof, and soil underneath. Put the swan plants into the soil, maybe an irrigation sprayer up top, open up all the sides, wait for the egg laying to happen then close up all the sides, check for parasites, and leave the caterpillars to do their thing.

    I read stuff about people raising butterflies in glasshouses, all that work and all that stuff is just too intense for me, I wouldn’t want to spend all that time on it.

    The list of stuff I posted in the other thread is geared at people like me who are in a rented property or small flat and you can’t really build onto the side of your house too much or haven’t got the space or whatever. I looked at a few pictures of butterfly houses. Some of those are all closed in with solid walls that must be some sort of hothouse environment. Some are more "natural" with mesh walls. Definitely I would go for the latter.

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    You can see here that Mitre10 have improved the description on their website:

    Although the model number doesn’t correspond with Spanbilt’s website listing it is quite similar to this model:

    But I haven’t really decided what I want to do as the landlord might have a negative view of any kind of shed given the number of flats there are here. I have a few other ideas up my sleeve to think about yet.




    That aviary looks pretty good, esp it is north or NE facing to save it from the cold Southerlies & drying Nor’Westers.

    I would go for NE in Canty to avoid damage from the NW winds & it’ll get morning sun, which is more important to Butterflies.




    You men are lucky – you have a built-in dog and cat preventor.

    Just mark out your territory with urine every now and then, and this should deter cats and neighbourhood dogs from coming on your property too. I don’t suggest on the aviary, but around the perimeter. It’s worth a try – let’s know if it works.



    After much consideration I will probably have to have an enclosure due to the cat problem. another example of this is buddleia branches being stripped of leaves and in one case a newly planted cutting was torn out of the ground

    From this it follows that I could expect feline interference with swan plants eyc.

    This aviary sold by mitre 10, now I must have a good look at it next time I am in the store.



    I’m seeeing how much the caterpillars can eat the Swan Plant until it’s too streesed to grow presently. They are holding up very well.

    I have 3 plants that where from last summer (2008) & they have being eaten to bare stalks 3 times this year & on the most recent slow eating generation, they have almost accounted for a 4th stripping as they have knocked the foliage back quite a bit in this winter weather. Also these plants have no direct sunlight from late April until early Sept.

    I also have some small plants from this summer (2009), that I let grow to about 40cm, before letting them get striped. They get morning sun (if it is), but are coming back slowly too.

    Presently I expect all to overwinter as long as it’s not too wet (Akl – yeah right) or over-watered when I’m away.

    As for CATS;
    I’ve had trouble with them spraying pots & plants. So if I get any attacks, I spray half White Vinegar & water onto the pot (not the plant) as it neutralises the pee & the Cats hate the smell. It can be sprayed accross their entry point if the plants are in a awkward place to get to. Mine are on a balcony, so I spray the top of the steps, which reduces Cat visits to the entire balcony. It needs appling daily for at least 2 weeks (depends on Cat in question). If you catch the cat in action, spray it with plain water as this teaches them the quickest (also doesn’t ruin stuff indoors if it’s your cat).




    Hmm, OK. I might just have swan plants in pots, but still outside, and a mosquito net, I think.

    Big issue round here is cats (felines), I think probably one took the two admiral caterpillars I had because they just vanished. I live in a complex with a lot of neighbours, several of whom between them own a lot of cats which are constantly messing up the garden.

    Has anyone had problems with their outdoor nets being damaged by felines?



    We had snow yesterday! And it wasn’t even June – I hate to think of what might come the rest of the winter.

    Yes, true, potted plants need more care than the garden variety. I buy thick plastic from Spotlight. It costs about $13 a metre but is a metre wide, so it goes an awful long way. That way I don’t have to worry about putting the pots on saucers if they are sitting on window sills, and frass and other little messes can be wiped up very easily!



    “Everything depends on where you are, and what space you have,”

    Yes Clair youve about hit the nail on the head there, and oh I hear you on the issue of it being hard to keep the plants going over winter. As I’ve said else where I get about 3 chances, and Ive already used up one :-X.

    Agreed, pots are wooonderful, and I couldnt do what I do without them. The downside is you really have to feed them and keep them well watered or they wont do well in pots. You need a reasonable size pot too for the plants to do as anywhere near as well as their ground planted counterparts.

    Messy thay sure can be. I use newspaper inside the biggest box I can acquire. This gets changed frequently. The only damage Im encountering is my butterlies do their business on my window sills, while theyre sitting pretty on my nets :). Because theyre due to be painted I’ve been a bit lax about the staining, and they CAN stain, even though you clean it regularly. Next season I’ll put down a strip of cardboard or plastic or something.



    Hi Lepid, my dream is to have a permanent butterfly house like Char’s! But most of my stuff goes on in a pretty restricted area. I have heaps of space to plant swannies outside, but not the weather conditions to support that well. I do have a few permanent plants outside, but they are so hard to keep going in the winter! I have the vast majority of my swannies in pots. That means I can rotate them under the pillars so the plants never get eaten right down. That way a plant that would normally only support 2-3 pillars can do the job for 3 generations and still survive for the following year.

    Isn’t so true, they do make quite a mess! I put clear plastic under my inside enclosures which makes it really easy to clean – and saves my coffee table / diningg room table/ whatever, from any damage.

    It might be clear to you by now that I am a fan of potted plants. That would be absolutly right! I’ve rescued more than 100 pillars this year from local people who only had outside plants and so ran out of food.

    Everything depends on where you are, and what space you have, etc. I don’t believe there is any one right answer. I know that my conditions here are totally different from a friend’s (and other’s in Welly) just a few kms away – we have to do totally different things and rescue each other a million times a season! I spent this season taking pillars early, then giving them away mid-season, then taking them again later!



    I’ll copy the comments from the other thread to this one:

    * Warehouse “greenhouse kits”. The warehouse changes suppliers every so often and the models produced change. Other garden retailers may have similar products.

    See the photos of current models including 2 assembled at

    * Screen houses or dome tent inners which are all mesh and could be sealed easily. You might find a cheap tent second hand on Trademe. Some of them have all the sides made of mesh with a sew in floor, the outer is the waterproof part that can just be discarded and it only requires 4 pegs at the corners because the pole system is self supporting.

    * Gardening cloches are tunnel shaped covers designed to sit on the ground and completely cover the plants. They can be fitted with insect mesh and frost fabric and are available in different models up to a metre high.

    My situation is, I have a porch at the front of my flat that is slowly filling up with plants, it’s where the nettles and buddleias are sitting in pots at the moment. It is closed in on three sides and open at the front. I put spray irrigation into the rest of the garden and ran a little tube up to the porch with a couple of mister heads on it for watering.

    I’m thinking of doing various things with tables and some sort of simple wooden frame that can be covered with insect fabric, maybe starting from a raised garden base. It depends on whether it gets enough sun for the plants to begin with. If it is all soil underneath then at least you don’t have to clean up after the caterpillars 🙂



    You need to see the photographs of what Charlotte & Al have done in West Auckland – sounds just like what they’ve done.

    I think if you have your plants in pots though, it does give you the ability to move them all out to look for (say) parasites or predators.

    Vicky has a great arrangement too.

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