Butterflies overwintering Auckland

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  • #34599


    I have three caterpillars on a swan plant inside.  Assuming they become butterflies, can someone suggest what I can do with them so that they make through to spring?  I thought taking them to a garden centre that has some shelter and flowering plants.   Does anyone in Auckland have a conservatory that they use to keep butterflies in until the weather is warm enough in spring to release them?

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  • #34617


    Thanks, Jacqui.  The message seems to be yes, put them outside so long as it isn’t pouring with rain or blowing a gale – if it is, then keep them in a box until the weather’s a bit finer and put them outside in a sheltered spot.  I’ll do my best.  I feel very responsible.   One turned into a chrysalis today,  and I can almost see the other two growing.  They are getting so fat!  I can’t wait to find out if I’ve got boys or girls.



    Hi Jillian

    I live in Auckland too. Your caterpillars will do much better inside than out at this time of the year as we humans much prefer our homes to be warmer than outdoors too.

    It has often been mentioned in other posts in the forum here – when the butterflies emerge you should put them outdoors in as warm and sheltered a position as you can, so that they immediately acclimatise to “outdoors”. If it’s the worst of winter days you can acclimatise them to “winter” by putting them in a cool dark place.

    Cool and dark will be like a winter’s day without the added threats of wind and rain. I put mine in a cardboard box (like a carton that has had five reams of A4 paper in, but it doesn’t have to be that big) and in the bottom of my bedroom wardrobe which is the coolest, darkest place, but depending on your home and/or family it could be the bathroom, a back bedroom or the laundry. This is only for the most extreme of weather such as heavy rain, cyclones etc.

    So if it’s showers throughout the day – or if it’s constant drizzle – I would still put them out of doors, somewhere where they can fly away when they sense it’s the right time. Under the eaves, or an outbuilding with an open door, under a large leaf like a banana or taro plant, in a band rotunda in a park etc. They just need somewhere roughish that they can cling onto.

    They will fly away and find the nearest overwintering spot – and we know that there are several in Auckland.

    I personally do not advocate trying to keep them indoors and feeding them. You are only making a rod for your own back, really, and the butterfly will not be able to sense what the weather/season is really like.

    I also do not advocate putting them into your car and driving them to the nearest overwintering spot, either. They have wings. They need to sense what is happening outdoors, the climate, the weather ahead and I believe that we’re only adding “noise” or confusion to their navigation systems by doing too much for them.

    In cold/wet weather the butterflies will stay very still and quiet until the conditions are more favourable – and that’s what they’ll do in a carton/box. But if they’re out of doors, as soon as there’s enough sun – it could be tomorrow, who knows – they will warm up sufficiently to fly to what they need – it could be shelter and safety of a permanent overwintering place, or if their nectar reserves are low they’ll find some flowering weeds or garden plants that can top up their nectar.

    Hope that helps!

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