Dead and dying caterpillars

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    Topic
  • #41803

    Michelle
    Participant

    Hi all

    A disappointing start to my day today. I went to check on my 40 or so monarch caterpillars I transferred to some new plants (as I was out of food for them) and 30 of them are all dead or dying. Im suspecting I have brought sprayed swan plants. Their dropping’s are runny.
    I have had great success up until now. My two mother swan plants raised 60 butterflies first cycle and this second cycle my plants have had around 80+ caterpillars on them but my large swan plants was not enough so i went and purchased 8 more swan plants ($30.00). Planted them and transferred the caterpillars the following day. I also transferred some caterpillars onto some of my own seedling plants. The caterpillars on my own seedlings are fine.
    A couple of months ago i brought a couple of plants from the same garden centre and specifically asked about them not being sprayed and had no trouble with these plants (although i have only just transferred caterpillars onto these).
    I guess there can be other causes but as the caterpillars on my young seedlings are ok but dead on the purchased plants im pretty confident it is sprayed plants.
    If anyone would like to confirm this or have other views that would be great.
    I will be going back to the garden centre to query them on this as i feel a bit sad and guilty that they are obviously dying a horrible death and i thought i was trying to do the right thing. Very disappointing!

    Michelle

Viewing 9 replies - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
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  • #42032

    Michelle
    Participant

    Hi all

    I have come to the conclusion that my swan plants I brought have definitely been contaminated or the brought plants were of a higher toxity. Of the three caterpillars that reappeared on them, two I removed as they did not look right and one was dead at the base of the plant.
    Im still plugging away at rearing about 30 on pumpkin. Some have turned into chrysalis although some are small. But I have just read the tip about making a mixture of swan plant leaves and water and painting onto the pumpkin so the caterpillars get the toxins they need to transform properly. So I will be giving this a go tomorrow.

    Michelle

    #41954

    Michelle
    Participant

    Hi Mathewsmob

    I did investigate the ants as we do have them and not so long ago when my large swan plant was loaded with fat juicy caterpillars it was also crawling with hords of ants. I watched the ants which were eventually going onto my house and up under a window sill, which I did not want so I tied the branches of my swan plant back off the house.
    The ants did not seem to be interested at all in the caterpillars I think they must have been after the nectar of the flowers.

    I have only noticed ants feeding on one dead caterpillar on the ground.

    Michelle

    #41949

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Michelle – you have hit the nail on the head – caterpillars won’t readily transfer from swan plant to A. curassavica (your words: tropical coloured swan plant) as the toxins contained in the sap or juice of the plant are at different levels.

    We recommend letting caterpillars transfer themselves if you do want to move them from one plant to another also, it’s best to stay with the same sort of plant and to water them well to dilute any toxins.

    Yes, ants can be a real issue too Matthew.

    Sorry, but it’s a learning experience, isn’t it!

    Jacqui

    #41944

    mathewsmob
    Participant

    Does anyone else suspect it is the ants causing the problem. I had some caterpillars in a container ,the ants got in, and at least half of the caterpillars died?

    #41943

    Michelle
    Participant

    To Jackie and Sandra

    Thanks for your feedback. Sorry I haven’t replied sooner but I have been trying to sort my issues out. I went back to the garden centre and was told they hadn’t sprayed and had actually pulled half a dozen small caterpillars off the plants. They also contacted the supplier who said they do not spray the plants. Im a bit miffed as when I transferred the caterpillars the first couple of days they were not happy at all dying and dropping off the plant.The strange thing is the last couple of days 3 medium sized caterpillars have turned up on a couple of the so called sprayed plants and seem to be doing ok (I will be keeping a keen eye on them to see how they progress). They have travelled from other plants for more food as I am completely out of food now.
    I took 15 caterpillars to my mums and the remaining 25 or so I am trying to raise on pumpkin. Talk about time consuming (and rather messy). The larger caterpillars are doing ok although I did have two go into chrysalises but they are only half the size of a normal chrysalis. It will be interesting to see if these chrysalises go the distance and produce dwarf monarch butterflies 🙂
    So im still not sure what caused the caterpillars demise. Could it be the type of swan plant I changed them to? As my seedlings were the tropical coloured swan plants and the store brought were the swan plants that grow to 2 metres? Or possibly it was my handling of them as I did just plop them all into my hand and then put them onto the plants (a no no ).
    Anyway i hope to be more prepared next year by growing my own plants.

    Michelle

    #41822

    Michelle
    Participant

    Hi doodlebug

    Thanks for your reply. Yes its not a good feeling that I unintentionally contributed to the demise of the caterpillars (more dead this morning). And now I am out of caterpillar food as my seedlings are to small or have been eaten (and now are poisonous).
    I hope to get to the garden centre today or tomorrow with my receipt and inform them of what has happened. And will be growing as many seedlings as I can for next year.

    Cheers
    Michelle

    #41814

    doodlebug
    Participant

    Hi Michelle,

    So sorry to hear about your loss. I was heartbroken before Christmas when I lost three caterpillars to dastardly wasps – it must be awful to have lost so many at once.

    Hope you find some new, non-sprayed plants soon.

    Mel

    #41806

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Michelle – so sorry to hear what you’re going through.

    Please could you let us know the name of the garden centre so we can contact them and remind (tell?) them how important it is that swan plants not be sprayed when they are on sale as most people are buying them as food for caterpillars.

    Now as well as that, there are some tips for you here:

    https://www.monarch.org.nz/species/monarchs/monarch-host-plants/feeding-monarch-larvae/

    Sandra, if the plants have been sprayed it totally depends on what spray or sprays have been used as to when the plants will be “safe”. It’s really best to grow your own, then you know exactly what’s going on.

    #41805

    Sandra CA
    Participant

    I can’t imagine how horrible it must feel to lose so many of the little guys. And I think your gut feeling about the new plants is spot on. The evidence is too obvious. I believe it takes a couple months for the toxin to leach out. Make sure you remove any eggs that may appear in the upcoming time.

    Sorry for your loss.

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