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  • #13261


    HI all

    An interesting discussion has been going on on lists overseas about disease. One particularly useful observation:

    "Most of this disease is in my opinion self-induced by breeding in unnatural unhealthy conditions. One example given is Mourning Cloaks, when given the right conditions are always a completely trouble free butterfly to breed. However Mourning Cloaks are also one of the most sensitive to being bred in unnatural conditions. As a gregarious cat(erpillar), they enjoy being crowded, give them a sleeve on growing hostplant with airflow and sunshine and they are just so easy. Give them a plastic box and cut food and they are almost impossible to raise without a great deal of time and effort in continually changing hostplants, cleaning, and allowing fresh air inside.

    Many pathogens and bacteria are present in small numbers on all caterpillars, and just like humans, given healthy conditions they do not pose a problem and are quite natural. Unhealthy conditions will cause a massive increase in these bacteria which overwhelm the cats. So give healthy natural conditions and breed butterflies, or unnatural unhealthy conditions and you will be breeding the disease. That’s why disease is common in captivity and far less so in the wild!"

    Of course, we can’t breed Mourning Cloaks/Camberwell Beauties here in NZ. But we sure can breed Nosema, pictures here if you haven’t seen these symptoms before:


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  • #18563


    Hi all,

    We are fortunate that the Red and Yellow admirals do not suffer from the Monarch disease O.e, and they are relatively free of disease problems in their natural habitat. As is pointed out, it is the human element that promotes the diseases, and the more that natural conditions can be replicated the better. Inside the house is subjecting them to all kinds of problems such as sprays ( hair spray, fly spray, room fresheners )tobacco smoke, fumes, and all kind of household products one uses. There should be no need to handle caterpillars, if they need to be moved for any reason the leaf they are on can be detached, or they can be coaxed onto a piece of clean paper or similar and repositioned.
    Parasitic wasps are the biggest threat to the admirals, and field research carried out has indicated that upward of 67% of Red admirals in the wild can be lost to a self introduced wasp from Australia ( Echthromorpha intricatoria )
    The Yellow admiral falls prey to the smaller parasitic wasp Pteromalus puparum, which was introduced to try and combat the white butterfly way back in 1933.
    So our admirals need all the help they can get.


    Hi Jacqui
    I go to great lengths to try and keep my butterflies healthy, lots of trial and error.
    some things I do;

    -Always wash hands before and after touching caterpillars or butterflies (especially those with deformities)
    -disinfect any utensils used in rearing butterflies regularly, depending on what it is hot water, sunlight, heat…
    -Keep numbers low on plants so caterpillars don’t have to move much and reduces the risk of spreading disease
    -make sure plants get sunlight, its a natural disinfectant
    -lightly hose plants to wash off frass (poo) and caterpillars will sometimes drink when its hot
    -When raising caterpillars inside I make sure frass is cleaned up daily
    -Try not to overheat Caterpillars as they can stress if overheated and are more likely to get sick. You can also cook them if left in a container on a windowsill as someone i know found out
    -Take care when I am using chemicals inside and out, even shower cleaner and cooking smoke can be toxic to butterflies and caterpillars


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