Feeding swan plant cuttings to inside caterpillars

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  • #47625


    This is the first year I’ve started growing caterpillars. I’m loving it and have already been given the title of Crazy Caterpillar Lady by my husband. I managed to get 9 out of 11 caterpillars into butterflies last month.

    This month I’ve been given a few caterpillars which I am keeping inside in a caterpillar castle. I am quickly running out of food for them. I had several small swan plants in pots which I was using, but now I’ve only got one kind of spindly plant left outside (not in a pot) and I’d like to bring cuttings from it inside to feed my caterpillars.

    Any tips on how to go about doing this? Just break leaves off and put them on the floor of the castle? Hang them up somehow? cut off a whole branch and put it in water somehow? I want the plant to grow back nicely for next season, so would cutting full branches off cause the plant not to grow back?

    I did break a chunk off and put it into the castle last night before bed and noticed it was untouched this morning before work. I guess the caterpillars go quiet at night time? Or were they just not aware I had put the chunk of leaves there?

    It is all so interesting!

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  • #47828


    I spoke too soon. Found the chrysalis dangling by a single thread, about to fall off the ceiling of the caterpillar castle, so performed a rescue with cotton and sellotape.



    Thank you for those links Barry. Really interesting! In that case, my caterpillar must’ve made the tiniest silk pillow that I just can’t see, as he turned into a chrysalis and is still hanging up there, along with his 10 mates. Hopefully he breaks out with no drama too.



    JellyJam, Hi.
    I had a cat studiously make itself a fine silk mat with button.
    Then I had an accident with the camera and the cat fell off just as it was fastening itself to the button there.
    I placed the cat on the plant. It tried to secure itself to the stem of the plant. but could not. The cat did fall off, and was ‘lost’.

    See:- http://www.butterflybushes.com/monarch_metamorphosis.htm
    The cremaster is a pin the cat makes to screw in to it silk button.

    This particular page I find to have really great detail about the process:- https://monarchchaser.wordpress.com/about-monarchs/

    See here:- “The making of a Chrysalis”.:- http://www.genealogynz.info/butterflies/monarch1.html

    Cheers from a very mild Christchurch. {Barry P.}



    Well this should be interesting. One of my chrysalises has a dent in it. Have looked at the page on damaged chrysalises and resulting deformities.

    Was watching one of the caterpillars yesterday desperately trying to make his silky pillow in a couple of spots, only to be disturbed by another caterpillar which kept getting in his way. The caterpillar did eventually form a J, but it was not on one of his couple of silky spots he had made. I can’t see any silk attaching him to the castle ceiling. Anyone seen this before? When he does his gyrating to become a chrysalis, will he fall down?



    Thanks everyone. I didn’t have a soft drink bottle or similar, but did have a little cup and one of those kids bug catchers with the skinny neck, so used that along with some gladwrap over the top and stabbed the cuttings through it.

    Four of my caterpillars are just sitting on the walls of the castle and have been since last night. Hopefully they know to go over and up to their new food source.



    When I’ve put all the cuttings into water (with the bottoms of the stems crushed so they can absorb water) I screw up a supermarket shopping bag and stuff that into the neck of the vase so that caterpillars can’t fall into the water.



    That’s good. I have found caterpillars outside which fell into the saucers under pots and drowned. I had water in them for the birds who are finding water hard to find!
    Warm regards, Caryl



    Hi Caryl, I have thought about that, but I’ve never seen one venture down towards the water, or fall off a leaf. If you use bottles, there is no gap for the caterpillars to fall into, and the branches of the plant arc over the table, so if the caterpillars did fall off, they would land onto the surface that the bottle is on.

    By the way, the biggies in my bathtub are probably from the eggs you sent me a couple of months ago. I had a male eclose today, and two females last week. They were outside, so obviously didn’t get infected by the parasitic wasp I enquired about previously. The caterpillars inside are pupating safely.



    Just like to add that you need to protect the caterpillars from falling into the water the cuttings are placed in, Caryl



    I have brought many big ones inside lately as I have noticed a tiny parasitic wasp attacking ones forming their “J” and I have found this works:-

    Cut branches from your plant and strip a few lower leaves. Have a bottle of water ready (like a plastic milk or lemonade bottle) and immediately put the cut branch into the water. If you wait too long the milk oozes from the cut and seems to seal it so the branch can’t take up water. You can even crush the bottom of the stem a bit. Depending on the size of your plant and how much food you need, leave a few centimetres of each branch, say to the first node.

    They stay fresh for about a week. I change the water every few days and snip a centimeter off the cut end of the branch. If you provide a new branch every few days as the old one starts to wilt the caterpillars will move themselves across and you can toss the old stalk when it’s empty.

    One thing to be aware of – they poop an awful lot! Make an unbelievable mess. I keep mine in the empty bathtub, line the milk bottles along the middle and then I can turn the tap on and swish the stuff down the plughole. I have also provided sturdy twiggy tree branches in the bottles for them to climb up and form a chrysalis. They like to climb upwards.

    Good luck

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