Have they all gone sex mad? Is this normal behaviour?

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  • #32253

    butterfly_crazy
    Participant

    Hi  This is my first year of closely observing these little wonders, thanks to a rental in Tauranga with 2 large swan plants.  We’ve had tons and tons of butterflies and have watched many of them hatch. At one time at the end of winter all the caterpillars that were left just one day turned en masse into chrysallis form! Overnight. I counted 70 just hanging upside down along the fence palings. The neighbours had then all over their veggie garden, it was amazing. In all this time I have never seen a tagged one though …

    But now, something new!  Huge plants, full of swans, no eggs and no caterpillars but masses and masses of butterflies,  (30 to 50 at times)  mostly battered and they all have one thing on their minds. Well, two because they drink the nectar when they’re not actually frolicking in a most unseemly way.  Some seem to be ‘stuck’ together for hours and fall to the ground flapping away and many are torn and battered and look utterly on their last legs!  Why are they mating so madly right now?

    Where are the eggs? Where are the caterpillars? We have enough foliage to feed an army of caterpillars but all that lives there are lots of aphids. Are they eating the eaggs? Help! I love my butterflies and want more babies. We leave here soon to a new house and I already have a plant in a pot to begin it all again. This is a great site!

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  • #32287

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Here’s another method I used the other day for egg emergence/transferring the caterpillars. I had someone coming who wanted to film a caterpillar emerging from the egg. I have plenty of eggs. I used to spray the eggs with a mister on the leaf and then lift them off using the bristle end of a paintbrush.

    Now I tend to just put my thumb gently (VERY gently but firmly) on them, and wiggle them softly until they’re loose then roll them off with my thumb and then between my thumb and forefingers and put them onto a piece of plain white unscented toilet tissue.

    I put the toilet tissue onto a plastic takeaways tray and then a few times a day mist it to keep it damp. When the caterpillars emerge they firstly eat their egg shell – but I did put a small tip of host plant in there as well – the end goes into an ‘aquatube’ similar to the picture below here – you can probably get one or two from a florist or florist’s shop and we will have them available at our conference.

    http://cdn1.fishpond.co.nz/0026/364/231/15277264/4.jpeg

    When the caterpillars emerge they’re the size of a speck of dust! Amazing, and they are so mobile. I checked on them when I could (every few hours) and gently lifted them up using the bristle end of a small child’s paintbrush, and “pasted” each individually onto a potted plant I had nearby.

    There’s no right way or wrong way in doing these things. I got annoyed as you have, Caryl, about the leaves drying up, and also I hate wasting any leaf, knowing how important it is to the caterpillars. 🙂

    It’s great to get together with other like-minded people in your area and see how they do it. An important thing to remember is that there are so many ways of raising butterflies and we can learn so much from each other.

    #32284

    Charlotte
    Participant

    Hello butterfly_crazy,

    What we do is put a damp paper towel in the bottom of a container ( I will take photos and put up on here if I get time) and place the leaf on the damp towel. This will keep the leaf damp until the egg hatches and place a lid on the container. We use an ice cream container and cut out a square on the lid and glue a piece of netted fabric onto the cut out part of the lid. You will need very fine fabric so the air can get through and no other bugs can get through, and caterpillars can’t get out.

    Or the other way is to collect the eggs and put into a container with a lid and when you see the caterpillar about to hatch (little black head at the top of the eggshell) then place in a leaf for him/her to eat. They don’t eat much when their little and we just raise them in the containers until bigger and then transfer to our caterpillar house or castle.

    You will have to try and get rid of the aphids on your plants as they (aphids) will suck the goodness from your plants.

    Oh yes and like Anna said the shield beetle is a baddie too and can kill your caterpillars.

     

    Cheers

    Charlotte

    #32278

    butterfly_crazy
    Participant

    Oops I meant of course how long do I wait to out the caterpillar back!  After it’ s hatched. 🙂

    #32272

    Caryl
    Participant

    Charlotte, when I take leaves with eggs on them they shrivel and die and the eggs disappear in the once fresh leaf. How do you manage to save the eggs and have them become caterpillars? Thanks for your time.

    #32269

    Anna
    Participant

    I get the same here re: the sex crazed males bombarding any female that ventures near!

    Also if any bird has the cheek to fly past it gets chased by a Monarch or Yellow Admiral!

    I would also look out for Shield bugs (or vegetable bugs)  They are the worst predator here, and I find batches of them in places. They drop off the bushes if you are not careful, so I hold a container under them to catch the varment before he can escape….then kill him/them:)

    They can do a heck of a lot of damage in a short time, leaving caterpillars drooping, and discolouring after being bitten.

    #32268

    butterfly_crazy
    Participant

    Charlotte

    Thank you so much for that info!  I will certainly bring the eggs inside when I see one. And I presume I wait till it’s a decent size before I put it back on the plant.  Or maybe straight away?

    We have a lot of insects on our plants now, which I guess is not too good. Wasps and little orange and brown beetle things and also some green caterpillars from what-knows-where.  There are also little spiders and tiny fly like things and all this on top of the millions of aphids. The poor little eggs must seem like a smorgasbord to all the other insects.

    So interesting about the mating rituals. Now I must go and identify  which are male and which female.  Thanks again! 🙂

    #32263

    Charlotte
    Participant

    Hello butterfly_crazy,

    I would take a good look around your plants and see if there are wasps, ants/praying mantids as these could be taking your eggs/caterpillars.

    We have on average around 20 or so Monarchs here in our gardens on a really hot day and its amazing to watch them twirl and dance in the air, and then zoom down to feed on the flowers in the garden. We do have a few old battered Monarchs amongst the more brighter younger Monarchs. You will find the older tattered ones are the more dominant Monarchs.

    Most of the Monarch’s flying around our gardens are males! They are patrolling their area and waiting for the girls to come in 🙂 If they sense a girl is not full or a new girl on the block 🙂 then they will grab her and mate with her. They can be stuck together for up to 24hrs, so don’t panic 🙂 just leave them be and they will go their separate ways later on or in the morning 🙂

    Sometimes you may find two males fighting and flapping on the ground and one male is trying to connect with the other male. Not sure why they do this, perhaps confused or frustrated 🙂 lol.. The more dominant male will always pick on the new kids on the block (so to speak). lol

    We usually find the females will come in early in the morning and later in the day to lay their eggs. They will also fly in and try to hide in the swan plants to keep away from the males:) If you see a female laying eggs I would pick that leaf and place them into a container and raise them indoors. This is the only way at the moment that we are getting Monarch butterflies through.

     

    Cheers

    Charlotte

     

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