last caterpillar of summer?

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  • #12777

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    For some time (3-5 weeks?) a lone caterpillar has been on a swan plant under the house eaves. This caterpillar shows no inclination to grow – in fact it might be getting smaller – let alone turn into a chrysalis. After weeks of checking it anxiously, tonight I brought it inside with swan plant leaves in an old jam jar with holes in the top. It is now on a window ledge in a quiet room centimetres from its old home.

    My question is, is this the right way to help the caterpillar survive? During the day, should I leave it where it is in its jar, place the jar on a sunnier window ledge, or put the caterpillar back in its old home during the daylight? I’d be grateful for advice on helping this little guy hatch safely.

Viewing 25 replies - 1 through 25 (of 26 total)
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  • #15825

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Found caterpillar today on one of our coldest days in a person’s place in Mt Roskill. Auckland. June 23rd when most of NZ’s north island is covered in snow.
    Pam
    from Auckland

    #15824

    Gilly
    Participant

    Dee, I’d be interested to know what buddleia you have in flower at this time of the year??

    #15823

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I have a shade house on the sunny side of the house and over the last month have had a few stragglers hatching out.
    On sunny days I would give them a feed and put them on the buddlea that is out just now.
    iIwould look and see three hatched out and think I would let them go next sunny day but when I went out there would always be less than the day before. Then I found a complete skeleton with all the colour out of the wings and just the black ribs left. Then under an upturned pot I found a stash of wings and all the bodies had been eaten.
    Ah the penny dropped, put out a trap and one mouse less. Let the last two monarch’s go today. On sunny days we are still seeing the odd butterfly flitting around which looks a bit hopeful for the next North Otago season. Fingers crossed.

    #15818

    Gilly
    Participant

    That is sad Gillian ๐Ÿ™ I used to love praying mantis but I feel quite lethal towards them when I see them eating a monarch…. I don’t kill them but I have destroying their egg cases that they lay all over our house…. calling it birth control ๐Ÿ™‚

    #15817

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi from Gillian. I have been interested in the discussion about late cats. I thought I was doing really well last month with 3 healthy caterpillars on potted swan plants which I moved round to get the sun in the garden. Sadly, one by one they all succumbed to a preying mantis. When I only had one left, I put a net round the plant, but the cat decided to leave the plant and go on the net and somehow the mantis managed to eat him through the net. Caught in the act the monster was despatched under my foot!! I thought mantises would have laid their egg cases and gone by now – really disappointing

    #15816

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Maybe caterpillars get the winter blues too? I’ve had weak butterflies, odd-behaving cats and strange chrysalides since April. I can’t blame the cold – mine have been living inside in what my husband calls The Caterpillar Hilton. I’m giving birth today – hope he/she turns out ok!

    #15815

    Gilly
    Participant

    I rescued a mating pair on my lawn yesterday…. my cats were very interesting in them ๐Ÿ™‚ And afterwards the female was laying eggs on my swan plants. I’ve lost a lot of ‘J’s’ in my butterfly house – they just don’t make it into a chrysalis….

    #15814

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi Jacqui – I don’t think there are any monarchs laying in Christchurch. Certainly not at my house, or any of my friend’s houses, anyway. My mother-in-law in New Plymouth says she has no eggs on her plants either. The last monarch I saw laying here was at Easter, when it was really warm, and then the weather went bad. Most days it’s too cool even for flight, however I’ve seen quite a few on the sunny days when it’s over 12 degrees. It was warm yesterday and I saw lots around the trees in the parks. Very encouraging, as we’ve had some really cold, rainy days and then frosts! After winter, the earliest I’ve had eggs/cats has been September, but things don’t get really busy for me until December.

    I heard a prediction on the radio that we can expect 3 months of warmer than usual winter weather. Warmer winters are good for the monarchs, but also means the survival of other less desirable insects, i.e. fleas. Don’t know if this applies to monarch predators or not. I’ve never had a problem with wasps, regardless of the weather, and I’ve never caught a ladybird on my swan plants, but have to watch the ants.

    #15813

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Gilly is in the Bay of Islands as I am – Pam in Auckland. I have had reports of two caterpillars growing on and making J in the Hawkes Bay too. Just had a phone call from Chch too about a lone Monarch that’s cold and not “doing anything”. Where are you Ulaa?

    Is it just here in the Far North that they’re still laying? It would be interesting to know…

    On another note – I was interesed to read what’s happening in Kansas, USA:

    “Predation has increased since April. A visitor to our Monarch Waystation on campus found a third instar larva yesterday morning on a swamp milkweed but it became a meal for a paper wasp (Polistes) later in the day. Most of the eggs presently being laid by monarchs on milkweeds in the garden disappear before hatching. The predators (wasps, ladybird beetles, lacewings, stink bugs, ants) are now roaming the milkweed patches in good numbers and the proportion of monarch eggs and larvae that survive to the adult stage is certain to be lower than it was for the eggs and larvae in April.”

    This is from Chip Taylor who is head of MonarchWatch, talking about Monarchs in the wild.

    Cheers.

    #15812

    Gilly
    Participant

    Yes, this weather is hard on them but the females are still laying eggs on my swan plants. Some of the butterflies that I release in the sun are still there in the evening and I keep bringing them back inside and feeding them. Wish we could make little woolly jumpers for them all ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    #15811

    Teressa
    Participant

    I have 7 new caterpillars on one plant at the moment, every time I think “thats it its too cold for them now, more hatch!”

    #15810

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi! I have a few caterpillars inside my aorated aquarium and lots of butterflies. I did let some butterflies but a neighbour found some dead on the footpath as they died overnight of the cold. So I’ve brought flowers for them and kept them here. They rotate from the aquarium in the hot water cupboard to the laundry window when some warmth comes in. One or 2 crysalis hatched over 3 days, some are deformed and others are small butterflies. Occasinally find the odd caterpillar on a plant, but not often.
    I don’t know all the answer to Nicola’s querry but I do know they don’t like the cold wind or rain. They really cling to my finger then – so take it that they want to stay.
    I feed them fresh flowers mainly and nectar and water.
    Pam

    #15809

    Chrissie Ward
    Participant

    Am a first time butterfly watcher, have lost a few caterpillars after the last cold snap in Auckland, and chrysalis taking up to a month to ‘hatch’. The butterflies I have on my swan plant (i have 6 at present) dont seem to want to fly away they are just swinging off the swan plant and flutterring their wings is this normal? Will they stay here for a while seeing as its too late for them to lay eggs anymore? Am I sposed to be feeding them anything?

    #15808

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi Gilly, thanx for getting back to me re this. Had noticed before Keith that chrysalises were taking cple wks for butterfies to come out instead of just a few days as in Feb/ Mar. Have learnt from this for next autumn. Thanx again.

    #15805

    Gilly
    Participant

    Sorry he didn’t make it Ann. Whilst out and about looking for swan plant food over the last few cold days, I notice quite a few dead caterpillars on the swan plant… guess it is just too cold for them. The cats in my butterfly house which is covered are doing okay but they are much slower at this time of the year. This time last year, I was rearing the caterpillars inside in my sunny little front room and they didn’t seem to feel the cold as much.

    #15803

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Early Fri mng it occurred Keith’s awkward J might be because he wanted to avoid touching his jar’s base. Decided to gently move him & the stalk he was hanging from to a violet vase, so he could safely hang crosswise. Sadly though, on opening the hot water cupboard found Keith had passed away during the night.
    He was buried beneath the swan plant on which he had spent most of his life.
    Asking myself what could have been done to save this feisty little caterpillar, wondered if he was weakened by being left outside in his jar for too long (an hour) after Thursday’s weather turned blustery. It was morning. I had hoped the weather would change again. After all, he was sheltered by the camellia tree & outside is more ‘natural’ than inside on a window ledge. Or should I have moved him to the violet vase before Thurs night?
    There’s no more caterpillars in the garden, but the swan plants are re-leafing for next spring.
    Has this website or another got advice on how to protect late autumn caterpillars?
    Am hoping Keith is flying strongly in a warmer higher sky.

    #15798

    Gilly
    Participant

    LOL Ann. Hope Keith makes it ๐Ÿ™‚ My caterpillars are more slothful at present… must be the drop in temperature. Once in a J, they seem to takes ages to become a chrysalis…

    #15797

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    The caterpillar seems content to spend nights in his aerated jar shut in the hot water cupboard. The first night, I knocked over his jar when placing it. Panic stations but he seemed undisturbed. When righted, he was firmly hanging on to his swan plant stalk. Maybe he thought the fall was just another earthquake.
    Next day the cupboard warmth might have helped Keith (named after Rolling Stone who fell out of coconut tree) regain his appetite. He might be as perverse as his namesake – he seemed to like the older leaves more than fresh ones.
    During daytime while the weather was good, I hung his jar in a camellia tree so dappled light would reduce any greenhouse effect caused by the glass. Being hardy & /or perverse he moved into the sunlight. With the weather change over past two days, have mainly kept him on a window ledge.
    Over the past 24 hours Keith’s gone quiet again. He doesn’t seem to be moving or eating and may be attempting a J, though it looks more like a C. Hope he’s okay.
    Ann

    #15796

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Outside here it’s freezing cold with bitter winds that will kill any caterpillar. So I place them in the hot water cupboard at night, in the morning the sun comes in through the laundry window and right now they are in an ice-cream container above the heater on a shelf.
    Pam

    #15789

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I “hid” some potted swans plants on the south side of my house to recover from being munched. Thought they were in a butterfly-free zone. Went outside to grab one for my two remaining cats and found 4 more large, healthy cats roaming around. They must be tough – virtually no sun and quite cold where they were. They are now inside and eating away happily. I find my house-cats prefer potted plants to picked leaves (when it’s too cold be outside, that is). One of them looked miserable, and didn’t move for 3 days, but then he shed his skin and is now back to eating. So glad I found them!

    #15788

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hello ladies

    Thanx heaps for your advice. The caterpillar is alive, still not eating but seems frisky. Just now he was trying to climb off his swan plant twig up the jar side.

    Dee, I’ve put in a second twig with young leaves and moved him outside, still in his jar, to a concrete ledge under the eaves right beside his old habitat. Apart from an hour or two in the morning that side of the house is permanently shaded. The punctured paper top on his jar has a sunhat effect so don’t think he’ll ‘cook’, Jacqui. Just looked at him again. He’s moved off the glass back to the first twig and seems to be eyeing the second one. He might be happier outside with the light breeze till sunset. We’re near Palm Nth so nights get cold.

    When it’s dark will follow your hot water cupboard idea, Diana. Till now he’s coped well with nights getting chillier & in past ftnight several days of blustery rain. He seems one tough caterpillar. Still, it’s worrying he looks smaller than he did a week ago.

    Ann

    #15780

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Hello Ann

    This is really interesting! I’ve never heard of this sort of behaviour before, but the feedback you’ve been getting has all been good.

    I’m not sure what part of NZ you are in – and what the temperatures are like there.

    The larvae (caterpillars) go through several changes as they grow – each stage is called an instar and they shed their skin. As this happens they do grow very lethargic and shouldn’t be moved.

    However, it sounds like it is probably the seasonal change that is affecting yours. There is nothing wrong with putting it on a branch of milkweed – or in the container as you have done – be careful that it doesn’t get overheated but the temperatures in most parts of NZ won’t kill it at this time of year, especially if it’s indoors.

    I sometimes think we fret too much about them, and that we should not meddle so much – we can learn more from observing than interference!

    Please let us know what happens.

    Jacqui

    #15777

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I’ve seen caterpillars that just drop off the leaves in cold weather and die. I have some inside and have been trying to keep them warm by putting them inside an open ice-cream container, putting it into a pillow case and hang it up at night in the hot water cupboard. I don’t know if this is the right solution, only tried it last night and they seem alright so far.
    Pam

    #15775

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I have quite often found that a caterpillar looks as though it is dying because it just seems to sit in one place and not eat for two or three days.
    Then it just for no reason comes back to life and is really perky and eats flat out and turns out fine.
    I think perhaps that they just need a rest from eating sometimes
    Dee

    #15773

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi Gilly, many thanx for getting back. My caterpillar hasn’t seemed interested in food for days. When still outside he clung straight to a swan plant branch, ignoring the clump of young leaves just below.

    When brought inside last night he still showed no interest in leaves but by this morning had climbed part way up the jar. So I put a small piece of swan branch in the jar. He’s now clinging to that. I’ve just checked & his movements are lively. Oddly, for the past few days ie before being brought inside, he’s been giving an impression of trying to eat the bare branch!

    The leaves at the jar bottom are untouched.

    Should I put a second branch in his jar, perhaps with leaves on it? Is the caterpillar likely to have a nervous breakdown if I fish out the uneaten leaves out with tweezers? The swan plants are virtually bare so hope this caterpillar is close to chrysalis stage. I don’t know its sex but think of him as he – you need a magnifying glass to tell?

    Thank you again for your advice, & will watch for your reply.

    Ann

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