Monarch Rescue

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  • #14534


    Hi all

    We are getting several phone calls, emails and forum messages each day about "too many caterpillars". Regrettably, we cannot provide a rescue service.

    Those of us who have been raising caterpillars for some years know about the "boom or bust" cycle that goes on in Nature. Sometimes there are just the right amount as there are predators/parasites to ‘control’ any surplus.

    Sometimes your plants will not have many caterpillars and by the middle of the summer your plants will go to seed. You’ll wish that you had had more Monarch caterpillars to control the seedlings. At other times there are few pests and therefore too many of the eggs survive to become caterpillars and they quickly run out of food.

    It’s those times when we wish we had left the seedlings to grow to become fully fledged plants!

    Regrettably, members of the MBNZT cannot provide a rescue service. Right now it seems like it’s central Auckland that has too many caterpillars. And the more plants you grow/buy the more egg-laden female Monarchs will be attracted to your garden, and it all exacerbates the problem.

    You can try taking some caterpillars and leaving them on moth vine (for pictures click on the link below) where you can find it growing, usually on wasteland, railway edges, or unkempt gardens. Some caterpillars will survive.

    You can also try draping your swan plant with pumpkin. Some of the largest caterpillars will eat the pumpkin and go on to successfully pupate.

    It’s very sad that some caterpillars will starve but it’s Nature at work. As a farming friend once sent to me, when my first new-born lamb died, "Jacqui, when you have livestock you’ll also have dead stock."

    Swan plants are available at most garden centres and it’s good to note that now very few of them are being sprayed, so as soon as you take them home, you can put caterpillars on them.

    While our various members would like to rescue the caterpillars, the global footprint of doing so does not make sense. It’s harsh, but reality.


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  • #25753


    I understand what you mean Jacqui – I have successfully found a way to guard against wasps – but sadly now I have too many caterpillars … They have eaten through about 6 medium plants in this week alone. I think that if I buy more plants then I am just perpetuating the cycle – more butterflies will emerge, wanting more places to lay their eggs … and on an on it goes.

    I couldn’t just leave them to die though. I am from Hamilton and Dave from cambridge said that he does not have many so he can have some of my excessive amounts if he would like them. There are lots of leafy swanplants at a place nearby so I might have to ask the owners if they would take some of my pillars.



    Hi all,

    As we head towards 2011, the MBNZT is already looking at producing another butterfly calendar, and will be looking for suitable photos. With the butterfly season well under way now is the time to be using your camera to record all the action. While shots of monarch butterflies are relatively common, there are many other butterflies and moths that will present themselves over the next few months, perhaps even the odd migrant from across the Tasman.



    Well, after my earlier diatribe, I had a phone call from a man who had too many caterpillars. “Bring them around,” I said. He did.

    The man brought his two young sons and said: “They were upset that the caterpillars might die!” So I swallowed and thought about what I’d written earlier. This man had demonstrated a random act of kindness towards the animals – and taught his sons a valuable lesson about kindness.

    Fortunately Carol was here and could take them home where she has lush swan plants. Thanks Carol!

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