My Experiences

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  • #12913

    Swansong
    Participant

    Hi all,

    My 1st post here and I’ve just found this site. Just want to say, good to have a forum where people can share their tips, problems etc. Good work!

    I’m from the Manawatu area, and have been ‘farming’ (on a small scale) monarchs in all their stages for about 5 or 6 years now. This means I’m onto it as soon as the weather packs in and inside they come. I use a big cardboard box and have a supply of potted plants I can bring inside and swap out when necessary. I have generally got a reasonable idea of how much tucker I need to feed the caterpillars I have.

    Right now I have 6 cacoons left to hatch and I have 4 butterflies inside parked up on the curtains. I feed them a wee mixture of honey and water but some dont always want it. Haven’t worked that one out yet as to why some do and some dont. They are soooOOOOOoo neat and once theyve ditched that brown fluid after and hour or 2 after 1st hatching, theres no mess or anything. I won’t put them out until its a nice still day with at least a bit of sunshine. Meanwhile I love to put them on my face and then they crawl up onto my hair. Their little ‘claws’ can really be quite sharp on your skin.

    Last year I noticed that even in the nice warm weather I couldn’t find very many cacoons as I usually did from previous years. I still dont know what ‘took’ them whether it was blackbirds or mice or what. I know what ever did, would’ve felt VERY seedy afterwards ( Ha Ha :) !!! )I look forward to seeing on this forum what people have to say about pests and predators. I thought they didnt have any but obviously I’m wrong. This year all the eggs and wee caterpillars came from my mums place in town (I live rurally) as the frosts boned out my plants and I had to start afresh and the season was late getting started.

    I have learned to deal with various situations that come up like sometimes if theres trouble brewing I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve. I just love the caterpillars and I never get sick of them !!! At our place weve coined a phrase for them when they hang. Hockeysticks. Sometimes they get ‘lazy’ and dont make a ‘dot’ (the white silky stuff they make to hitch onto.) I never cease to laugh at some of the places they go to make a hockeystick. :D D DDD

    I got a little magnifying glass and watched many many times when they ‘back’ onto this dot. I was curious to see exactly what was happening as to how and by what means they actually hung. For a long time I thought that shiny black stick like thing somehow was attached to the ‘dot’ as soon as they flopped down and hung….but NOT SO !!!! If you watch very carefully when they are ditching their skin, that black stick actually comes out only when the skin is pushed right up and is the means by which they (usually) push the skin away and cause it to drop. More amazing is the fact that the more they circulate ditching that skin, the more entrenched the wee tiny hook on the end of the stick gets into the silky dot. For a very short moment in fact, all the pupae (is that what its called? ) is hanging onto is the bunched up skin !!!! I was utterly amazed to see this….

    ..anyway back to the lazy caterpillar who can’t be bothered making his dot, and is in fact not hanging on ANYTHING except his last 2 ‘feet’ … Well here’s a tip… If you ever see a hockeystick hanging onto ‘nothing’ try this: I have successfully moved them (be VERY CAREFUL & VERY VERY GENTLE THOUGH ) by just placing the backend of them onto a spare dot thats no longer in use, or that another caterpillar has made but not used. (sometimes they’ll make 2 or three of these). Before I knew this, I’d used cotton to hang them up and that is a very tricky and delicate job too as you’ve got to time it just right, but I was always successful in doing it.

    Just my 2cents worth, as this is something we will all encounter I’m sure and certainly more so at the end of the season when the caterpillars are very lethargic in the cooler weather.

    Swansong

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  • #16358

    Swansong
    Participant

    Thanks for that info…. I’ve wondered whether my mix for the honey and water may be too thick… so now I’ve got a good guideline.

    My tally now is …wait for it….drum roll please…. the grand total of 1 !!!! Yes one nice big male butterfly which hatched on the 1-7-7 and its too cold to put him out so inside he stays for now. Nice to have him sitting on my face too 🙂 .

    Cheers,
    Swansong

    #16355

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Good stuff Swansong.

    Here’s another suggestion for an artificial diet from someone in North America:

    I use a 5-10% solution of honey and water; i.e. 1/2 to 1 ounce of honey
    in 10 ounces of water. I have kept monarchs alive up to 3 months
    in an OUTDOOR screen house tent using this mixture.
    Even monarch adults heavily infected with OE:
    http://i85.photobucket.com/albums/k75/4af/2c.jpg
    http://i85.photobucket.com/albums/k75/4af/2r.jpg
    I simply pour the honey water solution on sides of the screen and
    when the solution touches the butterflies feet, they start to uncoil their
    proboscis and drink. I also sprinkle the sides of the screen with plain
    water a few times a day so the butterflies can drink plain water,
    plus the water keeps the screen from becoming too sticky from
    the honey.

    #16351

    Swansong
    Participant

    Hi,
    Heres an update for my wee clan. As I type this I have one lovely butterfly sitting on my head and happily parked up. I have 2 chrysalis’ left to hatch. Both nice and big and healthy. Ive 9 butterflies inside all nice and big and healthy too except the last one which I had to help hatch this afternoon, as in VERY VERY carefully extract the shell. I dont like doing this, but my experience is that if they are left too long after they get 3 definite step like dents around the top part of the chrysalis, they can end up being very weak. If in a warm environment, I see no movement in around 2 hours, then I’ll act. She is very very tiny and in fact the smallest butterfly I’ve ever seen.
    The longest part of the wing (from body to tip) would only be slightly over about 1 1/4 inches!!! I had my doubts if she’d even make it from the hockeystick stage but I never say die, and at least like to give them a chance and so… she did make it : ) Wings perfect too !!!! OOooooo I would love to have a digital camera at this point so I could post a pikkie but I aint got one 🙁 All that didn’t quite end up right was one antennae got stuck on the shell and as such, she has 1 1/2 anntennae.

    I saw some great tips here about soaking some cloth in liquid and that they “sense” food with their feet. I have had 5 of them feeding together on a bullrush in a dried arrangement I have, and on which I put a honey and water mixture. I found they were very interested in feeding in the early evening, and they fed for a good hour or more !!! At the moment it is waaaaay too wild, windy gusty and cold to even think about putting them outside. They are free to fly around inside when they want and at least they get some exercise until I can get a decent day to release them. It doesn’t look like that anytime soon either. Right now they seem to be quite happy to park up on my arrangement all in close proximity.

    Heres some more things I’ve found …. When they 1st hatch, I find it is an extremely critical time and its best to interfere with them as little as possible. Like its not good to move them or touch them unless absolutely necessary. Any intereference will definitely hinder the process whereby they pump the fluid into their wings. If everything is all good they can fill their wings out in just a few minutes. My little one took around an hour but I put her away from the dry heat. Ive seen them successfully fill their wings out even after 2 hours but much more than that, I’ve found theres usually not much hope. Its best too if you hatch them inside, to not let them hatch in direct sunlight, so if there is a little glitch where they take a bit longer to fill their wings out, the sun wont dry them out too quickly.

    Cheers
    Swansong

    #16346

    Swansong
    Participant

    Thanks for your reply jacqui,

    ….chrysalis!!! that was the word I was trying to think of last nite…(duh, as you can see my knowledge technically is a bit ‘down to earth shall we say 🙂 ). Yes sure! I will post up a few more tips and experiences when I can, plus as I said, I would like to nosy around a bit and see what I can learn from other folks too.

    Have a good day. 🙂
    Swansong.

    #16343

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Hi Swansong,

    Your post is very interesting! Sounds like you’re addicted just like so many of us, LOL.

    Keep up the good work. I will have to try and film the chrysalis being formed, really close up, now that would be an awesome film to see.

    Keep on posting in here – it’s been a bit quiet lately. Maybe everyone’s waiting for their newsletter — there’s heaps of fun stuff in it.

    Cheers

    Jacqui

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