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    Hi there – I am new to this forum. We have a large swan plant. We originally had 4 catipillars but only one survived and has become a pod. One this large plants lives a few snails and ants. I have seen many monarch butterflys land on this plant and I presume they are busy laying eggs for next year. My question is should I kill the ants and snails? And if I need to do this to ensure Monarch breeding next year how should I do this. Many Thanks

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    Milkweed, as far as I am aware the ant’s involvement does not affect the population of aphids.


    Black Robin


    Another problem that you might have is the Praying Mantis. I have a bit of a problem in my small glass house with baby ones. They are so small and difficult to see, and I can’t spray because of eggs and catterpllars, so have to remove them by hand as I find them. These blighters are really fond of both eggs and small cats, although the native one is not harmfull, when they are so small and green I can’t tell the difference, I terminate the brown ones anyway



    Norm, does that behaviour lessen the population of aphids? I think that’s what I’ve observed but other peoples observations help to broaden the picture. There seems to be less bees around so far too. I know the varoa mite is rampant in honey bee colonies here but I’m sure I saw more bees around this time last summer.



    Milkweed, it is likely that instead of eating the aphids, the ants are milking them for their honeydew secretions, a habit they are known for.



    One good thing about the ants I’ve noticed however is that they’re eating (presumably) the green aphids that seem to be dominating on my milkweed this year whereas in previous seasons the yellow aphids have done the damage.
    And sad to say it appears that the asian paper wasp has arrived in Marton finally.



    Hello Annjillene

    When you say “only one survived”, how do you know that the other three didn’t survive? They may have wandered off the plant to become their chrysalis (pod). This is quite normal – they leave the plant to “hide” from predators and pests during the pupal stage.

    If you watch a female Monarch land on the plant, when she moves on take a closer look at where she was, and you’ll notice the egg – usually underneath the very new leaves. You might like to “mark” where one or two of them are with a clothes peg or paper clip. After about five days the eggs should hatch and you’ll be able to see a very tiny caterpillar, about the size of an eyelash. It will grow 3,000 times in size over the next two weeks.

    Now if those eggs are disappearing, you do have a problem. It could be ants – if there are lots of ants then there are ways of controlling them. Perhaps the easiest way is to buy a commercial ant killer and put it in a safe container at the base of the plant. What I use (but only when ants are a real problem) is a bit of plastic tube, squirting the ant poison into the tube.

    Snails will not be eating the caterpillars, but will compete with the caterpillars for the best bits of the swan plant to eat. The odd snail won’t be a problem but if you have too many then the plant will eventually die. Probably the easiest way is to go to your plant at night and remove them by hand. I put them in the middle of the road or a concrete area the next morning and leave them for the birds to enjoy.

    A few minutes each day watching the plant at close quarters will help you understand what’s going on. You may have a wasp problem, perhaps. They’re the worst of all. And there are other ways of controlling pests, if you search here on “ants” and “snails” or “wasps” in the search function above and to the right.

    Hope that helps.

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