planting and covering swan plants

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  • #13013

    belong
    Participant

    Hi, I am new to monarchs. I have a strip of garden about 1m wide and 15m long, in the sun with corr. iron fence behind that I am planting in swan plants for next spring. I have 6 good plants about 50 cm high and will plant them about 1m apart. May get more plants. Is this OK?

    Thinking of making frames to carry mesh so that I can sheild any particular plant when it has cqaterpillars or to let an eaten out plant regenerate. Does this make sense. Would appreciate any advice

Viewing 11 replies - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
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  • #16868

    Boopino
    Participant

    “the butterflies would just find a sheltered spot in a tree and not require any food or flight. Their systems “shut down” just as they do midwinter”

    Thanks for that Jacqui- I can relax now!!

    #16867

    Swansong
    Participant

    “I think fresh, old-fashioned varieties of flowers are the best thing you can give them.”

    I would totally agree with you Jacqui. I should have recommended natural flowers 1st, but I was thinking more in the line of a very temporary measure of the 1st 24 to 48 hours. Usually they wont “eat” anything anyway. When they are so new and then are lots of butterflies around I think its safer indoors until they dry out their wings properly. Of course one could cut some flowers to put them on those. I’m still on a learning curve as to whats in my garden that is suitable. I saw one today and have done in the past, on my red flowered geraniums, as I mentioned a wee while ago BOY!! they sure liked my tiger lillies. They were into them like robbers dogs, as was the case too with my thornless blackberry. I haven’t noticed they are fussed with lavender flowers. Probably too much thymol or what ever you call that menthollee stuff.

    I noticed actually on my potted swan plant that I have inside at the moment there were droplets of nectar hanging off of the very edges of the petals of the flowers! Looked yummy, but Ill leave that to the butterflies.

    Boopino,
    Yes, if you put your finger in front of them generally they they will climb on, but sometimes if theyre very new and a bit reluctant I’ve found by very gently and slowly wiggling (for want of a better word) your index finger inbetween their front legs, or even side on if the position is awkward (which is usually the case ) that will encourage them to climb aboard. I will only move them if I see their wings are going to be impeded when they are drying out or if they are in some other type of danger or something. The golden rule is its best not to intervene if you dont have to. You also have to be very careful not to force them by prematurely bringing your finger away too quickly as their little feet with two tiny claws each can easily get caught in things like net. I also like to try and “coax them” in other ways before I touch those wings if at all possible, like I just gently touch their back legs to “get them going” and usually that works.

    Of course in the wild weather its good to bring the new ones back inside. They really are amazing though. My husband put one in a sheltered part of some jasmine to keep the rain off but he promptly climbed right up through the foliage to the top with his face pointed right at the sky and he stayed there all night!! and thankyou very much!! …so they generally choose what they will do….so, ha ha, this one chose a face full of rain for the night.

    Cheers and HTHs
    Swansong

    #16864

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Another point. In Nature, during the horrible weather that we’re having at present up here (Far North), the butterflies would just find a sheltered spot in a tree and not require any food or flight. Their systems “shut down” just as they do midwinter. If you are replicating summer (e.g. in a warm house, bright lights) then they may need food adn the best thing you can give them is fresh flowers — look at the ones that they’re using in your garden for nectar. Swan plant flowers are always popular – but not flowers from florists or potplants so much, as they are usually recently bred, and there has been no thought in the fact that they can provide nectar.

    I witnessed an exchange of scientists talking about the value of feeding honey and water or sugar and water ‘nectar’, and the recipes that have a drop of soya sauce in them, and quite frankly (this is my personal opinion) I think fresh, old-fashioned varieties of flowers are the best thing you can give them. If the scientists can’t yet agree on what is a nectar substitute, then I think my butterflies can have the real thing.

    That’s my opinion (and I’ll stick to it until someone proves me wrong or tells me better)!

    Jacqui

    #16863

    belong
    Participant

    Thanks to you all. These queries and helpful answers are just brilliant for a beginner like me. Great to be among so many keen “farmers”.

    #16862

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    HI Boopino,

    Put your finger in front of its head and it will crawl onto your finger. If you need to hold it by the wings, hold all four wings together with the same grip you’d hold onto a cigarette – that way no scales get damaged.

    Yes the weather is disgusting here. I have just been out and rescued about fifty of my butterflies and put them in a carton in a dark room. There wings were in various stages of dampness from having just emerged, but they’ll dry out in the carton. They’ll be fine there, sheltered until the conditions are more friendly.

    Email me if you need more help…

    Jacqui

    #16861

    Boopino
    Participant

    Thanks Swansong. Can you please tell me the best way to hold it to pick it off the roof and release it?
    It is currently about 8ft up on the ceiling of the mosquito net, so I will have to stand on a chair and gently encourage it away from all the chrysalises and Js, or will it just walk onto my hand?? Sorry to sound so green but I am, and I don’t want to hurt or damage it. Or do I hold the net up and just wait for it to realise it can get out?

    Also, (sorry!) don’t know about the weather where you are but right now where I am there are gale force winds and really blustery rain. Poor thing picked a great weekend to be free!

    #16860

    Swansong
    Participant

    Hi Boopino, I would release it after at least 24 hours, but that depends on how dry his/her wings are, and how warm the spot is where it is. They dont tend to “eat” the first day anyway, but I have seen the odd few that do. You might like to supply him/her with a little honey and water solution and gently place the feet on it as they can “taste” the food through their feet.They’ll eat if they want to.

    Ive found that if theres heaps of butterflies around, they can get very fiesty and beat one another up. Especially the males. I released one the other day and another male grabbed onto the top of him and flew off into the hedge. We were able to rescue our new hatching as his wings wern’t quite dry enough. He would’ve had a real thrashing and ended up with bent/broken wings if we hadn’t. I dunno, this year they seem to be really active.

    Swansong

    #16859

    Boopino
    Participant

    Hi Jacqui

    Same topic. I now have my ‘herd’ lovingly protected under a mosquito net and added an addtional 4 swan plants ‘pasture’ today for the little munchkins. This morning I had my first butterfly hatch ‘in captivity’ so-to-speak, currently just resting at the top of the net. How long do I leave it before releasing it?

    Cheers
    Emma

    #16856

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Hi Bill

    Managing your caterpillars is a little like farming. A dairyfarmer “designs” his farm so that the paddocks (or combination of paddocks) are just the right size to accommodate his herd between milkings. He wouldn’t go out and buy a herd of cows if he didn’t have enough pasture to feed them.

    While we don’t “buy” caterpillars, there are problems when you get too many eggs on the plants – the plants get stripped and then the caterpillars die, or you have to buy more, or find alternative feed. Some people take the time to remove extra eggs. I prefer to keep my plants covered (with netting) so that I can control how many eggs get laid on the food that I have. Plants in the wild have eggs laid on them and then the wasps (at present) come and harvest the caterpillars to feed their young. I don’t like that but not much I can do about it in the wild.

    So female Monarchs will come and lay eggs on your plants then fy off and find another plant down the road etc. Predators (wasps, shield beetles, praying mantises are the worst) will come and eat some caterpillars. Others will grow to adulthood. If you want to keep some milkweed caterpillar free, then you can cover it with a mosquito net or similar.

    It’s all about management, and the management plan needs to be flexible depending on the weather and also what butterflies and predators are in your garden.

    Hope that helps!

    Jacqui

    #16855

    belong
    Participant

    Thanks Jacqui, we rarely get snow. I was thinking more of perhaps covering plants with caterpillars so that butterflies would lay on other plants or when plants have been stripped and need to regrow or to keep some plants in reserve to bring in once other plants are used. Is all this unecessary, I have no idea what to expect, cheers, Bill

    #16851

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Sounds like a really good beginning, Belong. You might find that the Monarchs will find your plants even now (late summer) but I wouldn’t worry about that – encourage them. They won’t do much damage, I don’t think, at this time of the year. If the plants do get “attacked” then once the caterpillars have had a good feed, prune your plants right back and let them grow back again over the next few months.

    Do you get snow down there? You might need to protect your plants from the snow. The frames and mesh might come in handy over the winter. Then in the spring you can let the Monarchs have free rein (or is that reign?).

    Jacqui

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