Ramblings on terrible season for Monarchs

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  • #14059

    pst
    Participant

    Has anyone else noticed the lack of butterflies this season? And as a concequence eggs and caterpillars? Usually by now I would have had over 600 chrysalises around the garden and in The Box, (an old Lizard cage I put large, ready to pupate caterpillars in and fed on pumpkin) Helps the plants recover and the butterflies are easier to tag!

    I have about 40 chrysalises out side on various plants, under gutterings, with about half on a mini standard rose, their site of choice. With only 17 caterpillars in The Box at this time of year when last year at the same time there were over 200 chrysalises. The season seems to have had a very slow start in Taranaki. Is this just my area or have others noticed ? Also my swan plants, self seeded did not germinate until late, actually not until I weeded and dug over the ground were the old plants had succumbed to a late frost. I then had a carpet of plants. I did have 10 stunted seedling plants that wintered over , these from seed carefully planted not self seeded.

Viewing 25 replies - 1 through 25 (of 28 total)
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  • #23508

    Swansong
    Participant

    Hi Faye,

    Cluster flies are shockers 8-0!!! . Theyve only been in NZ since the 1980s. Apparently 1st in Auckland, then down the eat coast of the NthIsland, then down SOuth, then to the lower North Island. I think most of NZ has experienced these critters now. I hadnt even heard of them until last year.

    They essentially lay their eggs in the soil and this is typically in rural locations, in surrounding fields and lawns of buildings and anywhere warm that they can overwinter.. The larvae then hatch and feed on 4 types of earthworm, and this cycle is repeated 3 or 4 times through the summer. About now, the final generation is looking for warm areas, and will cluster in your window cracks, in your loft, or outlying sheds. Generally in their thousands. If you leave your windows open they will settle INSIDE your curtain railings and curtains. :-X. People effected are at their wits end in dealing with them, and generally end up having to vacuum them up numerous times in the day.

    Some infestations are much worse than others. Basically at the moment we dare not open our windows. Fortunately its colder now. Once you get them they are hard to get rid of because they exude an odour that attracts others to the location. It is NOT recommended that you squish them as they have a lot of fat content and will leave a mark on your wallpaper or whatever, and attract their bro's all the more.

    Last year we sprayed mortein barrier in the window "inbetween" parts and where they get into the roof. I tell ya that sorted them out ( and Good job!!!). Moreover, anyone who is keen on "letting nature just take its course" in the name of conservation, needs to have an experience with these guys and they'll soon wake up, that these are gross no matter which way you look at it.

    Swansong

    #23503

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi Swanson

    I missed last year, what is a cluster fly? or is it on here somewhere to read. See ya Faye

    #23502

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi there

    I am between Tauranga and Rotorua and this is the first year up here I have had swan plants. Over the last few years though I have observed monarchs flying around up here from Nov-Dec onwards and I usually see about 4 or so. This year I put in my swan plants and no monarchs whatsoever until mid Feb and then there were about 6 in a 2-3 week space. None since.

    The advantage has been that the paperwasps had changed to their nectar diet by then and as we don't get praying mantis up here its been good. It had also given my swan plants time to get really big. Though something in the beginning was getting my eggs and/or very small pillars. It wasn't ants as they don't live up here either but there are a lot of other bugs. I noticed too before I brought in a couple of chrysalis there was what looked like a sand fly or migie on them.

    Anyway disadvantage is its too cold now to leave them outside. So spare room is full of pillars, J's, chrysalis.

    See ya Faye

    #23425

    Swansong
    Participant

    Well heres how my season has been going…

    Though things for me have had to be scaled down, it would still proportionately have to be one of the worst seasons Ive EVER seen. I didnt get any eggs until Feb and then they were sporadic. Heaps went missing. I have plants that are still sporting heaps of leaves and nothing has been stripped as per usual. I imported about 12 pillars from my sister in laws place up the road.

    Overall Id have to say it was a short burst of activity in February with the result that I'll probably end up releasing about 100 butterflies all up. ( I havent been counting) Theres very few pillars left and they seem to be falling victim to SOMETHING…..grrrrrr!!!

    I have about 20 butterflies in an inside net enclosure I jacked up. The weather is cold and coming up from the south, so I'll release them at the park next fine day.

    There has been different small wasp-like insects that have been around right through the summer, as well as those big yellow striped jobs.

    Remember me moaning about cluster flies last year…well thyere back, and once youve had those, I can tell ya, you'll never forget the experience! Yukk.

    Swansong

    #23422

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Good on you Denise! They sure are pains!

    Jacqui

    #23421

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I have also been over run by the paper wasp in Hamilton. I see them hovering over my plants all day. None of my caterpillars have made it and it's been frustrating. A few days ago my friend and I were at the Warehouse and noticed many stripped Swan plants and many starving caterpillars. We bought a "stick plant" and loaded it up with the little guys and went back the next day to get more (over 50) and are now raising them in containers as we have alot of leaves on ours. I did try putting 2 large caterpillars on one plant to see if they too would disappear and after checking them every hour or 2 one did disappear so the other was moved back to a container. My friend also put one out on her plants and actually witnessed it being attacked by a wasp. The wasp just came over and stung it and flew off. So we are back to just raising them ourselves to keep them safe from the wasps.

    #23356

    Mike Fox
    Participant

    After getting really frustrated with the Wasp problem I decided a protective cover was the only way. I have a big Swan planet that self seeded close to our front door. It attracts may Monarchs and is easy to check on. It has heaps of eggs but none of the baby caterpillars grow big because the wasps got them. I bought two Insect Nets from The Warehouse for $19.99 each. Size is 1.5 x 5 meters. I then made up a frame and draped them over and a bit more string to gather the bottom. So far after a week no wasps have got in. See photo:

    Monarch caterpillar protection from Wasps – The final solution

    However it also means the butterflies can?t get in to lay their eggs. I think a few may lay on the outside and the holes are just big enough for very new caterpillar to get inside. I have also placed a Swan plant in a pot near by. See top of photo. After a couple of weeks and just before the eggs hatch, I will put it back in my shade house so the caterpillars will be protected. My shade house is about 2 x 2 x 2 meters and I have been using it for a few years to protect the caterpillars. I bought it from The Warehouse for only $80. It came with a plastic and a netting cover. Unfortunately they have stopped selling them.

    #23355

    Rebecca
    Participant

    For me, we had heaps of monarchs around in January and early – mid February. Over the last few weeks, there have not been so many but I see at least a few day around my house and area.

    Over the last few weeks though I have not had any caterpillars make it to even be big enough to form chrysalises because they all got eaten by wasps when they were small.

    It was starting to get really frustrating so I put some bird netting over some of the swan plants which deterred the wasps for a week or so, but yesterday afternoon I noticed that they had found a way to get into the bird net and were eating some of my caterpillars so then (luckily for me some of my swan plants are in pots) so I put all the caterpillars on the biggest one and brought it inside.

    I don't know how long it will last inside though – as the plants need sunlight to grow …

    The wasps have been really terrible here (hamilton) and it doesn't seem like they have switched to nectar yet.

    I just noticed the above post and look at the photo – that's a really good kind of netting – it has really small holes that the wasps wouldn't be able to get through. Good idea!

    #23353

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Mike Fox has posted a photograph of his solution to the wasp problem… here's the photograph here:

    Monarch caterpillar protection from Wasps – The final solution

    #23317

    Charlotte
    Participant

    We have been over run with wasps here and they are still trying to get our caterpillars.
    When we change over the plants in the gazebo we cannot leave the door unzipped.
    The moment you do this they start to come in.

    I for one cant wait till they swap their diet!!

    We have managed to raise over 260 butterflies.
    We have tagged 25 so far and have around 50 odd caterpillars coming on and around 30 odd chrysalis.

    Mrs M is busy laying like crazy but we have the wasps and ants dealing to the eggs pretty quick.
    You almost have to be sitting under the plants to get the eggs the moment she lays.

    Cheers
    Char

    #23316

    Lepidopteranos
    Participant

    There have been some pretty strange things happening with wasps. I was at one place where wasps had got inside a spare bedroom and were busy building nests in the folds of the curtains.

    #23305

    happyjohnny
    Participant

    I read a news article and looks like the exterminators are noticing the increase in wasps too…
    In brief:

    "Auckland pest [company] could not find enough staff to keep up with demand from people finding wasps"

    "One expert told the Star-Times that an unusually large number of queen wasps survived the recent mild winter, perhaps explaining the population spike."

    "In Canterbury, [pest exterminator] said wasp callouts had doubled over the past two years."

    The full story here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/3385185/Taking-the-sting-out-of-wasps

    Hi Norm. You're right, it looks like the "locality and/or the stage of development" has played a part in my Caterpillar Onslaught… after reading your post I looked into it some more and found people only 10 minutes drive away in Papamoa and Tauranga that have yet to have their onslaught; they are reporting a decrease in wasp activity, however they are still eating them all. I'll write more in my 'Caterpillar Onslaught' thread when I update it this afternoon.

    On a plus side I've found some good homes for my excess caterpillars.

    #23295

    Lepidopteranos
    Participant

    YMMV
    Canterbury has had a much better season so far, I have seen more butterflies flying around than any part of last season and familiar looking stripped plants, just spent a couple of hours this afternoon moving 14 nearly mature caterpillars onto other plants.

    Have a look at photos
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lepidopteranos/4394351860/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lepidopteranos/4394351860/

    Full photos at
    http://picasaweb.google.com/lepidopteranos/Monarchs#

    #23284

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Whoops – sorry!

    #23283

    lawrence pope
    Participant

    Jacqui

    I have join in tagging
    Have waiting 2 monarchs for release waiting for the 1st march with more hatching each day

    Lawrence

    #23282

    Terry
    Participant

    As I live in the UK I don't know too much about what happened last winter in NZ but do you think it possible that in certain areas the overwintering clusters of Monarchs may have perished and thus caused certain areas to have such a poor season. Unlike Mexico where the majority of Monarchs from North America hibernate in one area. I know that NZ Monarchs have many winter cluster areas and if some of these suffered heavy kills in the winter this would cause the shortages you have been reporting. Another thought for what it's worth! If you grow Asclepias curassavica as your main Milkweed this should help prevent predation from many species of Birds, Curassavica is one of the most toxic of the Asclepias Spp and makes the Monarch larvae very unappetizing (bitter tasting and containing heart toxins)to other creatures. Asclepias Curassavica smells like very stong TCP Anticeptic when crushed and when I used to breed Monarchs in my Butterfly House in the early 1990s The smell could be quite overwhelming when stock densities were high.
    I have also been informed that arial indiscriminate spraying occurs in NZ when there are outbreaks of pests on Orchards or other crops, this could also have an affect on populations of Monarch Butterflies. Some of the new chemicals used by the Agricultural industry and pet owners, Fipronil being one, are though to have had a devastating affect on Honey Bees in certain areas of the world. This is not proven yet but the evidence is stacking up all the time.

    #23280

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Lawrence – we would be very keen to have you tagging – are you keen to join in with us?

    Jacqui

    #23277

    lawrence pope
    Participant

    Hi
    We have released in Picton this season 330 monarchs
    with another 100 or more caterpillars,
    each day there are monarchs flying around laying eggs , more hatching each day to release

    Lawrence

    #23276

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    Hi Johnny,

    I have had the Asian paper wasps (Polistes chinensis) all through the season, and they are still taking caterpillars, mainly cabbage white caterpillars from the brassica as the monarch and admiral caterpillars are relocated as soon as they appear. The change to nectar may be relevant to the locality and/or the stage of development of the juveniles in the nest.

    #23265

    Christine
    Participant

    Two of my very late catterpillars crawled away into the undergrowth, I feared I would never see them again. We then had a minus 4 frost. I saw two monarchs very early in spring but had no swan plants ready.
    The first batch of eggs laid by a strong looking monarch a couple of weeks ago have died whilst tiny catterpillars On the plant was a tiny black bee or wasp and also a spider. The plant was riddled with red ants. Needless to say the last sighting was of an ant eating the shrunken remains.
    A new batch has been laid and a new plant [bought – with eggs too] potted, net covered resides in part shade. Too hot and dry for new-plant survival without watering. New plant sits in water in icecream container to defeat ants. Think it will work?

    #23180

    pst
    Participant

    Hi Happy Johnny
    I,ve not noticed any predation at all. No wasps etc.
    first butterfly that laid eggs turned up 12 January this year, laid 6 eggs which all hatched. Usually by this time I would have raised butterflies galore. Over 450 in 2008, 800 in 2009 and this year my first butterfly is about to emerge in the next few days, is just showing colour and blackening today. A really slow start.

    #23175

    Jane
    Participant

    Hi Happy,

    I think you are right about the predators. This year I have seen more wasps than usual. I have the german wasp which I have seen taking small caterpillars, the Paper wasp (I have not seen it take cats), have seen plenty around the swanplant flowers and cruising the plants in a hunting manner, and also this year many Ichneumon (Echthromorpha intricatoria) which have been hunting around some of my plants. Also a bug that I still can't identify (see post about Assassin bug?)

    The biggest factor here I think was that despite an early start with egg laying in August – nearly all the eggs were eaten right up until fairly late in January (Not sure which wasp, but there were many)

    #23173

    happyjohnny
    Participant

    This 'slow start' that people are experiencing is actually the normal pattern for me… I wonder if my cause is your cause.

    The complete lack of monarch larvae during the warmer summer months is completely normal for me here in the BOP and has been so ever since the early 90's when the asian paperwasp had grown in population / distribution.

    My observations this summer have been exactly the same; the main predator observed in my garden during the warmer summer months has again been the asian paperwasp… there weren't a great number of them but always a few scouring the plants for small caterpillars, devouring them ALL.
    During this time I would collect monarch eggs, raise them indoors, then release the butterflies as to keep a monarch population in the garden over these months.

    Right on cue, the wasps have now switched to a nectar diet, stopped eating the caterpillars, and just like this time-of-year every year I have a complete 'Caterpillar Onslaught' on my hands with hundreds and hundreds of caterpillars covering my plants; the pregnant preying mantis now being the predator of choice.

    So though this is a normal pattern for me, it is obviously not normal for others…
    I know that the wasps are the cause of this for me thus greatly suspect that they are a contributing factor in this for everyone else; the timing is spot on.

    A lot of people who were reporting low numbers of monarchs or a 'slow start' were also reporting paperwasps (it only takes a few), plus it /can't/ be just a coincidence that now that the wasps have stopped eating the caterpillars those very same people who were reporting low numbers are now reporting a 'Caterpillar Onslaught'.

    What I would like to know is, what was the paperwasp population like this season for the people who normally have caterpillars over the Dec to Feb period who had none?
    Have you normally seen paperwasps around in previous seasons and did you notice more paperwasps than usual this season?

    #23171

    yvonne
    Participant

    In Hamilton, we are having a great year. I haven't had time to spend fussing over them this year but they have coped very well on their own. There were a few wasps around but they didn't seem to do much damage. With about 15 plants in the garden we have so far hatched over 200 and should have quite a good crop for the upcoming hatching. There are anything from 2 – 10 butterflies flitting around our tiny garden whenever we go out.

    #23163

    Misty
    Participant

    As a very ignorant Newbie from Pauanui on the Coromandel I dont know what's 'normal' I started a month ago with 6 swans from Mita 10 – no problems with plants. 1 – 3 Monarchs most days. caterpillars galore stripped the plants and flowers back to twigs within 10 days. Sliced pumpkin 1cm thick strung onto the swan twigs kept them going. Over a dozen cats were fostered out 12km away. Home cats ate 1 1/2 pumpkins in next 10 days – slices replenished 4-5 times a day as they dried out so fast, I used half a ball of string. Lucky I'm retired! A shade cloth slung over bean stakes kept butterflies away. It was a fast learning curve to move the chrysalides (thanks Vicky)which attached to the shade cloth. Even had to move a 'J'. What a wonderful couple of weeks. Score so far 9 chrysalides spotted and 7 fat cats still gorging on pumpkin – housework 'nil'. Thanks for all the tremendous info on the Forum – I'm still finding new areas/pics to look at.

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