Roving Caterpillars

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  • #12996

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi

    I’ve got a couple of swan plants and 3 caterpillarsfor my daughter, and the fattest of them has started wandering off. Just wondering if this is normal (I assume its trying to find somewhere to go into its chrysalis) and whats the best thing to do for it?

    Thanks in advance.

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  • #16780

    Swansong
    Participant

    I timed one at the peak of the season, meaning, the time when they “do their thing” from one stage to the next in the quickest time because the temps are warm and the tucker is great. The one I timed took 13 days. Other people may have got quicker times than this, but that is my experience. Im finding now as the season is moving along things are not quite as quick, though we had one hockey stick which didn’t last long at all before he turned into chrysalis.

    Hope u continue to enjoy the monarchs!

    Cheers Swansong.

    #16779

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hey thanks for that info Swansong – thats a neat idea. We have solved the problem by buying a few more plants and transeferring the other caterpillars to the new plants. Our 2nd fatty went into the J yesterday and we now have a chrysalis! Man that was quick. Its amazing to watch the whole process, but since we’ve been at Te Papa all day it seems like it changed almost instantly.

    I did notice the behavior you spoke about – the fatty went into a bit of a torpor, wasnt moving much for about a day, then made a beeline for one particular new plant and did its thing.

    My daughter is now counting the days till we expect a butterfly – about 10-12 days isnt it?

    #16778

    Shaun
    Participant

    Wow! Thanks for that Jacqui, I wasn’t sure of the exact mechanism they used. I’m going to be watching the next J I see ‘splitting’ very carefully with my new digital camera (with ‘super macro’ mode!) in hand.

    Shaun.

    #16773

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Hi Spankermatic

    Where Swansong talks about their ‘dots’ you might be able to understand by looking at the attached:

    http://butterfliesetc.com/images/holdfasttubercles.pdf

    As the caterpillar skin nears the top of the “j”, the butterfly-to-be needs to detach itself from the cremaster for a split second, to allow the skin to get around the “J”. It does so by hooking into the dots (or holdfast tubercules) for a split second, before it reattaches itself by its cremaster.

    Amazing eh?

    Jacqui

    #16771

    Swansong
    Participant

    “but another caterpillar ate the leaf it was attached to”

    spankermatic, yes this will happen when the plants get less and less leaves. What I do, when this happens is get a peg and just very carefully clip the peg on the leaf spine or whatever is available for the peg to clasp to, be it their fine web that they spin making that silky dot, or anything else it was originally attached to. Try to keep the hockey stick or J at an angle that it was originally hanging at or they may miss their silk dot when changing into a chrysalis.

    I find its a good idea to not let them make their J on the plant itself. Not only because their leaf can get eaten away, but other pillars can really upset the J and BOY can the J’s get cranky if anything touches them!!! Soooo, you have a little time where you can actually shift them B4 they make their silk dot. Once they start making it though its best to not shift them. The dead giveaway telltale sign is that they will bunch up and go very straight and their actions are slow. Sometimes they can stay in this position for a day B4 doing anything about making their dot, and sometimes its within an hour. Their feelers also tend to go straight forward as apposed to out at angles. They also move their front end from side to side and back and forth indicating they are starting on their silk dot. Hope this helps.

    Anywayz all the best and I’m sure as you watch them more you will find out how fascinating they really are. 🙂

    Swansong

    #16767

    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Wicked – thanks for all the valuable info. Unfortunately, we have not had a successful first try at raising monarchs. The first fatty went into a J which my daughter was most amazed at, but another caterpillar ate the leaf it was attached to – grrr. It was hanging on by a single leaf fibre so I tried to transplant it using an idea in the forum using a hot glue gun. Unfortunately, during the process it got dropped – I was gutted as was my daughter. I was hoping to have our first monarch in a couple of weeks to release, but now its gone.
    We have two more on our small plants, but I think I will be making a trip to the shop tomorrow to get some more as they have just about stripped them bare. I will definitely be planting some around the house – hopefully we will have more success.

    #16760

    Swansong
    Participant

    Ha ha as usual Jacqui gives good advice! Hope you really enjoy your ‘pillar…. arn’t they soOOOOOooo neat when they are big and fat :))))))))

    Swansong

    #16759

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    It is perfectly natural for them to do that – they are safer from predators if they are aware from the milkweed.

    If you want to see the fascinating part of them forming a chrysalis, break off a branch of your swan plant and smash the bottom of the stem, put it in a vase with water in it. Stand the vase on a tray and put a cm or so of water in the tray, so that the caterpillar cannot wander off the branch. If you’re not too fussy about your house and your kitchen or dining table, you will have a wonderful conversation piece and an eye-opening educational tool!

    Hope this helps.

    Jacqui

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