Surviving the Winter

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  • #13196


    Hi all

    I am getting many inquiries from people all over NZ asking what to do about caterpillars/pupae now that the weather has turned cold. This is what I am replying – please add your factual comments below so that this can be used as a resource:

    There are several things you can do, but it requires your judgement as to what is best – no Rules (capital R) in Nature of course.

    Firstly, the Monarchs that emerge at this time of the year, because the weather is so changeable, and because the whole metamorphosis process slows down with the cooler temps, are less likely to emerge successfully – so you can do what is best for them, but it still may not mean they pupate successfully or survive for long as adults.

    At the end of the summer too there is usually a build up of diseases in the butterfly population, and so the larvae feeding in the late Autumn are more likely to have lower health. The diseases get killed off with the winter cold/frosts etc, and then with the advent of the spring the cycle begins again. It’s all completely natural.

    The best place for your larvae/pupae to finish their metamorphosis is in a warm, sheltered position outside. Some people take them into their homes, while others have ‘outdoor rooms’ they can use. The important thing to remember is that it makes life more difficult for the butterfly if the temps are summerlike, i.e. what us humans like to consider "comfortable" is going to seriously affect the natural programming of the Monarch, in that when it emerges it will expect the season to be summery, and want to breed.

    In the wild, at this time of the year, the Monarchs go into a state called diapause, and when the adults emerge from the chrysalis they are not sexually active even though they are sexually mature. Once they have dried their wings and ‘got their bearings’ they will fly away to find an overwintering cluster (there are some in Timaru, Ashburton, and Chrstchurch for example) and overwinter there in tall trees, just coming out on sunny days to take nectar and then clustering together to brave the overnight temperatures and any adverse weather.

    So the best thing we can do, is not recreate summer for them, but more like a ‘pleasant winter’s day’.

    I hope that this has given you an understanding of what can be done, which you can adapt to suit your pupae!


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  • #18358

    This is a nectar recipie from Terry in the UK
    1 pint of warm water
    1 teaspoon of honey
    1 teaspoon of brown sugar
    4 teaspoons of white sugar
    1 pinch of sea or rock salt
    Stir until dissolved

    I have found this very good, it keeps well in the fridge. I clean out the container daily and it sits in a waterbath so ants cant get to the feeder. I try and make sure the butterlfies have access to lots of freash flowers.

    In my butterfly house I have, Marigolds , Koromiko, other hebes (native),Sedums, Citrus Trees in pots, Rata.




    Hi Swansong, thanks for the information about the manuka honey… and water



    Hi pinus, I use manuka honey and water as do others here. Depending on how you actually feed them (there is lots of info here on that) might differ in the strengths of mixture you use. I find mine like straight honey but I make sure I drip plenty of water around it. This is workable for me coz I only have a few at a time. If I had lots I would have a more streamlined approach where I would give them a more consistent mixture, but the key is to make sure they have a supply of just water.




    I have emerging adult butterflies in cold wet weather is there a man made alternative nectar supply other than flower nectar


    I have alot still emerging and its very cold outside, my plants are against a fence that gets all day sun. The plants are also over 6feet, which keeps them warmer.

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