Winter Wildlife

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  • #57192


    This has been an extraordinary season and many people still have caterpillars and chrysalises, with butterflies emerging every sunny day. Some people are seeing deformed adults and write to us as to what they should do.

    The important thing is to remember that monarchs are wildlife… not domesticated pets. When we bring them indoors to a warmer, drier environment this will naturally speed up the metamorphosis. If they were outdoors it would take a lot longer: less light (shorter day length) and warmth slows the process down. But when the butterflies emerge they will, usually, after a few days, be ready to fly off and overwinter.

    If you have monarchs indoors then it is important to let them sense what the weather is like out of doors. They can easily cope with cold, damp and dark, but strong winds, heavy rain and snow will take their toll. When they eclose (emerge from the chrysalis), and their wings are firm, take them outdoors. Leave them in the most sheltered spot you can find, where any sunshine will reach them. They do not need to feed immediately and, believe it or not, they will know exactly what to do.

    They do not need to be transported to an overwintering spot. Although their brains are the size of a grain of rice, they have everything stored inside their brain to find the perfect place to overwinter. (And if the butterfly makes its own way you are not adding any greenhouse gases to the air!)

    Another point worth noting: over the course of the season diseases and pathogens which affect butterflies have a chance to build up. By the end of the summer they will be affecting more and more butterflies. In the summer it takes about four weeks for a monarch to go through its metamorphosis, but when the days get shorter and cooler, it takes longer – and accordingly the diseases have more time to do their damage. If the monarchs are weaker they will often emerge deformed. This is Nature at work but if the butterflies are unable to breed, feed and fly, in the wild they will die, providing food for predators or the soil or even helping maintain the disease/pathogens. The best thing you can do, if you want to be involved, is to euthanase the butterfly – if you put it into the freezer its system will gradually shut down and you can remove it after 24 hours.

    Feel free to share this information with friends and family who may still have caterpillars on their swan plants. They will be grateful for it.

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  • #57208


    It certainly been a season of ups and downs. Predator numbers have been up and seem to have been actively consuming monarchs for a longer season. Down were the number of cats throughout most of the season. But the season still goes on with heaps of eggs on swan plants, a fair number of cats and butterflies still hatching. Sure, there are quite a few that are malformed but I am still getting some perfect specimens. On warm days there can be up to 10 butterflies around my garden at any time though the number of hours they are around are far fewer. Sadly the montanoa has just about finished flowering.

    If the milder winter continues, there may be a surge in numbers early in the season to mitigate against the impact of predators allowing healthy numbers to go on to breed.



    I was amazed to see eggs on a swan plant last week, also a couple of cats. But I decided to let Nature take its course and I think the frosts of the last few days have done just that
    I have found in the past that cats at this late stage just don’t make it, so accordingly I have washed all my bits & pieces associated with rearing them & will soak all in Milton tomorrow, ready for next year.

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