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  • in reply to: I am SO ANGRY #26852


    I sympathize with your cattie loss.

    in reply to: Caterpillars "folding", dying. #26851


    That sounds a lot more like it, Norm!

    I did wonder earlier if the bacteria could have been present in the potting mix (given that potting mix usually comes with a warning label about handling it, for the very reasons of bacteria sometimes propagating in the soil.)

    Some of these catties have been in contact with that.

    There were no casualties this morning, and the sickly four are still alive, albeit sluggish. Still producing frass.
    They still seem quite responsive to “gusts of fresh air”

    I’m hoping that the good solid watering, with the addition of a drop or two plant nutrient, has arrested any further cases.

    I do not know if the catties will get over their lethargic state or not. it will be interesting to see how the larger ones still on the plant will fare, at the chrysalis stage. That will be an indicator of whether or not they have also been affected.

    And it seems that Bt is the closest match to what may be going on, so thanks for that information. πŸ™‚

    in reply to: Caterpillars "folding", dying. #26840


    Thanks for the information on that, Norm and Flutterbys!
    More rambling updates follow:

    Had three more “poorly” catties this morning – one dead, two questionable.

    I have noticed, looking at the plant in general, that it seems to be being eaten rather patchily – as if the caterpillars have tried a bit of leaf and gone “nope” – rather than eating the whole leaf as would be usually expected.

    There is a very light fungal residue on some of the leaves, I have since discovered – from water that has dried out on the leaf. (I double checked back with Kings Garden Centre, re. spraying, and the chap informed me that this was what it appeared to be, comparing it with plants there. He reassured though that there had been no sprayiing.)
    I’m sure I’ve seen this kind of residue before, in any case, and it didn’t harm catties then.

    So far, it doesn’t seem to be affecting any of the larger catties – only the roughly inch long ones. Ones of a slightly larger size that seem to have been similarly affected, are a little more responsive. I’m not sure if they’ll recover, but they do move around when left to their own devices, in the box I’ve placed them in. I have brought in leaf from an outside plant.

    Going through the NPV checklist –

    1. Smell. The main smell seems to be the plant itself (there are a lot of blossoms, and it was almost overpowering when I first brought it home!) – but then again, it’s freestanding inside, not enclosed. Light vegetative smell is all I’m picking up on at the moment.’

    2. The plant does seem to be being consumed rather patchily of late – the leaves are not being eaten fully – in many places, leaves look like they’ve only been “lightly sampled”, with small holes here and there.

    3. Not much diarhhea – even some of the sickening ones still appear to expell frass, although I have noticed some small spots of diarhhea. (This could also be vomit)

    4. Sluggish – yes. Responsive to breeze though – seems to prompt more activity. I think all of them seem a bit sluggish, including some of the larger ones – although that might be my imagination.

    5. Not noticing ruptures.

    6. Darkening, yes. Translucency (and/or the ‘wet’ look), no.

    7. Inverted V. – partial. Have only noticed a couple in full V – usually the smaller ones.

    8. Liquifaction – not showing external signs of this. A little dehydration, some softness yes, but no “melting”.
    One that seemed a bit soft however, is one of the ones who is still shifting about. There was a little diahhrea on the paper it’s been on (or vomit?) this morning, but it’s not deaded yet.

    I do wonder about the soldier bug – but have not found any – yet! And it’s still only affecting ones of a certain size.

    I remember reading at one point, that in conditions of stress, certain soil conditions etc, the plant itself may become more toxic? Is this speculation or a possibility?

    I was talking to one of the folk at the Kings Garden centre, who mentioned that on his property he had a lot of swan plants, but that the butterflies didn’t seem to be terribly attracted to them. (either that, or he’s also got wasps picking off any caterpillars ;D )

    A larger caterpillar may have more resistance to a higher toxicity – as mentioned, it’s not affecting the bigger ones, and the tiny ones are eating only the surface of leaf – not the “leafstem”.
    Checking some of the leaves, I notice along the central stem of the leaf, it looks like some caterpillar has taken a tiny bite out of it, left a gap, tried again, etc – as if it’s been testing the edibility.

    The only thing that makes this uncertain, is that more than one plant seems to be prompting this – I have separated the plants out a little. The affected caterpillars seem to have been on two of them.

    I have fully hydrated the soil of the potplants, and have put a little nutrient in with the water.

    I really do hope it’s not a virus – although it does seem rather like one – just very selective. If it affects any of the big ones in the next couple of days, I’ll know it’s definitly viral. :/

    It’s like CSI – with caterpillars.
    I have been routinely moving all chrysalises away from the food source, even before this started happening (when some have been forming chrysalises on the leaves) – so I hope they’ll be fine. I’ll shift them even further, just to make certain. There’s been no discolouration evident on any of those.

    in reply to: Caterpillars "folding", dying. #26828


    On looking through other posts..
    Swansong mentioned this exact same issue last year – probably around a similar timeframe – the caterpillars match the size and appearance that she was talking about.

    The only thing I think I can rule out is a spray, and I’m keeping a close watch on the other catties.

    Also, I found this topic page:

    (site has pictures that may sadden caterpillar lovers!)

    I quote a partial, from the end of that post, (which had an image of a caterpillar in the state I’ve been describing) here:

    “One sign that monarch larvae could be infected with a pathogen is if they stop eating and hang from the host plant (or side of a container) by their prolegs, with the anterior and posterior ends drooping downwards. Dead larvae and pupae often turn dark brown or black within a few hours of death; this can be a sign of bacterial decay.
    Often times, monarch larvae or pupae die for no apparent reason. This does not mean that a pathogen has killed them; other causes of death could include ingestion of chemical toxins, a wound that became infected by opportunistic bacteria, or thermal stress caused by conditions that are too hot or too cold.”

    It made me think – when there are a lot of caterpillars in close proximity, you can see them reacting violently to each other. (presumeably to ward each other off) – is it possible that one could inadvertantly nick the skin of the other?

    It may well be, that when I was transferring them, they squabbled. (I foolishly didnt think of that – just figured they wouldn’t do each other much harm, being in one container for a little time while the new plant was fetched!

    I am aware also that there are also microbes in potting mix (In which the swanplant sits, yarrr!) – that may also provide explanation, if coupled with an injured cattie.
    If you ever read the warnings on a bag of potting mix, it mentions being mindful of microbes in the soil, and to wash your own hands thoroughly after handling it.

    I’m beginning to wonder if the soil itself contains the (sadly natural!) culprit?

    Thoughts? πŸ™‚

    in reply to: Ladybirds. #26827


    I may well take you up on that. πŸ™‚
    (Perhaps I should make the ladybird my next subject of insectly interest!)
    At the moment I’m working all sorts of stupid hours, but I’m really hopeful the job will end next week some time! (please let it end soon!!) And if I still have more aphids than sense, I’ll be in touch.

    This is why caterpillars make a good and undemanding form of pet. I come home, check in on them, then sleep ;D
    Now I’m having visions of a mock video, featuring a caterpillar being taken for a walk on a leash with a fancy collar. Don’t tempt me. I could do it…

    in reply to: Swanplant "bagging" #26482


    Thanks for the information, Norm! The mesh will stay on, and butterflies will be released when they hatch, from the mesh, with care.

    Jacqui, yes I got the email. Annoyingly I’m doing some hard yards at work until at least the 4th of March, so won’t be able to attend – some days my job is like a sweatshop! :/

    I have no monarchs approaching anything near pupation, either. (But hoping for a bumper crop in a few weeks πŸ˜€ – as long as the netting works!)

    On the seedling count, I now have 8 little green dots! Here’s hoping for more. πŸ™‚

    in reply to: Decoys? #26345


    Yes, I think some kind of “dropnet” tenting might be the solution in my case.
    Wasps out, catties in, plant well lit and watered, so I’ll see what I can do about that, mayhap! πŸ™‚

    in reply to: Decoys? #26333


    Thanks for the offer, too, Charlotte. My cutting looks hopeful, so fingers crossed, but good to know there are potential backup plans! πŸ™‚

    And Jacqui, I’ve been “precious” about giving those nettles the very best growing stuff that I can! I shall keep you posted if this pampering succeeds!

    Re. flowering v’s non flowering, I checked my decoy plant and there was only a small strand of flowers remaining, which hadn’t opened yet. (does anyone know if those wasps “eat” part of the plant at all?)
    I still hope to find a “Hey wasps, look here!” ot “hey wasps, keep away” floral distraction. But there were no flowers at all on the plant with the catties. I’m still sad it didn’t work afterall.

    in reply to: Decoys? #26332


    Alas and Woe!!! My theory has to be scratched.

    I arose this morning to check on the caterpillar who had gone into a J yesterday, and… wasps. πŸ™ πŸ™
    My only hope is that a catty or two might have crawled off to hang elsewhere – I promptly whisked the two that remained (out of 6!) inside. I am sad to see that no matter how large the catty (and they were very big and healthy and due to “J” at any moment), the wasp still goes to town on them.
    I think I’m going to bring one of the big plants indoors… somehow.

    Does anyone know if there is a natural form of “biological warfare” plant one can use against wasps? A pyrethrum daisy? (or is that just to discourage flys?)

    This is sad, because they’d been perfectly fine all week long.

    in reply to: Powdery mildew – can I save my plants? #24954


    Putting them outside seems to have worked for all of mine bar one, which was really quite far gone.

    Is “white fly” the same bug as makes very fine fine sticky threads/sticky texture to the leaves? (I’ve also noticed the actual white flys themselves, just wondered if it was an earlier stage of it. Miniscule little black dots (bugs?)

    in reply to: Last has flown. General notes #24517


    And yes, Jacqui. They’ve left their chrysalises just hanging there! No attempt at tidiness at all.

    in reply to: Last has flown. General notes #24516


    I’d also like to mention a little sleep deprived anecdote. When they first started emerging, one morning I poked my head out of the bedroom to glance at the state of things, and was utterly convinced that there were two newly emerged butterflies hanging from their respective chrysalises. (Which were dark and due for hatching anyway.)

    Woke up later to a phonecall. Whilst talking, I looked at the plant and was AMAZED to see that they hadn’t hatched at all! (it had seemed so real at the time πŸ˜‰ )

    They hatched a few hours later.

    in reply to: Butterflies in blustery May #24425


    That’s the very one πŸ™‚
    Have released 8 butterflies so far – a good mixture of male and female, sizes ranging from 45 to 52 (joint to wingtip)
    One had a chrysalis that was almost in danger of being swamped by some tiny sticky threading mites, but everything was pruned and cleared off, and the butterfly flew this morning πŸ™‚

    in reply to: Butterflies in blustery May #24384


    Agents 775 and 776 are go! And I was heartened to see another monarch (untagged) loitering on the bushes at the same time. My two, by comparison to it, looked like they could have done with a bit of time in the gym. I think having the breeze from an open window making them work a little was a good idea.
    I’m hoping the rain holds off long enough that they “get the idea” of what they’re doing and I hope they survive enough!

    Jean, Agent 776 seemed a bit braver after a quick sip on the orchid I purchased yesterday πŸ™‚ I noticed the untagged monarch was flitting about the orange flowers on the hedge – they’re longish blooms with several to a strand. But I don’t know the name πŸ™

    in reply to: On the tagging of butterflies… #24375


    Looks like we’ve just picked up the horrible heavy elephant soaking weather even as I type! Probably best they didn’t fly today.
    And cool, I’ll note their numbers when they finally fly the coop – er – twig.

    Re. things flying, for those of you who might also be interested in birds…
    I’ve been following this live camera feed – from eggs, to recently fledged owlets. (there’s night cam and day cam) – I know it’s not butterflies, but at least over there it is summer! πŸ˜€

    in reply to: On the tagging of butterflies… #24377


    Well, I’ve applied tags to the first two butterbums! (so-called because they’re loitering πŸ˜‰ )

    Should I log in the tagging on the day they are tagged, or the day they are released?

    (I’ve been trying to encourage them to be enthused about the weather – although it’s a shade unpredictable today.)

    in reply to: Butterflies in blustery May #24337


    An orchid might be quite nice to have in the house in any case, so I’ll keep that in mind!
    (and thankyou all for the compliments on the videos πŸ™‚ )

    My biggest concern right now is how long they’ve been in their pupae, as I could swear it’s been 4 weeks for some. Although, having said that, I’m noticing the first signs of darker colouration. I just hope the weather has some convenient loopholes when they do hatch!

    in reply to: Monarchs falling out of crysalis #24336


    Having read this, I think I’m going to try putting something near the chrysalises (Haven’t thought what or how, yet πŸ˜€ ), but something with a bit of texture to grip – as I noticed even with my summer hatch there was a lot of scrabbling for purchase on the skin of the chrysalis.

    Could it be in the colder weather that they are simply less agile?

    in reply to: My swan plant is wilting #24335


    They seem remarkably resilient plants- I don’t know about the transplanting, but you could try what Jennifer suggested if it turns out to be too big and unmanageable?
    I had a stem about 12 inches long that I cut from the top of one of my plants, to wrangle a foolish caterpillar with.
    I popped it in a cup of water, and it now has a system of roots.

    in reply to: Too cold for release? #24334


    My lot (in Auckland) are only just starting to colour up in their pupae now. The wind and rain are belchingly awful at the moment, but I too will be waiting for the break in the weather to set them loose when they come πŸ™‚ )
    I like the name Luigi. ;D
    My first lot were called Om, Nom, Nom, Nom, Num, and Nim.
    (because I’m imaginative like that.)
    The only other named one at the moment is “Agent 15” on account of the stealth disappearance and secret pupa making behind the blinds!

    in reply to: On the tagging of butterflies… #24199


    I am also contemplating trying to coax the butterfly onto my thumb, so that it has a foot-rest while the fingers “scissor grip” above.
    Assuming they co-operate!

    And finally, another pedantic question. Soft cotton gloves? (as a former traditional animator, I have a surplus of these) – would this aid the protection of the wings or be more dangerous to them than the fingers alone? (I’m imagining that it makes no difference really, and suspect I’m just getting overly paranoid…)

    Danger! Danger! Cotton gloves! Flap for your lives! ;D

    in reply to: Butterflies in blustery May #24198


    Darren, I wonder if they circle to get some form of light-bearing? (And possibly to mark “shapes that might be flowers” ;D )

    It’s a bit like me. I get up in the morning, circle a few times and head towards the large white fridge-like shape!

    If Butterflies could use Google maps to locate their favourite places, I wonder what the path would look like.
    (I suspect this is what the tagging exercise is for, among other things!)
    It would certainly be intriguing to be able to track a butterfly accuratly on its flight path if there were transmitters that were small, light and affordable enough.

    in reply to: Butterflies in blustery May #24197


    I’m hoping they hatch soonish – the last three caterpillars are probably a day away from their J’s at most, then there’s about 3 and a half weeks before I go on a break, which will see me away from home! The first ones to pupate are being pretty slow about developing into their final forms, they’ve already been ensconced for at least two weeks.

    On amusing news though, Agent 15 has been found – he/she pupated up in the recesses of the window frame, just behind the blinds! Quite how that one managed to reach that location, I’m still puzzling over..!

    All of this current hatch have been raised indoors. The room temperature is not cold, but is certainly an ambient cool.

    As for how they go, Nic, I just saw a monarch loitering in the driveway this very morning, so some are still coping well enough, which is heartening. πŸ™‚
    (I’m in Auckland)

    in reply to: Butterflies in blustery May #24188


    Wonderful help, thankyou! I know exactly who I shall ask. (a friend’s mother is an avid gardener, and very fond of “ye olde traditional”.
    I’ll also endeavour to check out the Kings place πŸ™‚

    As for the photography, ’tis mine. I drove my friends mad, hopping up and down at every moment, lest I miss it!
    But in the end, I found that pretty much all of them both pupated and hatched between 9 and 10 in the morning, and many seemed to delight at thwarting my efforts to photograph/film them. (Macro, on a Canon G9, if anyone wishes to know.)

    Right now with this lot, I’m twitting about, hoping that all will survive (even Agent 15 who persisted in falling off, despite several rescue attempts, and who crawled away “somewhere” in the night. I have fine fine netting suspended beneath the plants, and this has succeeded in providing soft landings for a couple already.

    One thing I’ll keep an eye out for, on release, is to see whether or not the little beasties will “circle” around three times, before flying away. If they do, I’ll assume it’s some inbuilt “bearings” habit.

    Also, I look forward to seeing the male:female ratio from the hatch in this colder weather. (the last batch from around a couple of months ago yielded 1 male, the rest were female.)
    I had blithely assumed that they’d be hatching two weeks from the start of their pupation, although I’ve since read on this site that colder weather seems to slow this down.

    Am hoping for a bit of living colour in the following week, and will definitly investigate sources of the recommended plants – Cheers! πŸ™‚

    in reply to: Tagging in Dunedin #24165


    An article in a suburban newspaper is what brought the tagging project, and therefore this site, to my attention. One of my friends mentioned it to me via that publication, or I would not have known about it at all!
    I don’t buy the main city newspaper, or watch telly much, so the “ye olde suburban newspaper” – in my opinion – has one of the best bets of being read.

    Good luck in Dunedin with your butteries, I’m an ex-Dunedinite myself!

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