No caterpillars this year

This topic contains 16 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Caryl 5 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #37116

    doer2
    Participant

    We have a swan plant grove which is normally almost totally stripped by caterpillars every year. However this year, although there seem to be many Monarchs flying around and settling on the swan plants, we have no caterpillars. Also, the plants have seed pods for Africa this year. A friend of mine with a large couple of swan plants has the same problem. Is there a reason for this?

Viewing 16 replies - 1 through 16 (of 16 total)
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  • #37305

    Caryl
    Moderator

    Good to hear. Did the very small ones climb up? I appreciate you letting me know.

    #37304

    Alison Welch
    Participant

    Thank you Caryl. The caterpillars are very happily settling into their new home.

    #37272

    Caryl
    Moderator

    Hi Alison, I am in Seatoun and have had too many caterpillars and given more than 100 away. I could provide some for you. My mobile is 027 8426773. Caryl

    #37268

    doer2
    Participant

    First of all, thanks for all the replies and helpful suggestions. We have eradicated one wasp nest we found, but I think wasps, Preying mantis, and ants are only part of the problem.
    We took over our current property 4 years ago and inherited a thriving swan plant grove. For the first year, everything was tickety boo…..Monarchs laying eggs, caterpillars munching their way through their food source, butterflies hatching, plants denuded of leaves, and seed pods releasing seeds to keep the grove going. However, in 2012 we noticed a strange phenomenom…the monarchs were laying eggs on the plants all through the winter, and there was no break.
    Summer 2012 saw another bumper season of caterpillars and once again this continued right through until August, where there was about a six week respite before it all started again. However, early in 2013, we noticed a lot of our thriving swan plants turning up their toes and dying. We thought we were going to lose the whole grove. During last winter, a lot of new plants emerged, and the grove has begun to thrive again. However we now have lots of plants with plenty of food, and an increedible amount of seed pods…even on the small emerging swan plants. Monarchs are abundant too…but they seem more intent on feeding on the swan plant flowers than laying eggs. I have watched countless butterflies land on the swans, have a feed, and move on to the next plant, without laying eggs. Nature is a wonderful thing, but can also be complex…I am wonering if the plants are somehow dissuading the monarchs from laying eggs, giving the plants a breather to re-establish a strong grove again.
    WSo we have had one year of the monarchs laying eggs all year round, the following year laying for all but six weeks, and this year not seeming to lay eggs.
    Almost makes one a conspiracy theorist…..LOL

    #37265

    Alison Welch
    Participant

    Hi, I am in Karori, Wellington. We have a fabulous swan plant but no caterpillars. Does anybody in Wgtn have spare caterpillars. Thanks,Alison.

    #37264

    Jacqui
    Keymaster

    Much the same here, David (I’m in Blockhouse Bay, Auckland).

    I’ve stood outside and watched wasps taking the caterpillars… and presumed that was why, but now I’m rethinking things. I’ve been releasing lots of Monarchs of both sexes, one day last week 30 were let go, but I’m certainly not seeing more than one or two females around the plants. And still getting very few eggs.

    I’ll give it some more thought over the next few days.

    #37262

    David Guthrie
    Participant

    I’ve come to the forum with exactly the same issue. Last year was our first year engaging with Monarchs as we had until then been living in an apartment. Last year we ran out of feed to provide for all the caterpillars, and at any time of the day there were always monarchs in the garden feeding on the mass of dahlias we had planted. This year we ensured that there were plenty of swan plants, plenty of dahlias, and we installed a castle to ensure that the caterpillars were protected from predators. I set wasp traps all around the garden.

    What happened? Hardly any butterflies and a dearth of eggs and caterpillars. For a few weeks there were some hatchings on the swan plants, and I harvested these and transferred them to the castle – and even then I have achieved only a little over 20 survive. For the past three weeks there has only been one egg on the swan plants that I have found, and no caterpillars.

    What are others experiencing?

    #37147

    Diane
    Participant

    Sound like a good plan, have fun and good luck. Sorry you are too far away for me to pop some caterpillars too you. Once the school holidays are over try your local schools and pre schools. They may have butterfly gardens with spare caterpillars and if not perhaps they could use some of your bountiful supply of seed to start one :o)

    #37143

    Jacqui
    Keymaster

    Hi Nananoo – yes and no. 🙂

    The Monarchs are poisonous but evidently not to wasps, praying mantises, ants, stink bugs (assassin bugs), hedgehogs, rats, mice and shining cuckoos. 🙂

    The frame sounds like an excellent idea. In the meantime, throw an old curtain over the plant – doesn’t matter if it touches the leaves – and see if you don’t have caterpillars in about ten days’ time. (five days for hatching, five days for them to be really big enough to see.)

    Jacqui

    #37142

    Shirley
    Participant

    Hi Diane,
    I am in Te Awamutu. I am going to get my husband to make a frame that I can put a cover over my plants. I wonder if the ants and praying mantis are ‘feasting’ as well. I was under the impression that monarchs were poison so didn’t have any predators.

    #37138

    Diane
    Participant

    Hi Nananoo
    I have some smaller plants, where are you?. These could be netted easily, perhaps once caterpillars grow out of the smaller plants you could put fresh cut growth from your large plants into water in the netted area for the caterpillars.

    #37136

    Shirley
    Participant

    I’m having the exact same problem as doer2. We shifted into this home in November so this is the first season here so I don’t know what happened last season. By looking at the swan plant, I would say it possibly had the same thing last year as the plant is over 6 feet tall and has what I would call a new side and an old side. The reason being that this years growth is nice and green and the leaves are fat. The other part has narrower leaves and looks quite dull. I have oceans of seed heads almost ready to bust open so will have oceans of seed.
    I have been getting quite a few monarchs laying eggs on my big swan plant. Sadly, this is as far as it goes. The eggs are hatching because I bought a few eggs inside to see if they were fertile and would hatch. After hatching I put them back on the swan plant and that was the last I saw of them. Something must be taking them. There are no leaves on the plant being eaten and I have not one caterpillar or chrysalis. I have seen the occasional wasp around and some ants on the ground underneath the plant. I will have a huge amount of seeds shortly because the plant has grown to over 6 feet and is very healthy. Absolutely no aphids or disease on the plant.

    I always thought that monarchs were poison so had no natural predators.

    I would love to be watching the butterflies and caterpillars and chrysalis.

    Does anyone have any suggestions?

    #37134

    BruceSmith
    Participant

    Hi, where in NZ are you?? I picked up another 50 from a person with toooo many.
    Bruce in Christchurch

    #37123

    Jacqui
    Keymaster

    By the way, this is one of the points we discuss in the Create Butterfly Habitat course on line. Further information about it here:

    https://www.monarch.org.nz/projects/butterfly-gardening-course/

    #37122

    Jacqui
    Keymaster

    Doer2 – usually the “problem” is that you’ll have a high number of predators around your swan plants. It is most likely wasps, but could also be praying mantises, ants… and several other things.

    Best way of finding out is spend half an hour watching the bushes closely for signs of life. If you see a Monarch laying an egg… then watch that space. You can use brightly coloured clothes pegs on the stem to help you remember where you saw the eggs if you need to.

    Under the green SPECIES tab above you’ll find a section on pests and can download material which explains how wasps operate… understanding the enemy is the first step in solving the problem. But when I say “enemy”, bear in mind that it’s just Nature at work. Boom and bust, peaks and troughs. Last year you had a boom of Monarchs and the imbalance was a shortage of swan plant seed to be scattered on the wind. So Nature “corrects” the imbalance: the predators would have had a field day on the caterpillars and their population would have soared. This year that predator is in high numbers (maybe more than one species), the Monarchs are losing out, and so Nature brings the balance back again by providing lots of seed to be scattered on the wind and provide more food… so that the Monarchs can once more have a “boom”.

    Hope this makes sense! And please do tell us where you are – there may well be people in nearby communities who could share their surplus caterpillars with you. Or, if it is wasps, once way of foiling them is to throw an old net curtain over part of the plant. This will make it really hard for the wasps to steal the eggs or small caterpillars from that part of the plant. It doesn’t have to be water-tight. This is one of the reasons why we suggest in our course material to plant swan plants in between shrubs of the same size – even other swan plants – so that the dense foliage provides protection from marauding wasps.

    #37119

    Diane
    Participant

    Where are you in NZ? Perhaps people could drop off some of their spares? I know we will have some at school in Raumati South, Wellington.

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