5th generation

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  • #34925


    I have just seen a chrysalis and 3 caterpillars on my swan plants. Could they be the 5th generation I was reading about?

    Would you leave everything to nature or would you bring them inside, if you suggest the latter can you advise me what I need to do and potentially buy please?

    We took in a deformed monarch and had him under a food net on our kitchen table for nearly 7 weeks but unfortunately he was dead this morning.

    I dont think the food net would be suitable for a flying butterfly.
    Angie and Kevin Masters

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  • #34927


    Hello Angie and Kevin

    There is talk of “generations” of Monarchs but really there’s no such thing. Monarchs all return to our gardens at different times during spring and start the breeding process. I guess if you’re in Southland (or somewhere) then the Monarchs might reach you about the same time each year. We don’t think they overwinter any further south than Timaru. So perhaps you do have generations down there if that’s where you are.

    We are receiving many requests from kind-hearted people such as you. No-one can tell you EXACTLY what to do but here are some thoughts to bear in mind.

    * One female Monarch butterfly will typically lay about 300 eggs – some have been known to lay over 1000. Only 1 of these needs to survive to lay an egg for the species to be continued. Some Monarchs are destined to be food for other species – or even food for the soil.

    * Insects don’t care about dying – if a female Monarch butterfly can lay 1,000 eggs in her lifetime, if all eggs were to make it to adulthood and reproduce then we could have something like 134 septillion butterflies just from that one female Monarch by the end of the summer! I think it’s only us humans that have a hang up about creatures dying

    * There are all sorts of predators and parasites in the wild, and it’s a matter of balance – one species “controls” population outbursts of another species. If we “valued” the swan plant like we do a prize rose then we would see the Monarch as being a pest and probably “control” it.

    * Nature is a cycle of booms and busts, when species X thrives then it will soon be followed by a population spurt of its predators and parasites, those that see species X as a host or food.

    * At the end of the summer the Monarch population has built up to a large number and so therefore the diseases which live off Monarchs begin to thrive and there is less chance of a butterfly getting through to become an adult. The cold, wind, and wet or worse also weaken them.

    So what you are witnessing is only natural. It’s the survival of the fittest.

    I realise that this doesn’t help you. Each one of us who has experienced what you are going through has coped in different ways. Me, I put the deformed ones into the freezer which I believe is the best way to euthanase them. Some keep them as pets feeding them nectar. Others euthanase them in different ways – hopefully some of the other butterfly handlers will come in and add their thoughts.

    When you had the deformed Monarch indoors it would have been experiencing “summer” conditions – dry, warm, bright. If it had been left out of doors it would have died, and died much sooner. It is unable to do what it is here to do, which is breed and continue the species.

    IMHO, the best place for Monarch butterflies that emerge at this time of year is somewhere that is open to the outdoors but sheltered from wind and wet, snow and frosts and where it can get any sunlight that there is. It will then adjust to true winter conditions and find somewhere to overwinter.

    If it’s the middle of a rainstorm or blizzard, then put it somewhere cool and dark so at least it “senses” it’s winter. People like to be warm and dry (obviously) and if a butterfly is in those conditions it is prompted to fly about, find nectar flowers and breed.

    I know this isn’t what you want to hear but its the hard facts.

    Do take the time to look through the forum and see what other people have to say. You may even be interested in doing our Create Butterfly Habitat Course where we go into more detail about how to help Monarchs and other butterflies. More information on our website – and a special offer is there too which might be of interest which expires this weekend.

    Special Membership Offer

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