Caterpillars not making it to pupa stage

This topic contains 8 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Charlotte 6 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #32504


    I was wondering if anyone else who lives in Auckland is having a problem raising their caterpillars.

    Whether it be in a container, caterpillar castle or outside. As we’re losing all of our caterpillars in our caterpillar house under the deck. This is very odd as we have NEVER had this problem before and emailed everyone in our community group and FOUR of us in DIFFERENT areas are all experiencing similar problems.

    The caterpillars just stop growing and some shrivel and die. Most of us have lost over half of our caterpillars we were raising. I’ve now moved our caterpillars to the deck in a castle and starting a process of elimination and keeping notes.

    We’ve also noticed a lot more dead butterflies around the section. One lady in Riverhead has had perfectly new butterflies just die.

    I’ve shared some emails from people in our group experiencing a similar thing:

    Hi Charlotte, Yes we are experiencing same problem  this never happened last year maybe the odd one but not like this we clean the containers out each day with fresh  linings and swan plant leaves to feed on  no sprays etc but are still loosing caterpillars we have released 53 healthy monarchs so far this year way down on last years total  of 147 in the same period It has us stumped as to the cause . (TE ATATU SOUTH area)

    Hi Charlotte
    Yep – something is happening here I think too 🙁
    Before we went away last week a lot (probably 50%) of my captive caterpillars gradually died. Figured I must be doing something wrong as I haven’t had that happen before and also more deformed butterflies e.g. not enough fluids to pump up wings or a lopsided wing etc –  didn’t have any of that last year. But also apparently ‘normal’ young butterflies just dying to. (RIVERHEAD area)

    It would be good to know if anyone else is experiencing similar happenings. So far we have noted Massey, Te Atatu South, Riverhead and Sunnyvale.




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  • #32746


    The inside temp was from inside the butterfly house and the outside temp was the piece we had fed through the netting and placed outside the window.

    We actually think with the plants being up against the netting near the glass could make it too hot for them perhaps.

    I actually don’t think there is enough airflow as it does get quite hot inside there when you’re in the house.

    There is a lot to work through Norm but we shall get there eventually, but with Autumn coming soon we may not have time.



    Were the temperatures recorded inside the butterfly houses or in the back yard, as some butterfly houses with a clear plastic roof and /or clear polythene or glasshouse type wall can overheat quickly in those temperatures.  Inside temperatures were not excessive unless there was little air circulation, which can be a problem.  But that does not cover the butterflies dying, and one wonders whether spray drift contaminating nectar flowers may be a possibility.

    There is a lot of questions to work through and I hope you manage to find an answer.



    We’ve been recording the temperatures in the butterfly house over the last few days.

    The temps have been getting quiet warm and do you think this could be a contributing factor at all?

    Sat = 31 Deg – outside the house and 29 deg inside the house.

    Sun = 25 Deg outside and 29 Deg inside the house.

    At this stage the caterpillars on the deck in the castles are doing well:)



    Hi Norm,

    I am miffed at present as the guy who mows the lawns next door to us (he used to mow ours) has SPRAYED around the right of way and SPRAYED ALL the SWAN PLANTS that were growing wildly 🙁  We had left them to grow and was intending on seeing how they would progress. I could kill him right now!! I don’t think that would be the cause though? as the butterfly house is around the back.

    Thanks Norm we will place a thermometer in the house and see what comes from it.

    We have all grown our plants and two of us have brought plants from Kings plant barn in Henderson (which (us) have grown on and not fed to caterpillars) and when I think about it the caterpillars we took from there, some of them felt very thin and limp!  But we didn’t think anything more until we lost most of them. Then we cleared out the butterfly house and cleaned it all out and placed in new plants and only a few of these have made it to pupa stage.

    Everyone is using different raising techniques (IE: containers, castles and plants in homemade cages and butterfly houses. We will know more tomorrow after our meeting when we’ve discussed in depth about the problem. So I will post back here tomorrow or Sunday what we’ve may have found or discovered:)



    It could be worth using a minimum/maximum temperature thermometer to record the hottest part of the day as excessive temperature is also a cause giving the symptoms of ceasing eating and dying.  With a poison problem, as in spray drift, the classic symptom is dropping off the plant and writhing on the ground so that does not sound like the cause.

    There must be a common denominator if others are having the same problem.  Are you all using plants that were shared around or your own individual plants, and is everyone using the same system ie. container system with cut leaves or using potted  plants or sleeving?




    Hi Kate & Jacqui,

    It is more frustrating for us  and we just need to start by removing everything and sterilizing again and starting again with just a few caterpillars.

    They stop eating Kate and just die. Its not a viral disease as they don’t go black or hang by their prolegs. There is no smell at all, no runny frass. Out of 200 caterpillars we’ve only had 5 make it to the pupa stage 🙁

    The yellow admirals did the same thing Jacqui and they were on the deck. So I’m freaking now as I’ve been given some Red Admiral eggs.

    I wonder if its too hot and the heat is causing them to just stop eating and die.



    Oh Charlotte, that must be very upsetting for you and the others who have been experiencing similar problems. Can you tell us a bit more about the deaths? Do they go kind of soft and liquidised and hang by prolegs when dead? Or do they go black and hard? Or just shriveled but otherwise normal-looking?

    So far normal season here – lots and lots of butterflies, a few deaths at each stage, but not very many. I’m in the Waikato.

    What is everyone else finding?



    That’s not good, Charlotte.

    I take it you’re talking about Monarchs only? Are you raising others – and are they having problems too?

    Sad for you, and very frustrating. Hope they thrive on the deck – and have you sterilised the area that you used to use with great success – I saw it a couple of years ago and thought it was a great idea? And then try just one or two there again?

    Hope you get to the bottom of this.

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