Container raised Monarchs

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  • #33131


    As I had only one medium common swanplant and 2 curassavica the food ran out pretty quickly for this generation of caterpillars and I resorted to container raising them. Because the Monarchs were in full laying frenzy just before complete defoliation of the plants I ended up with 50 odd caterpillars to raise, mostly big ones which I fed zucchini after they turned their noses up at Shinus molle leaves.

    Any smaller cats were put onto baby plants I kept buying until I felt they were big enough for the zucchini treatment. (5th instar)

    I was expecting the large cats to pupate quite quickly, as zucchini isn’t a favourite food, but they ate for days and days, I thought usually the period of 5th instar is usually only 4/5 days, but these held on for 6-8 days!

    They seemed to grow well, and mature nicely, but now they are all beginning to pupate, they seem really quite undersized, and I feel as though I’ve done them a disservice.

    A couple have failed to  throw off the shed skins after forming the pupa, and when I flicked it off, the pupa seems a little malformed.

    So, looks like they will possibly turn out to be wee butterflies – probably not worth tagging –  if they hatch properly at all.

    I have 16 common swanplants potted up and growing on inside, about 7 self seeded little ones I have yet to pot up and grow on, and 3 punnets of 3 other varieties hopefully germinating as we speak.

    My big lesson through all of this is to be ready next season with as many milkweed as possible, with an additional area of swanplants which is sealed off from the Monarchs so I can introduce the plants as I need them later on in the season, and hopefully keep the food supply going right through, and avoid the famine status of this year.

    It has been amazing to be able to observe them at very close quarters though, and I’ve had one shed its skin while on my hand – an accident, I picked it up off the ground as I thought it was dead –    that was very funny to watch.

    As my plants became innundated with caterpillars and eggs, I saw one small caterpillar which had an egg laid on its head, it must have gotten in the way at exactly the wrong moment! Also one small cat was observed eating a Monarch egg.

    When the Monarchs gave up on my biggest swanplant, they continued laying a lot of eggs on the flax plant beside it.

    One of the earliest caterpillars pupated into a large chrysalis, and he was a lovely big butterfly, I think because of his sheer weight he fell straight out of the chrysalis, and I had to rescue him off the floor, so he spent a fair time on my finger, straightening out his wings and zipping up his proboscis, and he used these kind of furry paddle kind of things by his mouth, what on earth are they??

    So, lots learned, and hopefully no more (or not much) container raising Monarchs in my future!



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  • #33132


    Some interesting observations, BlueSkyBee! Fascinating, isn’t it.

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