No caterpillars despite epic season last year, what have I done wrong.?

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  • #32840


    Hi, I had an incredible season last year with over 2 dozen successful caterpillars through to monarch butterfly, it was wonderful. I live in the Palmerston North area and I did move over the winter but im still in same area but my swan plants are huge and healthy with lots of flowers with sap or dew, I don’t know if I’ve done something different this summer? My neighbourhood has lots of swan plants stripped by the caterpillars eating, can anyone suggest ideas? I’m still seeing monarchs around, would love some caterpillars,
    Many thanks for any ideas

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  • #32847


    Many thanks for the info. I managed to grab 3 caterpillars late yesterday from local area as the plants were stripped with no other food source left, and now they are loving new food supply, which is really pleasing. I haven’t seen any wasps around the house or neighbourhood, that’s not to say they are not there.

    There are lots of monarchs around the property but none seen near the swan plants which are in a corner of the patio out of direct wind. In my previous house I had the plants right up in the door way/alcove under protection from wind and had over 2 dozen caterpillars. No spray drift from the neighbours, we sprayed small patch of weeds in corner of property but it was household weed killer so not huge spray drift like you see from horticultural blocks.

    Is there a away to attract monarchs as my swan plants are covered in flowers? they are in a huge pot which I can move but due to the size of my caterpillars I would be hesitant to move as they are against brick wall ready to move into chrysalis very soon ( they are big guys !)
    Love to have more caterpillars as I definitely have the food for them, really appreciate your replies,





    Hi Pip,

    It sounds like you’re doing everything right, and I agree with Jacqui that it’s probably wasps taking the eggs and caterpillarsĀ to feedĀ thier young. Any chance you could ask your neighbor for a caterpillar or two, and see what happens to them.

    Keep us posted. I can’t help as Im away on holiday and am shortly going out of range for two weeks. However if still no caterpillars in two weeks I may be able to help. My plants at home are covered in aphids because I decided to leave them and see what happens…’s looking disastrous at this stage and the aphids are decimating the plants. I will be interested to see what has happened when I get back home. If I have caterpillars then I will be happy to have you adopt as many as you can take!! I’m in Milson.




    Hello Pip – that’s interesting! It would be interesting to find out what’s wrong. Do you ever see Monarch butterflies around your plants? If you do, then it could be that there are plenty of wasps around stealing the eggs/small caterpillars.

    To see if that is happening, check your plant out for eggs. You can tie a piece of curtain net over a branch, and see if in a week or two you have caterpillars inside it. That would man they were on the plant (eggs/first instar caterpillars) when you “netted” it.

    Other than that – could it be spraydrift from neighbours?

    The woman who writes the gardening column in the magazine will probably wander in here soon and may be able to advise some more comments.

    It’s not too late! Let’s hope it can get sorted and you have one generation at least.

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