Things go wonderfully well in our indoor rearing area and then disaster happens. Caterpillars die. Chrysalises pupate deformed. Adults don’t emerge or emerge crippled. It’s easy to want to give up. Hang in there!
Monarch butterfly caterpillars eating Giant Milkweed
Remember, nature is against you. It keeps a species alive by killing most of the individuals in the species. As we raise them indoors, we are fighting nature even as we are aiding it.
Monarch butterfly caterpillar eating a milkweed flower
When disaster happens, remember that you can’t always win. Nature is stronger than we are. We must fight and trick nature into keeping more alive than it intends.
Monarch butterfly caterpillar eating milkweed
What to do when disaster happens?
1. Take photos – this helps you keep a record for your own knowledge, gives you something to show others to obtain their opinion/thoughts, and will help you as you learn signs and symptoms of diseases and pesticides.
2. Clean up – euthanize sick and dying critters.
3. Disinfect – using a bleach solution, disinfectant wipes, and/or hospital disinfectant, wash everything that your critters touched and that you touched after handling critters. Remember cell phones, light switches, even the handle and lid of your bleach bottle. Scissors, faucet handles, and so many other things could have been touched. Pathogens can be nearly anywhere if a bad outbreak of disease happened.
4. Stop and think – can you figure out what happened? Share your story and photos of the problem on a Facebook group to obtain thoughts from others who raise caterpillars inside. Sometimes there is something we can do to prevent it from happening again. Sometimes not.
5. Remember – nature kills 98% before they become adults. If you lose a few, you’re still doing better than nature. Nature’s intent is to keep the species alive, not individual butterflies.
You CAN do it!
Can pets with tick medication and caterpillars co-exist in the same home? Yes, they can. These medications are actually pesticides/insecticides. They are safe for mammals but not for insects.
Grim and his family
The different active ingredients in different brands work by various methods. What kills with green vomit is a different ingredient than the one that keeps them from pupating properly.
Click here to learn more about flea/tick medication and caterpillars.
In nature, butterflies have so many enemies, from egg through adult. Why?
Florida predatory stink bugs and a Sleepy Orange butterfly caterpillar
Math is the answer. Simple math.
Check it out here.
NPV Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus
Gulf Fritillary butterfly caterpillar
It’s the time of year when common milkweed has nice big leaves. That means it is time to cut, disinfect, and freeze milkweed leaves for emergency times. Check it out by clicking on this sentence.
Freeze milkweed leaves
for emergency use
Those of us in the south wish we had common milkweed leaves to freeze. Have you frozen milkweed leaves? Which species of milkweed did you freeze?
It depends. One of the most popular pesticides around is one used for the express purpose of killing caterpillars. It is 100% organic and can be used on plants that are certified organic.
Monarch caterpillar killed by
an approved organic pesticide
Read more by clicking on this sentence.
Organic pesticides are as deadly to caterpillars as non-organic pesticides.
Dogbane is a plant that so strongly resembles milkweed that many people, including those experienced in the field, can be fooled it it. Monarch caterpillars will not eat it.
Dogbane is on the left Milkweed is on the right Monarch host plant
Dogbane is related to milkweed and the Milkweed Tussock Moth (actually a tiger moth but more often called tussock moth) will eat it.
Dogbane also has white sap that can harm eyes, making it even more difficult to tell them apart. Click on this sentence to learn how to tell them apart.
If you’re tired of caterpillars dying from disease pathogens on the leaves they eat, it’s time to consider disinfecting their food before you feed it to them.
NPV Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus
Dead/Melted Gulf Fritillary butterfly caterpillar
It’s easy and kills the pathogens that kill our caterpillars.
Check it out here.
If you like to use a living plant,
you can disinfect or bleach an
entire plant for caterpillars.
It’s cold out there. It’s too cold for butterflies to fly, caterpillars to crawl, chrysalises to emerge, or eggs to hatch. So where are butterflies and moths?
Simple! Many are right there in your garden, right in front of your eyes.
Tawny Emperor butterfly caterpillars
Spend the winter in diapause
Check it out by clicking here.
It is that time of year! Many people are now tagging Monarch butterflies to help with the study on migration.
Tagging a Monarch butterfly
If you would like to learn how to tag Monarch butterflies, you can learn more about it by clicking on this sentence.
A tag fell off
this Monarch butterfly
There are common mistakes people make when tagging butterflies. Read some about those mistakes by clicking on this sentence.
A tagged Monarch butterfly
We tend to notice what is bright and colorful but many of our beautiful butterflies are tiny.
Ceraunus Blue Butterfly
Phaon Crescent Butterfly
Great Purple Hairstreak
Pearl Crescent Butterfly