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Caring for monarch caterpillars

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bloominnana blog
Joined: 7/22/2007
Location: Eastern NC
Posts: 6
Posted: Jul/22/2007 9:44 AM PST

I am doing my best to help these 23 caterpillars on their journey to becoming Monarch butterflies. I discovered them yesterday on my only dill plant. I went to my favorite nursery and purchased some curled parsley plants to supplement the dill and planted them in the same large pot. I got a bonus with the parsley plants...3 more caterpillars! I cannot believe how much the caterpillars change even overnight. I have turned a tomato cage upside down and put fiberglass screen around it to be able to show my grandchildren the amazing transformation of these caterpillars. I have tied the top with string to enclose them. In my research, this seems to be all I need to do. Does anyone have experience or knowledge that can benefit these creatures?
MamaBearBSA photos
Joined: 8/14/2002
Location: Altoona, Iowa (near Des Moines)
Posts: 4992
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Posted: Jul/22/2007 10:19 AM PST

My experience tells me that if you found them on dill they are swallow tail caterpillars and will be perfectly happy on the dill. Monarch caterpillars are only found on milkweed. They do look rather similar (I made the same mistake my first time too ). They will need some sturdy branches with a little cover to go into their crysillis. Your tomato cages may provide this for them. Do not assist them in any way once they go into their crysillis. Even if it appears that they are struggling do not help. They need this effert to get the blood pumping from their body into their wings. If you help them you will actually kill them with love. Litterally. They also have to sit and fan their wings for a little to dry them before they can fly so don't be scared if they don't fly off right away. These are monarch caterpillars...

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MamaBearBSA photos
Joined: 8/14/2002
Location: Altoona, Iowa (near Des Moines)
Posts: 4992
Moderator
Posted: Jul/22/2007 10:24 AM PST

THese are swallow tail caterpillars...

See how easy it can be to miss identify them.

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yardgranny6 blog photos
Joined: 7/05/2007
Location:
Posts: 4557
Moderator
Posted: Jul/22/2007 11:27 AM PST

Good luck with your swallowtail caterpillers and they most likely will be the black swallowtail. I am going to attempt to watch them grow this year as well.
We will have to compare notes. Check my blog site 'yardgranny6' and look at the photos of butterfly cages that were made by a friend. I hope to make the large one to go over my fennel. Linda B from SC
poeticpeony blog photos
Joined: 4/04/2006
Location: NE Ohio, deck chuckin' fool
Posts: 9437
Moderator
Posted: Jul/22/2007 12:07 PM PST

Oh, how cool! I have some milkweed out back that I scattered a few years ago so I'll have to go see what's happening out there.
Thanks for sharing about the cages and stuff.
techsangirl photos
Joined: 7/22/2007
Location: McKinney, TX
Posts: 5
Posted: Jul/22/2007 1:19 PM PST

Congrats on the caterpillars! Black Swallowtails use dill, fennel, and parsley as their host plants-they are able to process one of the aromatic compounds in those plants, unlike many other insects.

You'll see them get big, and then they'll get really still. You'll think you killed them, but watch. They'll discharge a good bit of waste, then "string up" where they curl into a small c-shape. Within about two days of stringing up, they'll go into their chrysalis. From what we've seen (my four-year old and me!), they eclose, or hatch, about 10-12 days after that.

Crazy thing-if you see any late fall, before it freezes, they'll likely hibernate! We had some turn into chrysalises (?) last October, and right when I thought they were done for, they hatched this June!
bloominnana blog
Joined: 7/22/2007
Location: Eastern NC
Posts: 6
Posted: Jul/22/2007 8:19 PM PST

Thanks to everyone today for their help with the caterpillars. It is my first experience with any caterpillars. I will know now they will be swallowtails and not monarchs....but no matter which, they will still be a pleasure to watch and release safely back to nature.
techsangirl photos
Joined: 7/22/2007
Location: McKinney, TX
Posts: 5
Posted: Jul/27/2007 9:06 PM PST

Any new flutterbys?
spiceoflife blog photos
Joined: 7/30/2007
Location: Suburb of Boston, Massachusetts
Posts: 698
Posted: Jul/30/2007 6:31 AM PST

I found a Monarch caterpillar on some milkweed in my parent's yard when I was about 10. I brought it inside the house, gave it new milkweed leaves every day and watched it eat and grow. It eventually turned into a chrysalis that was absolutely beautiful, starting out sort of pale green and eventually becoming translucent just before the butterfly emerged. When I released it, it flew up and landed on my face. I was startled and shooed it away. My folks say it gave me a kiss thank you and goodbye. :-) It's one of my most vivid memories as a child. Please post pictures. I haven't seen a monarch around my area in several years. I've started planting milkweed to see if I can encourage them to return.

Take care.
RKayne blog photos
Joined: 11/09/2006
Location:
Posts: 4090
Moderator
Posted: Jul/30/2007 10:40 AM PST

Swallowtails are endangered in many areas so I have found myself without parsley for years here and there as they take it, lol. Price we pay for the beauty! They do like Rue as well, these are the blue ones! The parsley creates Yellow. I am not sure (I had so many one year the arboretum came out and collected them, I didn't have enough for them to eat and they wanted to start a breeding program with them!) but I think that fennel makes the white ones.
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