A disastrous end to the butterfly season

I wanted this blog to be only a happy place. Who wouldn’t be happy surrounded by butterflies? But today, I’m feeling down.

This butterfly season (summer of 2014/15) ended in disaster. I don’t think that’s too strong a word for it.

For one thing, every single caterpillar I had since late January has died. Only about a third of them made it to the chrysalis stage. Of these, most never emerged – the chrysalis just gone darker and darker (the wrong colour – not the pretty black that we expect, but a dirty black in streaks around the inside of the chrysalis) and then shriveled or fell off its perch. The one or two butterflies that did emerge were deformed and unable to fly.

It’s clear that they had a disease known, for short, as OE. (It’s full name is Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, and it is actually a protozoan parasite, rather than a virus or bacterium.)  It is common in Monarch butterflies, but this is the first time I have had it wipe out all my caterpillars.

The other thing is that almost all of my swan plants have died. I never managed to get on top of the infestation of oleander aphids, and the plants started getting sick. I don’t know whether the aphids gave the plants a disease or just weakened them to the point they could not resist disease. However, out of 60 plants, I have only about 3 healthy plants (another 3 or 4 might survive, but it’s not looking hopeful).

So, I’m feeling a bit despondent. I pretty much need to start from scratch.

Perhaps once it gets closer to the new butterfly season, my spirits will be lifted to start again.

2 thoughts on “A disastrous end to the butterfly season

  1. Caryl Saint Clair - 4 March 2016

    I know exactly how you feel. I have had some die, not all. You can spray plants with a weak bleach solution so the spores don’t affect the new caterpillars. I have sent hundreds of eggs to the south island plus caterpillars. Last season more than 950 butterflies eclosed in my garden. This year so far over 400 but my poor plants, hundreds in fact eaten bare to the stem. I have to cull eggs which I hate doing. Your video is spectacular. I would like to use it in a talk I am giving soon to 30-40 gardeners. How can I get a copy of it if you agree. Warm regards, Caryl

    1. Monarch - 6 April 2016

      Hi Caryl
      So glad you made it to my website. I’m planning a complete overhaul of it – just juggling which job of many I’m doing first!
      Wow, you do a lot of butterflies! Fantastic. Thanks for your suggestions re OE – I’m doing better this year, though it’s still a bit of a problem.
      Thanks for the positive feedback on my video. Yes, you are welcome to use it. Is that the one I have on YouTube of the butterflies eclosing (“purple background”)? Will it work to show the YouTube video at the session you’re doing? That would be the easiest way. However, if you don’t have internet access on the day, I can get it to you another way. Let me know.
      I had plans to update the video actually, as some parts go a little fast to read the words. If you let me know your timeframe, I’ll see if I’ll be able to update it before you do your talk. Plus I have others in the proverbial pipeline, including one of a caterpillar hatching from its egg and another of a caterpillar forming its chrysalis, which may be of interest.
      Regards
      Kathleen (aka The Crazy Butterfly Woman)

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