So glad I planted False Nettle!

caterwallinMay 26, 2012

Hot dog! I just went outside after the rain let up and looked at the FN plants. There must have been a Red Admiral nest on almost all of the plants! I now have my work cut out for me, as there are about 50 caterpillars in my plastic containers here in the house where I'm going to raise them. I'm not raising anything else right now so thought I'd have the time to devote to these guys. It's a kind I've never raised before, so I decided to collect as many as I could find. If I recall, they're not hard to raise and don't take a lot of work like Monarchs do, so I'm expecting everything to go fine. I also don't think that they're plagued with diseases like Monarchs can be sometimes. I'm not dissing Monarchs, but I'm sure those of you who have raised them would agree that they require more time devotion than other kinds.

Miss Sherry, if you're reading this, (or anyone else who wants to answer), when you find RA nests and find that the cats have been parasitized, do you find the cocoons inside the nest with the caterpillars or on the outside of the leaves? I didn't notice any offhand, but then I didn't open up every nest either. I'm just hoping that all of these beauties will be okay. I'm so excited about raising something new!


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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The little white cocoons are inside the nests, with the remains of the dead RA cat next to it, Cathy. I always break the cocoon in half so it won't go on to make a wasp and parasitize more red admirals. Maybe that's why there's been such an explosion of RAs this year? :)

They're very easy to raise, and false nettles stay fresh in water for a long time, which is good. They don't stay in their chrysalis too long, either. I just love the coloring of adult red admirals - they're beautiful, so congrats, congrats!


    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 6:49PM
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Sherry, Thanks for the congrats and also for the info on the cocoons. Darn, I hope that there aren't any inside of the nests. Now I'm wondering if I should tear every nest open to check on that. That wouldn't make me very happy if I have the start of those darn wasps and if they'd come out of their cocoons and parasitize cats that are in the containers. I agree with your breaking the cocoons in half because I'm sure that there are a lot more wasps around than there are butterflies. I'd like to think that our eliminating the parasitoids has to do with an increase in the population of butterflies. :) Oh and yes, I'm with you and think that the coloring of Red Admirals is beautiful!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 7:35PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Red admiral cats tie their nests up loosely, not too tight, Cathy. If you see any that look like they've been sewn tight, that's a good sign there's a wasp larvae or cocoon in there. I always just peek in, open the nest as little as possible. If there's no wormy looking larva or cocoon, just the RA cat, I usually bring it in to raise myself, and they quickly seal the nest back in their loose fashion.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 8:01PM
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That's very interesting! I'll have to look over all of them tomorrow and see if any are like that.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 9:07PM
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Tony G(5a)

Thanks for all the info sherry...My false nettle is really starting to take off and with all the admirals in town it's only a matter of time before there are some eggs/cats.

after all your helpful info, I may have to try raising a few. Thanks! Tony

PS Cathy, congrats on all your new babies!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 10:47PM
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Every single RA cat I had this year was parasitized. I didn't know until I opened the nest to check on them - usually 1st or 2nd instar cats, and found the tiny white cocoon, that they had been attacked. It happened early on in the RA cat's life, and not later when the cats had gotten some size on them.

I loved raising them, and raised about 50 myself, Cathy, 2 years ago. Have fun and I hope you have nice, healthy RAs!


    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 7:09AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I forgot to tell you, Cathy, sometimes there are things in the nest other than an RA cat or a cocoon. I find spiders and other types of caterpillars frequently, especially at this time of the year after the red admirals are through, for a while, that is. Old RA nests are very popular!


    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 11:23AM
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Tony, Thanks, and I'll keep my fingers crossed that you get some RA babies to raise.

Susan, I'm really sorry to hear about all of your cats being parasitized. Ever since starting to raise butterfly cats, I've gotten to dislike wasps and flies even more than I already had.

Sherry, I'll keep that in mind and so it won't come as too much of a shock if a spider jumps out at me when I open a nest sometime. ;-)


    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 4:22PM
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