Trouble Switching Cats: Tropical to Common?

treehugger101July 11, 2014

I picked up 10 Monarch cats yesterday. 2 were DOA. All are very tiny. They were raised on Tropical Milkweed. I switched them to Common Milkweed which is all I have available. I selected young fresh leaves at the very top of the plants. The "breeder" said it would be no problem but none of the cats are eating the Common. Has anyone else had this problem? I am very concerned I will lose them all. Thanks for your help.


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I have picked new top leaves from several locations thinking maybe it was contaminated by traffic. No go. They stopped eating yesterday night. How long can they go without eating before they die? They are sitting very still on the leaves but no movement and no eating. Can anyone help me?

I did move them from outside to indoors (room temp 70). Would that stop them from eating entirely?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 9:06AM
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Maybe they are getting ready to molt. They should molt sometime today and begin eating. A cat will usually go without eating for a day until its new skin and head are formed and it can molt into the next instar. A cat will molt every two days or so, with the 5th instar lasting around 5 days.
Cats that are in the molting process, sitting very still on leaves, should never be touched or moved.
Hope this helps...


    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 11:25AM
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Well, the kids finally took to the Common milkweed. Oddly, they all ganged up on one clump and left the other clumps alone. I wonder if there is something on the others. We have farms here using GMO crops and pesticides. I selected from wild areas but maybe the pesticides got into the water table or something. In any case, I will pick from the area they like. Is it better for the Monarch population to raise some butterflies to the laying stage then raise cats again or just release these guys when they emerge?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:59AM
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I would just release them, as keeping thru the whole cycle of mating and laying eggs may produce inbred cats. It's likely all the cats you are raising are from one ELF.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 8:25PM
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I did not think about that. I purchased these to try and repopulate our area. I really don't know if they are from the same female. They were at least one instar apart in size. Anyway, if it is safer to release them, I will. What is ELF? Something laying female?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:12PM
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Egg Laying Female :)

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 2:48AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Purchasing monarchs with the idea of repopulating your area is a waste of your $. Since they migrate, releasing a thousand in your area would not affect how many you see the following year.

Plant milkweed and help the eggs that ELFs leave you.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 3:28AM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

I'm not super sure how great most butterfly breeders are--it's one thing to collect one female (though hopefully not one that is a threatened or endangered species--leave that to the professionals).

Do they control for disease? Do they make sure that they aren't in-bred, and then there's the loss of natural selection.

Definitely plant milkweed next year; there are many wonderful types for our gardens, and you will have the special fun of finding the eggs/caterpillars.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 7:44AM
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I am planting some milkweed this year but it will be at least a year before there are enough plants to attract them. I am frantically planting nectar-rich plants for the their long journey and gathering seeds from John on this forum (thanks sooo much!) for next year. That's all long term. Short term was buying some cats for raising and release. At least mine will not have fallen prey to anything. It may not be much in the scheme of things, but I would like to think it is better than doing nothing.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 11:44AM
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By the way, I live in a rural farm area. There are thousands of common milkweed plants and queen anne's lace everywhere. I am trying to find one egg or cat Monarch or BWT but so far, nothing. It's depressing. I could cover my property with more milkweed but if there are no monarchs, there will be no eggs/cats.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 4:30PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Unfortunately, dealing with breeders can be worse than doing nothing.

Sometimes it takes only one plant to attract mama monarch. Just depends on which way she flys that day and what she likes. The only time I've ever found an egg on my whorled milkweed was before I put it in the ground. Pot was sitting on the rail of my deck and a monarch laid eggs on it.

Remember there are lots of other butterflies out there that can also use your help. Figure out what flys in your area and plant hostplants for them. That way, when monarchs are not finding you someone else is. Last year, I had 2 monarchs and zero red admirals but I got to raise lots of BSTs and GSTs. This year, I've found zero BSTs and GSTs but I'm swimming in monarchs and red admrials. I also just saw an unidentified skipper on my switchgrass so I'm hopeful she was laying some eggs.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 4:50PM
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Kcclark, what part of Ohio are you in? I'm in Cincy and I have yet to see a monarch. Thanks

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 9:25AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I'm a little north of Columbus. Keep finding more monarchs when I bring in milkweed to feed the monarchs I already have.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 10:15PM
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