disappearing monarch cats?

charmedSeptember 19, 2010

Hello all. My garden includes lots of native perennials, including a small butterfly weed. I was very excited this year to see so many monarch butterflies around it, and thrilled to find eggs, then baby cats, and then full-grown cats. However, I can't find a chrysalis anywhere near the butterfly weed, and I'm wondering where they all might have gone to pupate. I did take one indoors (along with a black swallowtail cat from the parsley) to raise indoors in a 20 gallon tank. I'm really curious though as to where the cats all went to pupate, as I would much prefer to watch them in their native setting. I've looked on all the plants and shrubs in my small front garden with no luck.

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fighting8r(10 Fort Myers Florida)

They are SOOO hard to find! I am sure they are there though. Then again, every once in awhile when I find one, I can't believe I didnt see it before. Sometimes though they travel pretty long distances so they are not necessarily in the area of their host plants. Happy hunting!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 3:27PM
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heykid(8, San Antonio)

Ditto on above post. The monarch once pupated is the exact shade of the plant leaves and stems. I noticed one of my monarch cats had pupated on a leaf this morning. There was another cat on the same leaf just statring to its process so I decided to leave my gathering alone until this evening. when I went out to check on them I swear that they were gone... I called my husband to help me look for them and he found three of them had just finished in the same area. Sometimes it just takes looking for them from a different angle to see them. I've also found that shaking the branches of the plant ever so slightly brings the little swings into plain sight again. I now have 18 of them in my indoor hatchery and there are still at least 8 more of the cats munching away on the leaves. I even went back to one of my defolinated milkweed plants in my greenhouse and found two more cats that I had missed when I tranfered the cats to the outside plants. These will be our first monarchs hatched out and we are both very excited about the prospect of adding a couple dozen more monarch cats to the great out doors. Love the little gold dots on the crystalys. I had no idea they they would be there....

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 8:54PM
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My suspicion is that most of them have been the victim of predators on the way to their pupation destiny or before.

I have raised monarchs for over 25 years and I have only seen ONE chrysalis in the wild.

I tape paper squares (pieces of mailing labels because they're sturdy) at the top of my mesh cage. When a caterpillar pupates on one, I remove it, tape it up on the kitchen ceiling overhang, then replace the square. every morning the chryaslides are the first thing I see!

note: when I tape the squares inside the cage I double over the tape and place one small piece (scotch tape) on the back of each corner before pressing onto the ceiling. it's easier to remove the squares from inside the cage without disturbing other cats or potentially damaging the other squares. Make sure to remove all exposed ceiling tape so the cats don't get stuck!


    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 12:27PM
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Don't give up looking for them. It's likely there are a few around. Every year we have several Monarch cats that pupate all around our yard. We commonly find them on the eaves of our house and shed, at the tops of door frames, hanging from the fence and arbor and hanging from the rims of pots scattered around our back yard. My husband found one on the door handle of his truck once and, of all places, one hanging from the strap of his sandal that was setting on the patio!

Good luck with your "treasure" hunt!


    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 6:32PM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

I agree with what has been said. It seems that you almost never find one in the wild. I did find a Gulf Frit pupa on the Passionvine this year. Believe it or not, it actually made it to eclosure. It was fairly well hidden. Once, I found a Monarch pupa attached to the rim of a large flower pot on my front porch. That's it for me. Just two in the wild.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 7:09AM
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Thanks y'all! My children and I haven't found any of the monarch pupae (chrysalids? chrysalises?) but in searching we found a chrysalis we didn't recognize, so we did an image search for the caterpillars/butterflies we typically see in the yard and found it was a buckeye. We love those and are hoping to get lucky and be watching when it emerges. This year was a great butterfly year for our yard -- although I didn't specifically plan a butterfly garden, I did try to plant lots of natives and deliberately included some host plants. It's just a small city yard, but it has been incredibly full of bird and 'bug' life this year! I'm already planning more host and nectar plants, as well as seed-producing flowers for the birds, for next spring!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 8:53AM
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