Newbie? Help sick bsc.

candlecampSeptember 18, 2013

I am new to this butterfly raising. I have successfully raised from eggs five bsc to their last in-stars. I ran out of parsley plants on Sunday and had to buy organic plants at the grocery store. The plants said they were organic. I put my little caterpillars on the new plants and was devastated to find them all curled up on the bottom of the container dying. They were fine 12 hours ago and getting ready to pupate shortly. They are oozing and still move when I touch them with a brush. I don't know what I did but am so upset about this that I don't know if I will want to try this again in the spring. I have previously raised my first cats to butterfly's. It was so exciting when I found these eggs on my parsley and the have been healthy up to this. Please advise ASAP with any diagnosis. Thanks carol.

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sandpapertongue(7a VA)

I'm so sorry to hear about your cats. It sounds like the parsley was probably treated with Bt, which is considered an organic pesticide. Bt doesn't hurt people, but it does kill caterpillars, but it be used in plants labeled "organic". How sad! I would be heartbroken too.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's anything you can do for your cats now. Sometimes store bought parsley is safe, and sometimes it isn't, and there really isn't any way to know for certain.

Maybe next year you can grow some parsley from seed. In the ground, it can grow big and fast and will provide plenty of safe food for cats. And remember, if you didn't bring these cats in, 99% of them wouldn't have made it anyway. Nature is harsh for these guys.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 7:53PM
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weed30

I'm sorry to hear about your babies :( You can definitely plant more, but as I found out, the more you plant, the more eggs you get, and then you might run out anyway. I have had 100% luck with organic parsley from Whole Foods. I still soak it/rinse it anyway, because I have read that you can rinse off BT. Not sure if this is true...so either Whole Foods doesn't get BT treated parsley, or rinsing does work.

Another idea is to grow parsley indoors. I think you can even do this in a basement if you want to invest in grow lights.

Don't give up....it's just too rewarding to raise them and set them free, as you know.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 10:04PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Candle camp,
I agree with sandpaper. There is nothing you can do and no way you could have known what would happen. I also second the suggestion that you grow your own parsley from seed. Dill and fennel are also easy to start from seed, and sometimes the females prefer laying eggs on one plant over another in any particular year. In Maryland your climate should be temperate enough that those plants won't be overheated, either. There is also a native wildflower called Golden Alexander or Zizia something that is a host plant for BST. In my garden, they preferred the culinary herbs. Good luck, and don't give up. You can also help the butterflies and other pollinators by simply planting lots of nectar sources and host plants and letting them fend for themselves. Then you don't have to be so closely attached and aware of mishaps. Though, their survival is much better with your protection. Stay in touch.

Martha

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 10:15PM
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dr.liz(7 NJ)

My sympathies on the loss of your cats. It must feel awful to see you all those babies on the bottom of the container like that. Don't give up though. Older and wiser for next year.

I had a problem this year with running out of food. I have been advised to plant rue, since it is bushy and will provide lots of greenery for the cats to eat.

I also invested in some sleeves made out of mesh. My plan for next year is to shield some of the plants with the sleeve so they won't have eggs laid on them. That way I will have some bushy plants available to feed any cats that I bring indoors to raise.
Liz

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 11:13PM
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mechelle_m(z9 TX)

I am so sorry to hear about your caterpillars. I have had experiences where the cats survive to chrysalis, then have problems eclosing. I had bst cats pupate one on top of each other, 3 deep and the first one to pupate was the first to try to eclose, he was not able to get out of the chrysalis. Sometimes, no matter what you do, they just won't survive, but they do have a much better chance at survival when we bring them inside and nurture them.

You can also plant a small bed of carrots. The black swallowtail will eat the green tops. I haven't seen momma bst lay her eggs on the carrot, so you don't have to worry much about the food running out. The cats will eat it and it comes in handy to have on hand when they have exhausted the dill, fennel, parsley and rue.

Keep trying! It is definitely worth the effort.

Mechelle

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 11:34PM
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terrene(5b MA)

So sorry to hear about your cats! I know it must feel very disheartening to lose them, especially because you were trying to help them, not hurt them. With raising butterflies, there are losses every year and some of them are due to my fumble fingers or mishaps. Nevertheless the rewards far outweigh the disappointments.

I 2nd the suggestion that you plant some rue. It is perennial and takes a couple years to get big, but it is so bushy and hardy that you will never run out of food. A cat raised on parsley might be reluctant to switch at first, but they will when they're hungry enough. It also attracts Giant Swallowtails!

I have seeds available if any one is interested - can send them for postage. Just send me an email and include your email address.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 3:28AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I have parsley seeds, though they are widely available and probably cheaper to buy local than pay postage. What else do you grow in your yard? Do you need any different varieties of nectar sources. I've been saving seeds from my zinnias, which are big favorites for all kinds of pollinators, and I'm gradually expanding my numbers and diversity of perennial nectar plants as well. I'm realizing that my garden is actually a bit heavy on the late summer/autumn blooms when it comes to perennials. Maybe things will bloom earlier when they are well established and if we have a warmer spring and summer next year.

Good luck, and let us know if we can help in any way.

Martha

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 8:05AM
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candlecamp

Thanks to all who responded ! I feel so much better knowing that there are others out there who have been through the same thing. I will definetly take all of your suggestions for next year. Now that I have some experience and know where to get a quick answer to my ?,s I feel confident that I will once again enjoy this beautiful miracle of metamorphosis. Thanks to all of you!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 12:33PM
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hawaiiponder34

candlecamp, I am saddened to read your post. I had similar experience earlier with my monarch cats. I bought some host plants from home depot ( plant cuttings), and my caterpillars, half of it wriggled and curled up in the bottom of the container....yeah, painful to see..now I do make sure I have host plants from trusted places where they don't use pesticides.I suggest plant your own host plants from seeds? I mean plant a lot!! same thing with monarchs, more host plants, more of them come to you. goodluck!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 5:32PM
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melanie_in_allen(8)

A lot of people have already responded but this time of year I depend on nursery grown rue. Most of them seem to have it in stock and so it is easy to supplement with when needed. I live in texas so I don't know if this is a common plant in others areas of the country or not. And yes... Most of us have lost caterpillars but we all learn and as someone already said you save more overall then you lose.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 9:55PM
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