- Our weather is warming in New Zealand and a few Monarch Butterflies can be seen flying about on sunny days. It's not yet warm enough for female Monarchs to be seen laying eggs on milkweed leaves (we call our milkweed, Swanplant) however that will start happening in a few weeks time.
As each new season approaches I become quite excited. It's such a thrill to see eggs, then caterpillars, then chrysalis', then butterflies emerging.
Our main problem, for Monarchs in New Zealand, is wasps - Asian Paper Wasps, to be precise. Asian Paper Wasps feed on the protein of the caterpillars to give to their own young. They suck the innards from a Monarch caterpillar and the poor thing doesn't stand a chance. You see the wasps constantly patrolling milkweed leaves for eggs and caterpillars. Unless you place the eggs under cover and raise the caterpillars under cover, there will be no butterflies. The wasps clean off the plants very quickly. It's quite shocking at how fast a wasp works. A milkweed plant can be covered in Monarch caterpillars, then have none at all within minutes, after a patrolling wasp has done it's worst. Even if your caterpillars are outside and under cover, and one of them climbs up the net covering on the inside, a wasp will suck out it's innards through the netting. I have seen that happen and is why I raise my caterpillars indoors.
Another problem is ants, which I have seen carrying tiny caterpillars down into their nests underground. Then there are earwigs, shield bugs and praying mantis - all prey on Monarch eggs and caterpillars and we get plenty of them all.
Having raised my eggs/caterpillars/chrysalis/butterflies, my most fun part is in the little photo shoot we have before they fly off to their butterfly life. Once their wings are well dry, the butterfly is still quiet and I find they easily 'walk' onto my fingers. I carry them gently outside and place them in a location to take photos. I love it when the butterfly turns its head to look at me, like a kind of recognition.
The next best part is when they fly for the first time. Up, up, the butterfly will go and then it does a long glide. Awwww, we love that part and you know your little charge is doing well and will fulfill its butterfly purpose.
Below are a few photos I have taken during some of my butterfly photoshoots.
Every one of these butterflies flew off to it's butterfly life, quite magnificently, after the photos were taken.