For some reason, so far we're not seeing the numbers of Ants, or Asian Paper Wasps, that we usually see at this time. Ants take the butterfly eggs, or the newly-hatched tiny caterpillars, down into their below-ground nests for their young to feed on. Asian Paper Wasps suck out the innards of the bigger caterpillars, in order to feed the protein to their young. Without these predators, so far, the Monarch eggs are hatching and the caterpillars are all growing. It's lovely, but it's tricky because I have just one reasonable plant left over from last season, which went on for 4 months longer than usual. Now the next season has started early, not giving the Swan plants enough time to re-generate.
I have some small plants under cover, trying to keep them away from butterflies until they grow bigger. Trouble is, Monarch butterflies can sense their habitat milkweed plants (Swan Plants in New Zealand) from more than a kilometre away. I have experienced butterflies laying their eggs, on a net covering the plant, and the tiny caterpillars crawling through the net holes onto the plants.
At the moment there are 10 caterpillars on my smallish plant and more on an even smaller plant. What happens as they grow will be interesting.
I need to find more plants.
Click on each picture below, so see a larger size...................