It may be midwinter, but the Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust is urging all butterfly gardeners to think about spring, and the most royal of butterflies, the Monarch.
“Earlier this year many gardeners were upset that their caterpillars were dying,” said Jacqui Knight, Secretary of the Trust. “People run out of milkweed (swan plant), and buy new plants from the garden centre for food for their caterpillars.”
She said that in many cases plants have come straight from growers and have been sprayed so that they are in pristine condition.
They are intended to grown on in the garden, not used as caterpillar food.
“Both adults and children contact us, distraught to see their caterpillars dying,” she says. “In many cases their caterpillars are their pets. How would you feel if you poisoned your dog?”
One enthusiast lost over 100 butterflies because she was told the plants she bought were ‘pesticide-free’. Laboratory tests proved otherwise.
The Trust acknowledges that growers would find it difficult to sell plants covered with, or damaged by, caterpillars, so through its website they are urging gardeners to plan ahead.
“Now is a great time to be buying seed and planting it,”
said Jacqui. “It makes a wonderful school holiday project – and children really enjoy seeing their plants grow so that in the spring they can plant them outside.”
“More and more people are planting earlier, and making sure that they’ve got enough plants for the season. They’re protecting some of their plants so that Monarchs also lay elsewhere. And with management, the plants are lasting several years, so there are cost savings too.”
A fact sheet about how to produce plants fit for the most royal of butterflies can be found on the website www.monarch.org.nz.