This has been a very sad and exhausting week for me, and my butterfly project.
As of my writing earlier this week, I believed that the cause of my caterpillars sickness was pesticide poisoning, now I believe it was NPV, which is virus that is fairly common in caterpillars, and can wipe out any critter that comes in contact with it. I will not go into detail about it here, but I encourage you to look it up, and familiarize yourself with signs and symptoms if you are raising large numbers of caterpillars in captivity.
I ended up contacting the U of M Monarch lab, and here is what I learned....
Raising large numbers of caterpillars in captivity can be deadly if too many are too close together. It’s recommended that cats are kept in individual containers, or no more than 2-3 together, to minimize contamination if one becomes ill.
Any caterpillar that shows any signs of illness, green goo, poor appetite, unexplained behavior (IE writhing as though in pain) should immediately be removed and isolated if not already.
Anything that that caterpillar may have touched, enclosures, milkweed, other cats, even a handlers hands needs to be carefully sterilized before any further use.
Also remove any Chrysalides that are in the enclosure as the adult butterfly can carry the virus, and spread it wherever it lands....YIKES!
NPV and other viruses are fairly common in caterpillar populations, and anyone that is raising large numbers of caterpillars should expect to deal with it at some point.
So I learned a very sad, hard lesson. After having to freeze about 2 dozen caterpillars, including 3 that were in J’s and spending several hours disinfecting three enclosures with bleach, and giving away about a dozen caterpillars to a fellow butterfly lady I hope I am past this crisis. I am frustrated, and a little scared to start up operation again, but I will be much more careful in the future, and vigilant in my watch for any trouble.
So, will let you know what happens next! Stay tuned.
#save the monarch