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Poisoned swan plants

Poisoned swan plants

The Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust is warning all butterfly gardeners to be careful when buying plants for the most royal of butterflies, the Monarch.

“Many gardeners right now are getting upset that their caterpillars are dying,” said Jacqui Knight, Secretary of the Trust. “People run out of milkweed (swan plant), and buy new plants from the garden centre as 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 and 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 precious pets.”

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 can find it difficult to sell plants covered with, or damaged by, caterpillars, so through its website they are urging gardeners to plan ahead.
“We urge people to ask if the plants are safe for caterpillars before they buy them – and to contact us if they have issues,” said Jacqui. “Also to plan ahead – now is a great time to be buying seed and planting it. 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 in the season, and making sure that they’ve got enough plants for next year. They’re protecting some of their plants so that Monarchs cannot lay on them. And with management, the plants are lasting several years, so there are cost savings too.”

Information about how to produce plants fit for the most royal of butterflies can be found on the website See... www.monarch.org.nz .


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