Pets, or pests?
Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust
for immediate release
Pets, or pests?
Each year the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust gets cries of help from Monarch butterfly lovers who have unwittingly ‘poisoned’ their caterpillars.
“People run out of food, go to their garden centre, and take home Swan plants that have been sprayed,” said Jacqui Knight, spokesperson for the Trust. “Garden centres aren’t aware of the dissatisfaction and distress caused by the sale of Swan Plants which have been sprayed with pesticides.”
The Trustees understand the difficulties that growers face.
“Most growers do not have the resources to grow seedlings under cover. Growing them in an organic, open-air environment means that plants would be partly eaten, and perhaps not saleable,” she said. “But we are working with the members of the NGIA to see if their members can’t treat Swan Plants as if they were vegetable seedlings.”
She said that garden centre staff often were not aware whether the plants have been sprayed or not - and if they have, what with.
“So shoppers often are told that the plants are quite safe for caterpillars.”
We suggest to Monarch lovers that they do not go to a garden centre and buy plants as "food" for their caterpillars. We encourage them to buy and plant their Swan Plants earlier in the season, so that they are well grown when the Monarchs lay their eggs. And if they buy new plants, that they keep them caterpillar-free, and rain/hose washed, for as long as they can.
PS Swan Plants were once classified as Asclepias, but were reclassified in 2001 as Gomphocarpus, also part of the Asclepiadeae family. Also, the species with the true 'swan-shaped' seed pods is known as fruticosus - not physocarpa as was once their classification. Kew Bulletin 2001 – copies available by request from the MBNZT, Jacqui@monarch.org.nz