Not everything works according to plan every time, and the same is true
of raising caterpillars; several things can go wrong. Here are a few of
I've raised lots of caterpillars in the same container with their friends, and all
was well, until I came home one day and found two of my chrysalides
chewed up. I was fuming mad, but I still snapped this one photo (left)
of the bad bad caterpillar chewing on the chrysalis. If you only have one creature per container, you
completely avoid this problem.
Another reason to keep your critters separated is
disease. You know that people can sometimes pass various bacteria,
viruses, and parasites on to other people (so was your hands often!) The
same can happen with your caterpillars. It's better to have one isolated
dead caterpillar than to lose your whole batch, so if you can, house
them separately, and disinfect the container after each use.
This sulphur caterpillar (It was an Orange-barred or Cloudless, but I
forget which now.) [above on the right] started to make a chrysalis, and
never got past the stage in the photo. A couple of days later it was
obviously dead, so I plucked it off into a paper towel, bagged it, and
disposed of it. If you end up with a dead caterpillar, chrysalis, or
butterfly, use a disposable something other than your bare hands to pick
it up. Put the remains in a disposable container - I use a couple of
plastic grocery bags, - tie it shut,
and throw it away. Do NOT put the remains outside - that can
spread the infection to the rest of your butterflies. Remember to wash
you hands very well after touching any living thing, particularly before
touching another. You don't want to be the hand that passes the germ
from one of your caterpillars to another.
There's a protozoa called OE
(Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) that can cause all sorts of problems for
caterpillars and butterflies, and probably caused the one above to fail
to chrysalize. A few years ago, I saw a butterfly with
wrinkled wings that couldn't fly, so I looked up what could cause that. OE
was the answer in an online paper by Jacob Groth, but the link stopped
working so I removed it.
If that's not enough for you, there are
parasitic wasps out there too.
Don't let all that scare you. When all goes well,
and it often does, you'll end up with a beautiful butterfly: