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well, they look fairly large and i notice lots of pillar poops on the ground. possibly they are crawling around looking for just the right place to pupate. did they appear to be ready to pupate when you last saw them? they can go quite a distance looking for just the right spot. the other alternative is...well i don't think we want to think about that. sometimes you can track a direction they went by following a line of poops. they poop quite a lot just before they pupate. these are also beautiful caterpillars and these i do get here too.
the dill plants are in a large container so I HOPE they crawled out to some other area and not the other alternative.They stayed down inside the plant mostly so someone hungry would have had to look hard to find them. I wouldn't know what signs to look for to indecate they were about to pupate
Usually they will choose a place in morning sun that is protected like the under the eves of a house. They also like sturdy structures like trellis, railings, fences. It will take them about two weeks this time of year to emerge, so look for them flying about in about 10 days.
I had some go up under the eaves, tan chrysalis on tan brick surface - I planned on 2-3 weeks, but they planned on 5-6. I had some wonder off into the penstemon - green chrysalis that looked just like the seed pods, or a curled leaf. It seems like they pupated faster, 2-3 weeks.
We have had more BST cats on dill and fennel than we can count. They get huge and then disappear. Same with the GF cats on our passion vine. I have looked everywhere I can think of but never find a chrysalis. How far can they travel? Without putting them in cages, I'm wondering if only a very small percentage will survive?
Well, that is nature's math. Any breeding pair of anything need to get two offspring to breeding age to maintain their population. Any more than two, their numbers increase and that is a lucky bonus.
As for the distance the caterpillars travel - I'm not sure, I usually don't find them either. The chrysalis on the wall was was 10 ft horizontal and another 7-8ft vertical. The chrysalis I found in the penstemon patch was 30-35 feet from the dill - quite a long ways for a critter with very short legs. The chrysalis are more likely to be green if attached to a smooth surface and more likely to be tan if attached to a rough surface - and they are well camouflaged either way.
I found a huge Sphinx moth caterpillar chugging (galloping?) along in the middle of a patch of grass - I never did figure out where it was coming from, and I didn't think to let keep going to see how far it got.
Glenna...I don't worry about the Gulf Frits as much because they hide in the vines and flowers; but the others are like sitting ducks for the parasites. They do crawl way off to pupate sometimes. Butterflies in the wild only have a 2-5% chance at making it to adults to mate. That is the reason so many of us do take them in to raise them as cats and protect them until they emerge.
It is a rewarding hobby for me most of the time. Then when I have problems I begin to doubt why I do it...but only have to see a paper wasp grab a caterpillar and I know it counts.
Birds seem to be the main predator of my caterpillars, but one summer I did have problems with wasps. I got a wasp trap - and an oriole feeder that doubles as a wasp trap.
I tried raising caterpillars as a kid, and the parasites were VERY upsetting. I couldn't find a screen fine enough to keep the parasites out - and my parents wouldn't let me bring my menagerie inside. I haven't tried raising caterpillars in captivity since (except for providing host plants for a program at the library).
After a few years of gardening, I've noticed that I have the most luck w/ seeing gulf fritillary caterpillars on my passion vine and monarch caterpillars on my milkweed in the late fall and early spring,, but once the late spring rolls around, I see lots of eggs and little holes in the leaves as evidence something's been eating away, but no cats, so I'm sure the wasps, which are prevalant in the summer here, are probably getting them, but at least I know they'll be some that make it in the fall!