Butterflies contract dreadful diseases. These diseases are a challange when rearing butterflies!
WHERE DOES DISEASE COME FROM?
Disease can come from contaminated food, from inside the egg the adult laid, from the surface of the egg
the adult laid, or even from the nursery and gardening store! Mold or mildew from old food in the rearing
container can cause problems.
Disease is in nature. When a diseased caterpillar walks across leaves, dies on the leaves, or possibly
an adult butterfly lay eggs on the leaves, that disease is often waiting on the leaf for the first caterpillar
to eat. At that point, the caterpillar now has the disease. If you cut their food and bring it in to feed
your caterpillars and your hands are contaminated, you can spread disease on the cut food. If you suspect
disease is on the cut food you are feeding to your caterpillars, simply wash your leaves in a bleach/water
mixture made of 90% water and 10% bleach. Be sure to rinse very well and allow the leaves to dry off before
feeding them to your caterpillars. Mold and mildew in the container can cause bacteria problems in your caterpillars.
If a female butterfly is diseased, often disease particles (protozoan spore or virus particle) will be either on
or in the egg. Remember, the first thing the caterpillar eats is its eggshell. When the caterpillar eats the contaminated
eggshell, it will contract the disease. If the egg has the disease on the surface,
there is a good chance of washing it off with a bleach solution.
Simply soak the eggs in a 98% water/2% bleach solution for thirty seconds. Rinse thoroughly!
If the disease is IN the egg, there is nothing you can do.
NURSERY AND GARDENING STORE
Some diseases are purchased at your local nursery or gardening store! None of us like to take a bite of green
pepper or ear of corn only to see half a caterpillar left. Gardens, fields, even forests are sprayed with
various chemicals and diseases.
WHEN A TRACE OF DISEASE IS PRESENT
In nature, some species of moths and butterflies almost always have a trace of disease. One such disease is
the protozoan disease, nosema. Nosema is present in 10% - 80% of the Moth Helicoverpa zea. Butterflies and moths
can do very well with traces of disease. When stress occurs, however, the disease often takes over and causes major
health problems and often death. From watching the caterpillar or adult we can rarely tell if they have a
disease unless it is active and causing problems. Even then, problems are often undetected for a long time and
often problems are never detected as disease. Instead, the person rearing diseased caterpillars assume they have
'done something wrong'. When raising your caterpillars, try to avoid situations which cause stress
to your caterpillars.
WHAT STRESSES CATERPILLARS?
Many of the things which 'stress' us will also stress a caterpillar! Going hungry, being too crowded, eating
food which is too wet, and major temperature changes are all stress factors. Don't let your caterpillars run out of
food, don't rear too many in one container, make sure all the leaves are surface dry and not dripping with
water, and keep the room temperatures fairly constant. Temperature changes of 15 degrees has been proven, in laboratories,
to cause disease outbreaks in moth and butterfly caterpillars.
Even if you haven't noticed disease in any of your past rearing experiences, sterilize everything! Often disease is
undetected or assumed to be 'something I did wrong or someone sprayed insecticide, or ...'.
Bug spray and flea & tick treatments can kill your caterpillars. Even monthly treatments of flea and ticks on your
dogs can kill your caterpillars.
WHAT IF I SEE DISEASE, WHAT DO I DO?
First, remember that disease is all around you in nature. It doesn't mean you did anything wrong! It does mean
you may have to start over, though. If you want to try to control the disease, take out any caterpillars which
look healthy and put them into a sterile container. Be sure to destroy everything in the old container and destroy
any sick looking caterpillars. If you believe that this didn't control the problem, destroy everything and start
over. If you need more butterfly eggs, visit www.freebutterflyeggs.com.
You can sterilize by washing material in the washing machine. Wash containers which are small in your dishwasher.
Otherwise, use a solution of 90% water and 10% bleach and soak your conatiners for ten minutes if possible. Disease
particles may be on butterfly scales in the room and can float around on dust particles which will land on
caterpillar food. It's not as hard as you'd think, though. It's just safer to be careful! Don't be dismayed, it
isn't has hard as it sounds.
OE ~ Ophryocystis elektroskirrha
OE is a protozoan disease and is easily sterilized and bred out of your Monarch breeding stock. OE only affects butterflies which eat
milkweed as adults such as the Monarch and Queen.How to detect and clear OE out of your butterfly