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BUTTERFLY DISEASE

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.

CONTAMINATED FOOD

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.

EGG CONTAMINATION

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.

STERILIZE EVERYTHING!

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 ...'.

INSECTICIDE

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.

STERILIZING

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 breeding stock.
Ophrycystis Elektroscirrha
Checking a Monarch for OE with clear tape and a microscope.
Polyhedrosis
A Monarch caterpillar succumbs to polyhedrosis virus.
Ruptured Skin
A Monarch fails to pupate properly due to overcrowding.
Its skin was ruptured by another caterpillar walking
on it when it was about to pupate.
Its skin was so soft that the legs
of the other caterpillar ruptured it.
When it pupated, the skin burst at the ruptured point instead of the normal place at its head.