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How do you protect caterpillars from predators?

Lizards, frogs, wasps, and birds are among the predators that prey on caterpillars. If these predators occur in your area, and you discover caterpillars that you want to save, you have two options:

1. Move the caterpillars to host plants that are inside safe enclosures. You can make safe enclosures yourself, or buy them, and they can be anything from a small screen- or mesh-covered box to a screened-in porch. The bigger the enclosure, however, the harder it is to keep out predators, so that’s something you’ll have to be careful of.

2. If you don’t have (enough) host plants that you can raise inside safe enclosures, then the other option is to enclose the host plants in your garden, with the caterpillars on them. You can use mesh bags with drawstrings to enclose either entire plants or just a few branches or vines. You can either make mesh bags, or buy them. Keep in mind that butterflies will not be able to lay any more eggs on the plant while it’s socked in. For a lot more information on raising caterpillars in mesh bags, see the FAQ post What’s involved in raising caterpillars in mesh bags on host plants?

Whether you move the caterpillars to enclosures, or “sock them in” on the plants in the ground, check often to (1) make sure they don’t run out of food! And (2) remove chrysalises as they form. If you have a lot of caterpillars feeding on a limited food supply, they could dislodge or damage chrysalises that have previously formed on the plant material.

Mesh enclosures and “socks” designed specifically for caterpillars can be purchased from the Live Monarch Foundation (see my Butterfly Links bar over on the right), and probably from other sources as well. Organza wedding bags, originally designed to be used as gift bags, can also be purchased from your local craft/fabric supply store, in the Wedding section.

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Butterfly FAQ

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