Saturday, 20 January 2018

Hitchin' A Ride


I had to share this quick blog with you before it becomes history. As you know we're parked on the concrete pad beside Mum & Dads' house here in Napier. A self seeded swan plant (which Mum had been carefully nurturing) had sprouted from a crack in the concrete at the back of the pad and unfortunately when we backed the 5th-wheeler in, the rear of the van went right over the top of it and bent it nearly in half.

Rather than pull it out and have the tiny caterpillars on it die, we let it be, figuring that it was still getting some light and would probably survive. That was back in early December and from my kitchen window I'd often see monarch butterflies flying about hunting for the plant and then disappearing underneath.

We gave the plant a breather and the caterpillars some warm sunshine on their backs for a few days when we pulled out a week or so ago to head to Kuripapango for a few days.  I thought I'd better check underneath to see how the caterpillars were as I'd seen a few crystallises both green and hatched on the nearby fence railings. There were still quite a few caterpillars on the plant but it was more of a surprise to find seven green crystallises attached to the bottom of the van in various places.

We thought about removing them and super-gluing them to a stick so they could hatch in peace but in the end decided they'd be ok under there out of the weather and they'd probably have just as much movement as they would have had on a plant in the wind.

So seven extra passengers came with us on their very own 70km road trip to Kuripapango for a four day holiday. They shared their home away from home with thousands of native bees, a few birds, the odd possum, dozens of sandflies and many other flying insects. 

And seven, still green, passengers returned home with us, all in good health. Over the last few days they have been slowly turning black...

...and emerging from their crystallises. 

Which is just as well as David has been patiently waiting to water blast underneath.

I've now cut the plant off at its base to stop any more butterflies laying eggs before David gets under there. Mum has the plant in a jar of water with the few remaining caterpillars chomping their way through the last of the leaves. There's a funny but sad story there too- after carefully rescuing a fat caterpillar who was off to find a sheltered spot under the van to spin his magic, he then fell off the plant, through a gap in the table and onto the concrete.

Mum carefully returned him to a stable area in the plant but when we went to check on him later he'd headed off again. Mum and I hunted high and low for him; checking the window sills, other plants nearby, under the table the jar was on, everywhere, until suddenly Mum spotted green and black goo squelched out from under my shoe as I stood on the nearby rubber door mat. fat caterpillar found. And lost.

Meanwhile I've been transferring the butterflies, as they hatch, to the runner bean plants so they can dry out their wings in a sheltered spot. I'm sure they must work on some sort of homing instinct though because it's not long before I see them circling around the back of the van and flying back underneath.

There's just one more chrysalis to hatch, he's turning black as I speak and should be gone by tomorrow evening. David can then get on with his maintenance.


  1. Christine Williams20 January 2018 at 16:44

    Wow! I have two new swan plants growing in my kitchen now as they were outside when I noticed the tiny caterpillars,I felt terrible removing them but knew the plants were too small to even sustain one caterpillar. I got the plants for the grandchildren to watch their cycle so hopefully next year they'll be nice big plants.

    1. They'll have fun watching and learning, and I bet you'll still have to remove eggs and caterpillars to give some a fighting chance.

  2. I have had them at work and yes it is hard to remove the little caterpillars so i try and get in a bit earlier than that and take off the tiny eggs, usually on the underside of the leaf. I don't feel so bad then, but am giving the rest a better chance of survival. It is an amazing thing to watch as they come out of the chrysalis you have to be there just at the right time.

    1. Yes Gill, we've always wiped eggs off as they appear on any of our plants. It all ends badly if you don't. Although it was a bit harder to wipe them off from this plant. You had to get down on your hands and knees! :)

  3. I am so glad that these amazing things happen to you so that we get to share in them. Here in North West England it has been snow/sleet/raining for the past week. Your blog post feels like a blast of sunshine. What amazing photographs!

    1. Thanks Kathy, I hope your weather has improved somewhat. Here on the other side of the world we are in the middle of a heatwave with some record temperatures happening. It's just lucky we're not in Central Otago at the moment, they're having 35-38c temperatures! Unheard of.

  4. Hello Shellie,
    I see one of your photograghs have appeared in the DOC blog this month. The ultimate two-week South Island, New Zealand itinerary.

    I would like to see you do one for the South Island and another for the North Island for a two week period.

    I have been following your via email for a few years before I realised my sister also follows your blog and we were inspired by your blog to take the Braemar Rd and the Rangitata Gorge Rd and go up a creek. Many thanks for writing about such interesting journeys.

    Kiwi in Sugar Land, Texas, USA. Warming up.
    P.S. Also drove from Millers Flat, in Otago, pass Lake Onslow, over the Dansby Pass, over the Hakataramea Pass and over the Mackenzie Pass to Albury and only passed eight veichles and that was around Kurow.

    Samuel Butler said "Scenery is not Scenery - it is "Country" - if it is good for sheep, it is beautiful, magnificent and all the rest of it; if not, it is not worth looking at."

    1. Hi Olywn, I like Samuel, he is a very wise man!
      Glad your eagle eye spotted the DOC blog header, they actually use my photos quite a bit for their blog, brochures and other web links. They used one of my pohutukawa photos for their Christmas blog which I was rather pleased about. At the moment DOC are pushing day walks to try and steer people away from the Great Walks which are getting over crowded.
      I'm thrilled my blogs have helped you get off the beaten track and opened up other fantastic areas for you to visit. That would have been an awesome road trip over all the Passes, not too many people would have done that trip.
      Thanks for your comments & say hello to your sister for me too- thanks to both of you for following my blogs too.
      Best regards

  5. What ever next Shellie. The variety of your posts are astounding and captivating.....dedication to bloggerville reporting...go to the top of the class. I can imagine you scrambling under your rig with camera and bung leg for each butterfly..., wot no photo of the squashed butterfly caterpillar...missed opportunity there, tho you probably did take a shot, good taste prevailed. Following your trail in Dunedin at the moment!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the butterfly blog Jimu and no, no photo. It was a little too flat!

  6. Interesting and amusing, though I do feel sorry for the casualty. Wonderful post!

    1. Pleased you enjoyed the blog offstone, sadly the last butterfly to hatch also died. It's wings didn't dry out fully enough and it dropped to the ground. I guess we did our best and managed to save quite a few.


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