If you have read our Blog on Common Monarch Ailments, you will find that there are many diseases, parasites and infections that can infect Monarch caterpillars. It is a common problem for many Monarch rearers but there are ways to prevent this from happening and also prevent it from spreading. Here is how to prevent disease from spreading once you suspect your Monarch may be infected.
What You Can Do
1. Isolate Your Caterpillar
If there is a chance of infection, move your caterpillar or chrysalis to an area by itself where it cannot infect other caterpillars. Use a milkweed leaf, gloves or brush to avoid touching the caterpillar directly. If you think you may have touched it, wash your hands afterwards.
TIP: If the caterpillar has reached chrysalis stage and something seems off, you can use a piece of floss or thread to remove the silk pad from the cage and move it to another area.
2. Clean Cage
Once you remove the potentially infected caterpillar, promptly disinfect the entire cage to prevent contamination to other caterpillars. To do this, remove the other cats and place them in a clean holding container until you are finished cleaning the cage. Also, replace old milkweed leaves with fresh leaves.
To disinfect cage you can use a weak bleach solution (about 1 to 10 parts bleach to water) or a natural disinfect such as Meyer's Multi-surface Cleaner. Use a spray bottle or dunk cage in a large tub and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with water afterwards and allow to DRY before adding any caterpillars back in.
3. Keep A Close Eye on Your Sick Caterpillar
Check on the caterpillar every 4-6 hours to see if the case worsens. Keep the potentially dangerous Monarch separated until it reaches full metamorphosis to avoid spreading the ailment.
We wanted to share this inspiring story by one of our followers, John Perez, who has helped to create many Monarch educational opportunities within the Montebello Unified School District. We want to encourage all educators and teachers to participate in our Monarch School Program including those involved with 4-H, Scout troops, YMCA and other Community learning centers!