What temperature is too cold for a butterfly?
Butterflies are very active when temperatures range between 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit. At the other end of the spectrum, when temperatures drop too low, butterflies cannot contract the muscles that allow them to fly. Typically, temperatures have to be at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit to enable most butterflies to fly.
Cold Temperatures Can Paralyze Monarchs
They can't even crawl below 41°F.
Do butterflies get cold? If so, how do they get warm? Butterflies do not have the ability to maintain an internal body temperature and are there "cold-blooded." They can increase their temperature by basking in direct sunlight. They generally require an air temperature of about 60 degrees F before they are able to fly.
First, the simple answer. For Monarchs and those that do not go into diapause as caterpillars, if the lows are above freezing and the day temperatures are above 65-70 F (18.33-21 C), they'll be fine. As cold-blooded critters, if temperatures drop too low, they'll literally freeze.
Butterflies who spend the winter in chrysalis find a sheltered place like overhangs or deep shrubbery. During this period the butterflies enter diapause, which is when their development ceases and antifreezing chemicals allow the pupae to survive extremely cold temperatures.
If you're keen to find dormant butterflies this winter, good places to look are in sheds, farmyard buildings and sheltered structures like bird houses. Butterflies can also be found hibernating in natural hollows in trees, log piles, rock crevices, stone walls and other outdoor spaces.
Your goal is to keep your butterflies nice and cool until 45 minutes to an hour before you release them. That does mean you can put your butterflies still in the shipping box in the refrigerator, just do not put them in the freezer.
At temperatures below 52 degrees Fahrenheit, monarch eggs and caterpillars don't grow or develop at all.
If the butterfly wakes up in winter it should be placed in a dry, transparent container lined with a folded section of kitchen roll to absorb moisture and placed in the salad drawer in the fridge, where the temperature is around four Celsius.
One of the few butterflies still flying in November is the Comma. When the sun comes out you can see it flitting around the last of the hedgerow fruits and flowering plants, before settling down for the winter.
Where do monarch butterflies go when its cold?
The eastern population of North America's monarchs overwinters in the same 11 to 12 mountain areas in the States of Mexico and Michoacan from October to late March. Monarchs roost for the winter in oyamel fir forests at an elevation of 2,400 to 3,600 meters (nearly 2 miles above sea level).
It is recommended to prune the milkweed stalks to about 6 inches in height during the fall and winter months to discourage monarchs from establishing winter-breeding colonies. Cutting back the milkweed will also help to eliminate OE spores that may be present on the plant.
Some species, such as Mourning Cloaks and Question Marks stay where they are (as adult butterflies) during the winter. Hiding in cracks and crevices in wood, they come out only on the warmest days, if at all. Some are young caterpillars, simply tucked away in sewed-together leaves.
The majority of butterflies and moths overwinter in the larval stage, with pupae being the next most common choice, followed by eggs and adults. A few are capable of overwintering in more than one stage. The Speckled Wood butterfly for example can overwinter as a caterpillar (larva) or a pupa.
The best solution in cold climates is to put a light layer of mulch over the roots but instead of applying it all the way up to the main stem like you would on other plants, taper off the thickness so that the few inches immediately surrounding the center of the plant are bare and free of mulch.
As a general rule, monarchs need air temperatures of at least 50°F on a sunny day (or 60°F on a cloudy day).
2022-2023 Woolly Bear Winter Prediction
So, this year the beginning will be worse, the middle not as mild, and the end about the same. Many of the Woolly Bear caterpillars we have seen this fall have dense hair. This is an indication the winter will be cold.
Q: When should I release my butterflies? A: Release your butterflies as soon as possible after hatching. They can live for up to two weeks in your cage, but we recommend that you release them on the first nice day that comes along.
Butterflies are cold blooded (ectothermic) and have no means for regulating their body temperatures. Instead, they have to rely on behavioral instincts to warm their bodies up in order to fly, also known as thermoregulation.
Their flight muscles must be at least 55°F (13°C) in order to fly. Monarchs can warm up by basking in the sun. Basking helps a monarch raise its muscle temperatures to flight threshold. When monarchs bask they open their wings and tilt them toward the sun.
How do butterflies survive bad weather?
Butterflies look for shelter from rain when the skies start to grow dark. They cling to the undersides of leaves, climb deep into tall grasses, or tuck themselves into cracks of rocks or trees. This is also how they protect themselves from strong winds.
While monarch eggs and caterpillars can survive some exposure to cold, these cooler temperatures slow their development time and prolonged exposure may cause sub-lethal effects (e.g. monarchs may take longer to develop, leaving them more vulnerable to disease and predation).
Don't raise monarchs completely inside.
That said, eggs, caterpillars, chrysalides, and butterflies shouldn't be left in the direct, hot sun where they can overheat and die. So move your tents around your yard as needed, or keep them in a three-season porch.
In fact, woolly bear caterpillars can survive at temperatures as low as 90 degrees F below zero. They've even survived an entire winter frozen in an ice cube!
Keeping caterpillars over winter is easier for species that remain in the caterpillar stage than those that pupate. When caring for species that overwinter as caterpillars, simply clean any remaining frass and food plants from the container and cover the resting caterpillar with a layer of dead leaves.
Unlike other butterflies that can overwinter as larvae, pupae, or even as adults in some species, monarchs cannot survive the cold winters of northern climates.
SPIDERS. Spiders are the kings and queens of camouflage. They are usually hidden from sight and will feed on your small caterpillars at night. Also, if you raise monarchs on potted plants or stem cuttings with buds/flowers, it's easy to unknowingly invite spiders into your raising cage.
Predators such as spiders and fire ants kill and eat monarch eggs and caterpillars. Some birds and wasps feed on adult butterflies. These predators are easy to see, but monarchs also suffer attacks from parasites, organisms that live inside the monarchs' bodies.
It's best to leave them alone during these periods. After they are done, they'll devour the shedded skin, and head back for some fresh milkweed...so make sure there is some close by! 2. Caterpillars will also crawl off milkweed if it's not fresh or if plants/cuttings/leaves are overcrowded.
Native Milkweed is herbaceous, and all growth dies after the first frost. Tropical Milkweed can continue to grow in areas with mild fall and winter seasons. Learn how to overwinter Milkweed plants, so they eagerly return each spring.
Can I move a hibernating butterfly?
Carefully catch the butterfly and place it in a cardboard box, then leave it somewhere cool for a half an hour or so, giving it chance to settle down. Then you can relocate it somewhere cooler - the inside of a shed, garage or outhouse is perfect.