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Old 02-14-2009, 04:57 PM   #1
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Default Do any of you hand-raise your butterflies?

Some butterfly gardeners hand-raise their butterflies (caterpillars) to avoid their being taken by predators. Numerous dedicated butterfly gardeners at gardenweb.com do this. I have considered it - it's so disappointing to have the cats taken by wasps, spiders, birds, or other predators. Do any of you hand-raise your cats?
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Old 02-14-2009, 05:39 PM   #2
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It looks like it would be a fascinating experience. I have tentative plants to start a monarch station this year, provided I can get the milkweed seed to take. LOL
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Old 02-14-2009, 06:05 PM   #3
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Hi Leslie,
We raised Eastern Black Swallowtails by hand in 2007. It is a fascinating and fun experience! I wish we could have done it last year, but we were raising two puppies, so... maybe again this year.

It's real simple though. There's some great threads here that go over host plants for various larvae, so all you have to do is keep a watchful eye for eggs, usually on the bottom of the leaves. A magnifying glass helps sometimes! Or, look for little caterpillars crawling around.

What we did was take the actual plant (curled parsley) inside when we saw eggs or caterpillars. We put them in bins that you can buy at Wal-Mart, and covered them with real fine mesh so that nothing could get inside the bin. Then, we would mist the plants once a day, so that the caterpillars could get their moisture.

It's basically watch them grow from there. After about 2 weeks, the larvae will form their chrysalis, and in about 10 - 14 days, they will eclose. That is just an amazing process!! Once their wings are dry, after a few hours, we took the butterflies outside and released them.

It's real simple, and doesn't cost much, and it's great to see that people are taking an interest in hand raising butterflies, because so many just don't make it otherwise.
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Old 02-14-2009, 07:33 PM   #4
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That sounds interesting. I may have to try that in a year or 2 when Grandbaby is a little older.
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Old 02-15-2009, 09:25 AM   #5
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Sounds like a great project to do with our with our children
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Old 09-21-2009, 07:52 PM   #6
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Default black swallowtail metamorphosis mosaic

I didn't start from scratch, but noticed the early instart on dill I had planted specifically to attract black swallowtails, and I was able to follow the growth from instart to instart. At just the right time, I luckily was able to bring the caterpillar inside and kept it fed till it emerged, at which point I released it and got some photos before it flew off.

You can see a larger image of the mosaic on my Flickr page:
metamorphosis, three stages on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
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Old 09-22-2009, 12:32 AM   #7
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That's really creative. You're another artist aren't you?
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Old 09-22-2009, 12:08 PM   #8
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I kept a screened "butterfly box" (for lack of a better term) for years which I raise caterpillars in. Mostly swallowtails and fritillary. There is always a lot of fennel, passion flower in my gardens so when I found eggs. I would move them to the screen box. It was a wood frame about 4'x2 1/2' x3' on short table legs (so you can reach the bottom of the box when working in it) which I stapled screen in to be the sides. The bottom was braced to hold plants but screened also for drainage. The top was hinged so I could lift it open, with brackets that held it open when needed. Inside I kept pots of host plants, let the eggs hatch and caterpillars eat plants. They would cocoon inside the screen box and when the butterflies emerged I just let them out the top. Very simple...once the box is built anyway! I loved it.

The hardest part was sealing the lift up top when it was closed. Wasps can crawl through any crack, so I used sticky door insulation strips, the tape kind that comes on rolls and a large hook and eye to lock the top closed and create a seal.

Mine was a bit large unless you are an enthusiast, but any sealed screen box over a host plant in a pot or ground will do. I have also been known to staple screen over an inexpensive fruit crate, plop it over a host plant in the garden (dig it in a bit to avoid predators crawling under) and ta ta, you have a caterpillar/cocoon protected area.
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Old 09-22-2009, 07:39 PM   #9
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I would be most appreciative of any photos you would be able to share. The idea of a screen box over a host plant or pot is not one I have ever read before. It is rather creative.

Raising cats has always interested me.
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Old 09-23-2009, 06:09 AM   #10
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TheLorax - I do not have the box any more. About two years ago I moved and it got left behind by accident. I could probably draw on out though and post plans. It was like a short potting bench I built a frame on, screened in.

The screen over the plant was just an idea one day when I watched wasps munching on my swallowtail caterpillars. I used what I had handy. Some plants I had to screen to allow them to grow before caterpillars creamed them. Anything could do really - it just has to be tall and narrow. Maybe if you could find inexpensive clear plastic containers, such as taller trash can shape, cut out the sides and staple screen in it you'd be all set. They would stack for storage in the winter better as well. Of course my host plant bed is tucked out of sight. It is always over munched and looks like heck. That's a good thing!
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