What to do with eggs?

Sometimes we need to take eggs off a plant before they hatch.  Depending on the species, we may disinfect the eggs or we may simply want to move them off a large plant so we can place them on a smaller plant.  What next?  Where to place them?

We use a plastic cup, from 2 to 5-1/2 ounce size.  The eggs are placed in the cup.  Once the eggs start to darken, we either place fresh tender leaves with the eggs, place the cup in a popup with the tip of the plant in the cup, or attach the cup to the plant we want them to eat.

Once they hatch, they go immediately to the  plant and begin eating.

Monarch butterfly eggs in a 5-1/2 ounce cup
Monarch butterfly eggs in a 5-1/2 oz cup

Click here to see the popup habitats we use for caterpillars.

Deformed chrysalises?

Reminder: After petting cats or dogs with oral (or topical) flea/tick medication, wash your hands well before touching caterpillars or their food.  The medication is actually a pesticide that kills fleas and ticks.  It gets into the dog’s body system, coming out in its skin oils and dander.  When we pet them, we get it on our hands.

Monarch didn't pupate properly

Some of the medications kill outright, causing caterpillars to vomit green and if it was strong enough, they die. Some of the medications cause improper pupation. Even others cause their mouth parts to work improperly, causing them to fail to eat well and they become weak and don’t grow normal.

You can learn more about the effects of flea/tick medication by clicking on this sentence.

Although chrysalises may be deformed due to other causes, flea/tick medication is one of the common causes for this problem.

Raising butterflies at home?

If you are raising butterflies at home, there are are several facebook groups that has tips. Everyone shares what works best for them.

Facebook: Caterpillar to Butterfly

We also share tips (and special offers) on Butterfly Conservation Supplies.

Which do you like better?  White or black mesh?  You can see through black mesh better than white mesh.

Which do you like better?  White or black mesh?  You can see through black mesh better than white mesh.  

 

Mesh of a window screen is on the left.  Mesh from a popup habitat from Butterfly Conservation Supplies is on the right.  Parasitoids are stopped by this fine mesh.

 

If you have to move a J’ing caterpillar (pre-pupa) or a soft chrysalis, you can use clothespins to hold them until they pupate and/or harden.

 

What does your rearing setup look like? 

 

Larger popup habitats can be used standing up or laying down.  

Swallowtail Host Plants for Your Garden

What should I plant for swallowtails?  This often-asked question is often answered with, “Fennel, dill, and parsley”.  But there are other species of swallowtails and most use different plants.

Note: not all species are found in every state.  Planting a host plant for a species that does not fly in your state will not make them appear and lay eggs.  We should all plant host plants for species that are found in our area.

(These are only some of the plants that these species use as host plants.  There are many others that we did not list.)

Spicebush Swallowtail and Palamedes Swallowtail:

Red Bay Persea borbonia
Swamp Bay Persea humilis
Silk Bay Persea palustris
Sassafrass Sassafras albidum
Spicebush Lindera benzion
Camphor tree (invasive non-native) Cinnamomum camphora

 

Zebra Swallowtail:

Pawpaw Asimina spp.

 

Gold Rim Swallowtail (also called Polydamas Swallowtail):

Important note: Buy pipevine plants according to their botanical names, not their common names.  Many species of pipevine have the same common name. Some pipevine species are deadly to Gold Rim Swallowtail caterpillars.

(Click on this sentence for a more complete list.)

Dutchman’s Pipe – Aristolochia trilobata
White-veined Pipevine – Aristolochia fimbriata
Fragrant Dutchman’s Pipe – Aristolochia pandurata synonym of Aristolochia odoratissima
Brazilian Dutchman’s Pipe or Giant Pelican Flower – Aristolochia gigantea
Calico Vine – Aristolochia littoralis (was A. elegans)
Dutchman’s Pipe – Aristolochia trilobata
Fragrant Dutchman’s Pipe – Aristolochia pandurata (was Aristolochia odoratissima)
Indian Birthwort – Aristolochia tagala

Pipevine Swallowtail:

Important note: Buy pipevine plants according to their botanical names, not their common names.  Many species of pipevine have the same common name. Some pipevine species are deadly to Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars.

(Click on this sentence for a more complete list.)

Dutchman’s Pipe – Aristolochia trilobata
White-veined Pipevine – Aristolochia fimbriata
Fragrant Dutchman’s Pipe – Aristolochia pandurata synonym of Aristolochia odoratissima
Dutchman’s Pipe – Aristolochia macrophylla
Dutchman’s Pipe – Aristolochia trilobata
Fragrant Dutchman’s Pipe – Aristolochia pandurata (was Aristolochia odoratissima)
Virginia Snakeroot – Aristolochia serpentaria
White-veined Pipevine – Aristolochia fimbriata
Woolly Pipevine – Aristolochia tomentosa
Birthwort – Aristolochia clematitis

 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail:

Tulip Poplar Liriodendron tulipifera
Hop Tree Ptelea trifoliata
Black Cherry Prunus serotina
Sweet Bay Magnolia virginiana

 

Giant Swallowtail:

Citrus trees Citrus spp.
Hop Tree Ptelea trifoliata
Rue Ruta graveolens
Prickly Ash Zanthoxylum americanumn
Hercules’ Club Zanthoxymum clava-herculis

 

Black Swallowtail and Anise Swallowtail:

(Click on this sentence for a more complete list.)

Parsley Petroselinum spp. 
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare
Dill Anethum graveolens
Queen Annes’ Lace Daucus Carota
Carrots Daucus carota
Rue Ruta graveolens

 

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Aspen Populus spp.
Black Cherry Prunus serotina
Birch Betula spp.

 

Ornythion Swallowtail – Papilio ornythion

Citrus trees Citrus spp.

 

Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio appalachinensis

Black Cherry Prunus serotina

 

Western Tiger Swallowtail – Papilio rutulus

Willows Salix spp.
Wild Cherry Prunus spp.
Ash Fraxinus spp.
Aspen Populus spp.

 

Old World Swallowtail – Papilio machaon

Sagebrush Artemisia spp.
Wild Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus
Arctic Wormwood Artemisia senjavinensis

 

Indra Swallowtail – Papilio indra

Herbs in the parsley family Apiaceae spp.

 

Pale Swallowtail – Papilio eurymedon

Cherry Prunus emarginata
Ash Fraxinus spp.
Coffee-berry Rhamnus californica

 

Two-tailed Swallowtail – Papilio multicaudata

Chokecherry Prunus spp.
Hop Tree Ptelea spp.
Ash Fraxinus spp.

Pesticides! Just a couple of notes:

A bit of information about pesticides/insecticides:
 
Neonicotinoids – so much focus is on these bad guys that people forget that they aren’t the only pesticides. There are many pesticides that are not neonicotinoids. If a plant doesn’t have the neonicotinoid tag, it can still be deadly.  (Not all retail nurseries will require labels if their growers use neonicotinoids.)
Organic Pesticides – the difference between organic and non-organic plants is about the make-up of the pesticide. There are many organic pesticides that many organic growers use on their plants. The difference between a caterpillar dying from a inorganic pesticide vs an organic one is the different between me having a steel beam fall on my head or a monstrous tree fall on my head. Both are would kill me. One is non-organic and one is organic.
 
Chemicals – chemical doesn’t mean ‘bad’. All matter is made of chemicals. Our brains produce specific chemicals when we are afraid or stressed, chemicals that help us react properly. Many pesticides are not ‘chemicals’ as we usually think of chemicals. Many chemicals are totally natural. Some non-chemical pesticides are living organisms – virus, bacteria, fungi, etc.  The use of the word ‘chemicals’ in a sentence like “they used chemicals on the plant” doesn’t tell us anything about whether the plant is safe for caterpillars.  Salt, which is used to save caterpillars which have drowned, is a chemical.  
Flea/tick ‘medication’ is actually a pesticide.  It is called ‘medication’ because few people would feed their pets pesticides.  When touching your dog or cat with flea/tick oral or topical medication, you transfer the pesticide to your hands.  Touching caterpillars, chrysalises, or host plants can transfer that pesticide to them.  This can be deadly for caterpillars.
 
Systemic – Systemic pesticides are absorbed into the plant and nothing can be done except wait for the plant to become free of the pesticide, sometimes months later. Non-systemic pesticides usually wash off after a few rains or irrigation washes the plants a few times.
Growth regulator – there are two kinds of growth regulators used on plants. PLANT growth regulator is totally safe for caterpillars. It affects how tall the plant grows. The other is INSECT growth regulator, preventing caterpillars from pupating properly. (The reason Easter lilies and poinsettias are shorter when you buy them as compared to when you grow them is simple: PLANT growth regulator.)
Green vomit – many pesticides cause caterpillars to vomit or spit bright green fluid.  Not all pesticides do so.  Caterpillars can die from pesticides without vomiting any green liquid.  
Diarrhea – some pesticides cause diarrhea.  Bt (an organic pesticide used specifically to kill caterpillars) often causes green diarrhea.  Diarrhea from some diseases is brown.

Monarch butterfly chrysalis cremaster

How does a chrysalis hold on to the silk pad so tightly?  This greatly magnified view tells the story. Tiny hooks at the tip of the cremaster (the black ‘stem’ on a Monarch chrysalis) tangle tightly into the silk pad.  The twisting dance that a chrysalis does when it is through pupating is to work these tiny hooks into as many of the silk loops as possible.

A Monarch chrysalis cremaster is so tiny that we can’t see the tiny hooks that hold the chrysalis to its silk button.  These are scanning electron microscope images, taken of some of our Monarch chrysalises, by Illustra Media.

Shady Oak Butterfly Farm shipped empty chrysalis shells to Lad Allen in California for their movie, ‘Metamorphosis’.