Butterfly Caterpillars - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-21-2013, 12:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I went to order our annual butterfly caterpillars so we could watch them grow. I
balked at the shipping charges at www.insectlore.com so started looking around.
the best price on butterfly caterpillars I could find is at:
http://butterfly-lady.com/marketplace/caterpillars.htm

We do already have the butterfly habitat. Once they all hatch we set them free.

This is the butterfly habitat we have. If you buy it now it comes with a
certificate for butterflies you only need to pay $5 shipping for them. Then in
future years you could get caterpillars from the above source.
http://www.amazon.com/Insect-Lore-Live-Butterfly-Pavilion/dp/B00004U5UF/ref=sr_1\
_5?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1363841369&sr=1-5&keywords=live+caterpillars


I assume this butterfly lady is legitimate. Guess we'll find out.


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Old 03-21-2013, 02:57 AM
 
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We have had a great success in looking and finding caterpillars and we have done the life-cycle with our own homemade habitat almost yearly.  Unless you are looking for a specific kind of butterfly, any reason why you and your kids couldn't just get caterpillars from the area surrounding your home? I suggest this because it has been as much fun for my kids to find the caterpillars as to watch their metamorphosis.  

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Old 03-21-2013, 07:38 AM
 
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I agree, hunting for your own caterpillars is a lot more fun and educational than ordering a batch of them.  My daughter has learned so much from finding and raising a variety of local caterpillars.  Most of the ones you find will be moths, not butterflies - and that in itself is educational.  Until DD started collecting caterpillars, I hadn't realized how much more prevalent moths were than butterflies.  Now we've seen it for ourselves.  DD has found caterpillars that look like twigs, caterpillars that look like this, and caterpillars that had been parasitized by wasps or flies.  (She's found ones with wasp pupae all over them and others that looked normal and pupated normally, but then flies or wasps emerged from the pupae.)  We've learned that there are moth species where the females are wingless, and we've raised the caterpillars ourselves and seen some of them grow into wingless females.  (And from raising a species where the females were very obviously different from the males, we learned that female caterpillars tend to grow larger than male caterpillars because they grow for longer before they pupate.  We observed ourselves that that seemed to be true, then I confirmed it through reading.)  DD has learned about a lot of moth species that are common in our area.  She's seen for herself how different caterpillars have different food and habitat requirements, and how they make themselves hard for predators to find.

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Old 03-21-2013, 08:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Sounds like a great project. However, not one that I am inclined towards at this time. I do not feel I have the knowledge to proceed with such a project. I wouldn't know what to feed the critters or anything else. 

 

And, of course, it is much more difficult to do here in Arizona. Although we live in "lush" desert mountains we still don't have the foliage of many other places. Plus, we have so many prickly plants and bugs. Just about everything is covered with thorns.

 

We moved to this house last September. There was one day that our area was overtaken by caterpillars. I mean they were everywhere. You couldn't walk without squishing them. The street was covered with squashed carcasses. It was amazing. And then the next day it was over. Perhaps I'll see if I can get info on how to feed these critters. And to verify they're not poisonous.


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Old 03-21-2013, 01:34 PM
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Thanks for the link.  Maybe we will try again this year.  I tried this last year with bad luck.  Our first batch arrived dead and our second batch died before they made cocoons.  :-(  We haven't had any luck with finding the critters around us.  For those who find them around their own homes, how long do you keep the caterpillars before they make a cocoon?  I worry that I would just kill them.  

 

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Old 03-21-2013, 02:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We've done this two times with good success. Out of 15 caterpillars only one died. Considering I ordered them late last year and they sat in a hot mailbox in the Arizona sun last year I'm surprised only one died.


Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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Old 03-21-2013, 02:26 PM
 
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Thanks for posting this; reminds me my little one hasn't raised butterflys yet. Now to find the habitat and figure out when it won't be to cold to release them.
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Old 03-21-2013, 05:34 PM
 
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Thanks for the link.  Maybe we will try again this year.  I tried this last year with bad luck.  Our first batch arrived dead and our second batch died before they made cocoons.  :-(  We haven't had any luck with finding the critters around us.  For those who find them around their own homes, how long do you keep the caterpillars before they make a cocoon?  I worry that I would just kill them.  

 

Amy

 

How long you have to keep them before they pupate depends on how old they are when you find them.  If you find one that's still pretty young, it could take 3 weeks or more to pupate.  But sometimes you find one that pupates a day or two after you catch it.  As far as what to feed them, that's usually pretty simple: you feed them the same kind of leaves you found them on.  But sometimes you find one on the ground or your kid can't remember what plant she found it on, and then you have to guess.  You can gather a variety of leaves from plants in the area and see what gets eaten.  Or if you're able to identify what kind of caterpillar it is, you'll probably be able to learn what they usually eat.  (But then finding the right plant means you have to know how to tell one plant from another.)  Keeping them alive usually isn't hard.  An empty yogurt container or deli container with a lid works fine to keep them in.  Most of them don't need light, and in fact may grow more quickly if kept in the dark.  You can poke holes in the lid (though I suspect it's not really necessary most of the time; they don't use up a lot of oxygen) or if you have a tiny one that might get out the holes you can rubber band some paper towel over the top instead of using the lid.  Every day you give them fresh leaves and remove the poop.  Some types of leaves will dry out very quickly; for those, you wrap damp paper towel around the stems.  Many other types of leaves will stay fresh enough for a day without that.

 

A good (and fun) way to find them is to beat trees and bushes.  Lay a towel or old sheet or something under a bush or small tree and give the trunk or a big branch a quick, sharp whack with some kind of big stick or bat and see what falls out.  You don't want to shake the tree; then the caterpillars will hold on just the way they do when it's windy.  Instead you want to surprise them with that unexpected whack.  You can also go out at night with a flashlight and look for them.  A lot of them are nocturnal and more likely to be visible then.  Be sure to check the undersides of leaves.

 

There are a lot fewer poisonous or irritating kinds than most people seem to think.  But there are definitely some you don't want to handle.  A good rule of thumb is not to touch them if you don't know what they are.  Fortunately, they move slowly and don't lunge at you or anything, so it's usually pretty easy to just pick up the leaf or branch they're on without touching them.

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Old 03-21-2013, 10:04 PM
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Thanks Daffodil!

 

Right now we have an ant farm going on--thankfully they didn't die on us.  I think I will have the kids try to find their own caterpillars this year.  I really am not in the mood to pay for things to die again.  Perhaps this will work better for us.

 

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Old 03-22-2013, 08:16 PM
 
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We always plant milkweed in June. (We are in the mid-Atlantic) If you just plant milkweed, you can watch the monarchs lay eggs, then watch them hatch. Once I have little cats, I usually dig up a plant and net it so that we can keep a close eye on the cats. Once they pupate, I just keep the chrysalids on my kitchen table so that we can watch the emergence. We usually also order tags from Monarch Watch and tag the last generation in September. Those are the ones that are going to Mexico. The whole thing is totally fascinating, and I also think I am doing the Monarchs some good. Their habitat is shrinking here, so the more milkweed the better.
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Old 04-25-2013, 11:12 AM
 
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Sundaycrepes, did you end up ordering from Butterflylady? Trying to decide between her and Carolina Sci.
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Old 04-25-2013, 05:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sundaycrepes, did you end up ordering from Butterflylady? Trying to decide between her and Carolina Sci.

I did order. They didn't arrive on the date designated. I ended up sending two emails over a week with no response. So I contacted her through paypal and she sent them right away. Unfortunately it is warming up here and they all arrived dead. She then sent out another batch. They should arrive any day now so we'll see how they are.


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Old 04-25-2013, 06:56 PM
 
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Thanks, there were enough BBB complaints to make me wonder & I'm just broke enough to not want to gamble. I can deal with late delivery for that price though. smile.gif The high shipping from the other places for something that weighs less than a letter really chaps my butt!
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Old 04-25-2013, 07:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Our problem with late delivery is we live in Tucson. I think the poor little guys fried. I'm hoping that since she sent it over the weekend last time and they had to sit in a warehouse on Sunday that it won't be so bad this time. Assuming we get them by Saturday.


Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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Old 04-26-2013, 10:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The caterpillars arrived today. 3 of 5 are alive.


Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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Old 04-27-2013, 09:34 AM
 
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I've been raising lepidoptera livestock for over 20 years now. I have a few suggestions:

 

1. Never buy larva by mail - always buy eggs or pupae. In addition to having a high mortality rate due to heat and travel, they can also have been infected by parasites that aren't obvious until the caterpillar seems to die for no reason. Also, even though you might be feeding them the same kind of leaves that they were born eating, the leaves in your part of the country might be a little different than the ones they started with, and that can stress their digestive systems and even cause diarrhea, which they will die from. If you get eggs you won't have the problem with leaves or parasites.

2. Moths do much, much better than butterflies. Polyphemus moths in particular are large, beautiful, and native to everyplace in the U.S.

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Old 04-27-2013, 09:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The caterpillars I've always gotten have come with food so you don't have to feed them.

 

Where does one get eggs or pupae?


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Old 04-27-2013, 10:19 PM
 
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The caterpillars I've always gotten have come with food so you don't have to feed them.

 

Where does one get eggs or pupae?

 

I've never used this site, but just by googling :http://www.butterflyworkx.com/antheraea-polyphemus-moth-eggs.html.

 

You never have to feed them? How do the leaves stay fresh? That's the only way they get fluids, is from the leaves (they don't drink). So the leaves have to be supple and fresh. I give mine fresh leaves every day, and I usually wrap the stems in a wet paper towel, then tape a baggy tightly over the wet towel so the tiny larvae don't fall into a drop and drown, and also to prevent any water from getting into the poop which causes an unhealthy mold to grow.

 

I usually get successful matings each season, ending up with hundreds of fertile eggs, so I haven't ordered livestock for several years. Years ago I worked with a company in Rhode Island that was very good - I never got eggs that had larva emerge during transit, and all eggs were healthy and fertile. But I think the guy retired.

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Old 04-27-2013, 10:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the link.

 

The food isn't leaves. It's some sort of gooey stuff on the bottom. I've gotten 15 butterflies in previous years off this stuff. This is the first time I've had any die, but then I don't normally get them this late, the seller was late in getting them to me.


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Old 04-28-2013, 09:13 AM
 
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Oh, that's interesting. I didn't know there was anything like that for food. That would sure make it easier. Getting fresh leaves every day is really a pain, especially after the 4th instar, in which they eat like mad.

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Old 05-05-2013, 01:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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All our caterpillars are dead. I don't know if it's the company or the time of year. When I got them from insectlore.com all arrived alive and grew into butterflies that we released.


Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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