Breeding Red Admirals

This topic contains 79 replies, has 0 voices, and was last updated by  Jane 7 years, 1 month ago.

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  • #15034

    Rob
    Participant

    Made a trip to the King Country to collect Admiral caterpillars. I collected 10 large Red Admiral Caterpillars (4th 5th instar) and 20 mini pint sized Red Admiral caterpillars(2nd &3nd instars. Thought this would be enough to start a home population and breed them. Had a few teething problems but managed to get the more mature caterpillars to pupate and now have 4 butterflies hatched and one more to come. Hopefully out of the 5 I should be able to start up a Red Admiral breeding colony and get the experience I am after. My biggest learning curve (and problem)out of this venture is that 20 baby caterpillars just dissapeared. My shadehouse is on concrete and I had the caterpillars on a small leafed annual nettle dug up from the King Country.I couldent figure out just where they went. They just dissapeared. I have had a few years breeding Yellow Admirals ON GRASS in my shadehouse and never had this problem. I think that in a concrete world there is more competition for food. I assume ants have been snacking on my babies. Have now moated my nettles for egg laying….what a hassel!!! If I can get any eggs!!!! Will have to pay the butterflies an early morning visit for a sexing eercise. My main problem for now is what happened to all those babies? Are ants the culprit?

Viewing 25 replies - 1 through 25 (of 79 total)
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  • #29981

    Jane
    Participant

    Anna,

    Sorry did not see your post re chasing…..Yes the Yellow Admirals, now seen daily here, are very agressive in their chasing not only of other Admirals, but the Monarchs too. Long protracted aerial dog-fights over territory are common, mostly over patches of buddleia and/or zinnias!

    We have swallows flying nearby, but have never seen them show any interest in the butterflies.

    Rob,

    I sympathise. Moving is very disruptive to any activity involving creatures. Sorry to hear that your Red Admirals were parasitised, but GREAT that you got a photo! Perhaps if you upload your photo to photos@monarch you may get an ID on your parasite from one of our forum-dwellers.

    #29961

    Rob
    Participant

    Hi Jane,
    sorry its been over 2 months. I saw your question as to the unknown beasty feeding on my nettles and competing with the few Red Admirals i had. The caterpillars turned out to be parasitised. I did get a photo but havent had the time to get identification. Was also in the middle of mooving house and have had to move gain too!!! But this time i have a years contract so will be staying put for a while. Anyway I will get back to the subject aventually and get an identifacion. I’m sure its something common as have seen this before, just not on my nettles via an intruder.

    #29183

    Pepetuna
    Keymaster

    Today there was a Red Admiral in my garden! It was hanging around the nettles so, hoping it might be a female that has already mated and was looking for a place to lay eggs, I have captured her and put her in a castle with a nettle plant. I hate doing that to lovely wild creatures, but if she does lay me some eggs she will earn her freedom 😉 (Actually even if she doesn’t, I will let her go in a couple of days).

    We have a lot of Welcome Swallows here, but I haven’t seen any evidence on the wings of visiting butterflies that they are being preyed on. Perhaps we have too much other insect-life? They too have become un-welcome swallows, as they have built a nest atop the security light on the side of my father’s garage, and they dive-bomb anyone coming past!

    #29180

    Anna
    Participant

    Jane, do you notice a lot of chasing with the butterflies?
    Here, I have several Yellow Admirals who chase the heck out of the monarchs, and they don’t give up easily. Then we have lots of swallows, so the monarchs chase them at every chance they get! I think the Swallows make a big dent in the butterfly population here…I find butterflies nectaring with nip marks taken out of their wings. My Welcome Swallows, have almost become un-welcome Swallows at the moment.

    #29178

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    ‘Today have seen Yellow Admirals, Red Admirals, Magpie moths, Blues, and of course many monarchs and whites.’

    Jane you are now reaping the benefits of all that hard work you put in to establish your butterfly garden, and I’m sure you would agree it has been well worth it. To all those butterfly lovers out there who wish they had lots of butterflies flying in their gardens, a butterfly garden is not something that can be planted over the weekend, it is a gradual build up and over time the butterflies will come, given that you have both hostplants and nectar plants growing.

    #29148

    Jane
    Participant

    Hi Norm,

    I’ve seen the Reds again today out on the railway land, such good timing because Paul Vandenberg was visiting and got to see and photograph them. He has just built a butterfly house and garden, and has gone home with Yellow Admiral Larvae and many Pupae too : )

    I’ll keep an eye on the U ferox plants for signs of life. It’s great to see they are hanging around in my garden. Today have seen Yellow Admirals, Red Admirals, Magpie moths, Blues, and of course many monarchs and whites. Looks like all your mentoring has paid off 🙂

    #29147

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    Thats great Jane, a good chance you will get some eggs on the ferox so keep an eye on it. You may not see the eggs but in a couple of weeks keep a look out for just the tips of the ferox leaf folded together, which the young larvae do until big enough to fold the complete leaf. Its a great feeling to see them flying free for sure.

    #29140

    Jane
    Participant

    Hi Norm,

    I followed all you advice in the last post and let them go. Holding them upside down and releasing onto the underside of the U. ferox leaves works really well. They hung around for a while before flying off, and have been seen many times since out on the butterfly garden being chased about by monarchs, and nectaring on buddleais and cosmos. Thanks for great advice. Took lots of photos, and loved letting them go. I hate keeping things caged up. so felt brilliant to see them fly free. I’m hoping to sight them again today.

    #29124

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    Hi Jane,

    Check to make sure the temperature is not too warm at the castle by using a thermometer. There is some evidence to suggest that the Red admiral will aestivate (go into summer diapause)in hot weather, the Red admirals are different in many aspects to the Yellow admiral.
    If you decide to release them, a couple of tips. Shut the cats inside temporarily. Take the castle outside and close to the ferox. If you can, reach in through a restricted opening of the zipper and grip a butterfly with wings closed gently between finger and thumb, this with slow movements as any quick movement will startle them and they are quicker than you. Position the butterfly on the underside of a ferox leaf letting it find its ‘footing’. By positioning the butterfly on the underside it is less likely to fly off immediately, and just may be prompted to ‘taste’ the leaf. If it does fly off after postioning itself better, at least it may return to the plant. Do this one by one, it will take a little time but may be worth it as a last resort. Do this with the castle in a shady position which may encourage them to settle a bit.
    If you think you may have eggs, which will take about 7 – 9 days to hatch this time of year, look closely at the growing tips of the nettle as any tiny larvae will migrate there and and weave a fine network of silk to shelter under, even before they begin feeding.
    It is well worth a try. The things we do for butterflies !!!

    #29122

    Jane
    Participant

    Thanks for your answer Norm. I had got desperate and have moved the castle to the kitchen bench where it gets maximum sunlight. Which of course means super -maximum vigilance against the puddies. (Young Bob has noticed already and is temporarily banned from the kitchen.

    Its a bit odd Norm because there are two caterpillars on the nettles provided in that enclosure and both are med sized and pale variants. I have looked the nettles over very closely for eggs and thought maybe I saw a couple (could just be wishful thinking).

    I thought about hanging the enclosure outdoors but the only place away from Bob and Marley is also out of my reach, and the other trouble with castles is that they are unstable in the wind, and will need to have dishes/vases of plants and flowers. I thought of hanging them on the washing line, but same problem, plus Bob and Marley can do the ‘Tweety and Silvester’ routine there.

    Somehow I will figure it out, and if not will let them go, and as you say Norm, maybe they are all females and their best chance is perhaps outdoors.

    My vege patch nettles are being devastated with Yellow larvae (I’m not complaning) there must be a couple of hundred or more larvae on them. Nettles are now down to two main patches looking lush. One patch of incisa from which I am getting food for my indoor larvae, and my ferox as yet not touched.

    #29120

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    Hi Jane,
    maybe it has come down to – the cats or the butterflies LOL
    My thought would be that if the admirals have not oviposited after two weeks there is something that does not suit and they perhaps need their freedom. Of course there is always the possibility that they are all females, in which case a male will find them when they are free, and the female may return and lay eggs on your nettles.
    But there will be other opportunities.
    One final thought, could you hang the cage from a tree or similar out of reach of the cats.

    #29119

    Jane
    Participant

    I’ve had the halogen lamps on the Reds now for several hours a day on the side panel of the butterfly castle. The butterflies still cling to the side which faces the window.

    Its been two weeks and I think I might let them go. Thoughts?

    #29107

    Terry
    Moderator

    One thing I forgot to mention and should have, about NZ Red Admirals is that they do have an annoying habit of pairing out of sight in bushes or low vegetation. When I bred them in my Butterfly House I often had to spend quite sometime in the evenings crawling around looking for pairings and as members of this forum have stated sometimes you think they have not paired and then later end up finding larvae. The Yellow Admirals are far more obliging and tend to pair on the roof and sides of the Butterfly House as well as on the less dense part of bushes and vegetation where they can easily be spotted.

    Anyhow this posting is a bit late as most of you have discovered this for yourselves now.

    #29099

    Charlotte
    Participant

    Hi Jane,

    Sadly we let them go last season as we thought they had not paired or laid eggs. Then we find the ferox over loaded with caterpillars. We managed to raise a few of the reds and as it was going into winter we decided to just release them.
    I regret that now Jane as we have to start from scratch again;-(
    as we needed to make some changes to the aviary to make things better.
    Now we’ve decided not to use the aviary and use the netted enclosure instead;-)

    #29098

    Anna
    Participant

    Yes, I have had some pairing, and egg laying. Not sure if all will be fertile though as some females have oviposited with out being paired (Unless they have mated and I havent seen them) I usually check several times after the sun goes down till dark, then mark pairs with a tiny dot of twink)

    Their wings do get a bit tatty, but not as bad as the once perfect ones that I released. (I kept half of the butterflies in the enclosure, and let the other half go) Look at this tatty one that I found near death outside a couple of days ago. He has had a hard life in the wild, but now is happily settling down in the enclosure, and will hopefully mate with some of the girls in there.
    Tatty Red Admiral

    #29095

    Jane
    Participant

    Anna,

    They have been happily nectaring on the buddleia since most of them eclosed 10 or so days ago – no problems there at all, so long as there is enough light and sunshine.

    The lamps are on now so we’ll see what happens. They are getting quite battered now though.

    Charlotte,

    Have you still got your Red Admirals breeding?

    #29089

    Charlotte
    Participant

    I hope you get success Jane;-) The Reds really are different to breeding to the yellows.
    When we placed around 10 RA’s in our small aviary we brought we didn’t hold out hope. But they did mate and lay eggs unbeknown to us both.
    It will be interesting to see if we can get some RA’s to breed in our other netted enclosure.

    #29085

    Anna
    Participant

    Great news! Have they started feeding on the buddleia?

    #29084

    Jane
    Participant

    Thanks Terry and Anna,

    Now that was a GREAT tip. I have a double lamp with halogen bulbs. It is now up against the caterpillar castle, and there is much excitement among the butterflies who have now awoken from their slumber and are flapping madly and sunning themselves.

    Pete and I use the lamp for reading, and Jack (old boy cat 16yrs) suns himself under its heat on the arm of the sofa. So now I will be in trouble with Pete and Jack……oh well never mind : )

    #29079

    Terry
    Moderator

    On the subject of the use of a bedside lamp to give artificial sunlight I too have done this to not only pair, European Red Admirals in a box and get eggs from them, but also found that Halogen bulbs work better as they give out more heat and what we cannot see because of how our brains interpret or perceive the light is that Tungsten Bulbs give out an orange light and Halogen more of a pale blue light. There are special lights you can purchase that give out the full daylight spectrum and these are very popular with people who suffer from SAD otherwise known as “Seasonal affective disorder”. If you use these lights it helps to improve mood in sufferers. These lamps are quite expensive but I have little doubt butterflies would respond well to them.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full-spectrum_light

    #29078

    Terry
    Moderator

    Hi Anna

    You are correct, I do sometimes add a drop or two of soy sauce, but I have to be honest and say I am unsure if it makes that much difference. I have not used any soy sauce with the nectar since last spring and the fertility of the Butterflies seems unaffected, however there is no harm in using it, it can only help provide salts that could be missing from there diet. I am lucky in that the floor of my Butterfly House has a soil floor in parts and the Butterflies like to mud puddle in the summer when it’s hot and I have soaked the floor for them with water. I suppose the “Miracle grow” plant food that I use on the nettles could provide the Butterflies with certain salts as well.

    #29077

    Anna
    Participant

    If you can find a water mister, they are really worthwhile. I have bought several as they are only a couple of dollars, and really handy for perking up wilting nettle etc. (I bought brand new ones and wrote WATER ONLY, so they don’t get mixed up with some that have been used for spraying copper etc…as I use them to stop fungi on plants at times.

    #29075

    Jane
    Participant

    Thats a good idea Anna. I’ll go and see what I can set up now! I’ve got a redundant lamp somewhere.

    #29074

    Anna
    Participant

    I should have added Jane, that if I have some in a Jumbo Caterpillar castle inside the house, a bedside lamp works well for a bit of tempory sunlight. They move towards it, and ‘sunbake’.

    #29073

    Anna
    Participant

    Terry, don’t you add a couple of drops of Soya Sauce to the mix as well? Somewhere I read to do that as they need the salts or something. Mine seem to do well on the nectar mix, but most need to be introduced to it first. I dip my finger in it, then hold it close to the butterfly, and they step on and put their tongue out, then I transfer them onto the dish of nectar. After doing that a couple of times, they help themselves. One important note though …. I find it works best very early in the morning, or late at dusk or they are full of zest, and are rather ‘flighty!’

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