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 - 26 through 50 (of 79 total)
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  • #29071

    Jane
    Participant

    Thanks Terry,

    I think the sunight is the MAIN problem. I’m going to have to find a solution to that one! :/ It’s a tricky one!

    #29069

    Terry
    Moderator

    Hi Jane

    Give your Red Admirals a strong honey, white sugar and water, nectar to drink. I use half pint of water, two tea spoons of honey and eight tea spoons of sugar mix. I keep it in a half pint plastic bottle in the refrigerator and the Yellow Admirals and Red Admirals love it. Don’t take any notice of the rubbish reports of white sugar recrystallising in the Butterflies guts, it is nonsense. I have fed hibernating species on this strong mix in the autumn and they have then successfully come through our long UK winters with no problems. If you feed your Red Admirals on this and they have paired, then they will lay eggs. But as Norm says, one thing they do need is sunlight.

    #29067

    Jane
    Participant

    Thanks Anna and Norm,

    I think it might be lack of sunlight, and I’m not sure what to do about it. There’s no sunlight here today anyway – cloudy and raining on and off.

    One butterfly has died. I found it in the bottom of one of the potted nettles 🙁 Dont know what happened. The others are just parked up stationary.

    Within the enclosure are 4 potted nettles and a vase of buddleia. I’m hoping that will provide humidity. If I can find a small mister I will try that too.

    Im starting to feel a bit mean keeping them caged up 🙁 If I can find a solution to the sunlight issue, I might let them go.

    About the Gatorade – I wouldn’t touch it either Norm – it looks like the worst kind of chemical cocktail, took me ages to find in the supermarket, and was on a shelf with other poisonous looking items full of artificial colourings and such like. I was toying with the idea of pooring it on the roots of some plants to get rid of it, but couldn’t bring myself to drench them in it, so it went down the drain LOL

    #29063

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    Hi Jane, don’t worry if the butterflies are not touching the gatorade, I wouldn’t touch the stuff either.
    It may may be that the butterflies have mated but conditions are not right for ovipositing, as they prefer sunlight for this. Also I would give the inside of the castle a slight misting, as Anna suggested, just to keep the humidity up.
    Anna I have a humidity gauge in the butterfly house and find when I water the potted plants the water drains through and the concrete floor of the butterfly house is often quite damp during the summer, so this helps keep the humidity up. But I sometimes mist the walls as additional on hot dry days.

    #29051

    Anna
    Participant

    I find too Jane, that they love it if you mist their enclosure at times with water.
    Do you do that Norm?

    #29033

    Jane
    Participant

    Thanks Norm,

    The enclosure is a large castle. Sunlight is limited as they are now in my spare room with later afternoon sun only. (The young feline butterfly fanciers are staying now for 2 weeks)Anywhere there is lots of sun there are also the young cats!

    Nectar is in the form of a vase of buddleia and dahlia flowers replaced daily. (I had offered gatorade and they weren’t interested)

    #29011

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    Hi Jane,

    I would think a week from when the last one eclosed would be ample time. The female normally begins ovipositing 1-2 days after mating, and needs an ample supply of nectar and sunlight. How large or small is the enclosure?

    #29004

    Jane
    Participant

    Update on my Red Admirals.

    There are 7 of them and although there has been much displaying and parading, there has been no pairing (that I know of) and despite there being potted nettles provided in the enclosure – no eggs…..How long do you think I should wait before I give up and let them go?

    #28944

    clinton9
    Participant

    european nettles

    #28941

    Pepetuna
    Keymaster

    10 out of 10 is pretty good. What kind of nettle are you using?

    #28939

    clinton9
    Participant

    Three young Red Admiral butterflies hatched from pupaes while I were in Auckland and I had to wait until tomorrow morning to release them. I reared 10 caterpillars that had became 10 pupaes. That was from eggs Norm had sent me last month ago.

    #28938

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    I watched one of my male Red Admirals tonight bunting a settled female with his head and pushing her around before he finally was satisfied and paired. That was after some chasing and parading by both parties.
    Good luck Jane, I hope you get some eggs before your boarders come.

    #28933

    Jane
    Participant

    Thanks Norm that is really helpful imformation. There is definately some displaying going on, and the displaying butterflies are also touching others with their legs – real attention seeking behaviours! Heres hoping. I am hoping it will all happen and some eggs will be laid soon, because our old neighbor is bringing his two young cats to stay here whilst he is on holiday, and they are VERY INTERESTED in butterflies. Not like my old cat Jack who watches them with one eye and mild disinterest these days`- but he is 16. I think I may have to move the butterflies from the kitch into the spare-room. I was hoping to have eggs, and let the adult butterflies go before the young predators arrive!

    #28929

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    Hi Jane,

    Males normally require a day or two for the claspers to strengthen but the females can mate soon after eclosing, not that they necessarily will in captivity as I have waited a week before any pairing occurred. The females will often ‘display’ themselves by flickering their wings, and showing off as you say, and the lack of interest could be that they are all females, or that the male is not ready or a whole host of reasons. Temperature is also a factor so make sure it is at least 18 c. and the butterflies have plenty of nectar. Chasing is sometimes part of the courtship ritual so being in a castle the behaviour may be little restricted. Mating normally takes place at dusk.

    #28928

    Jane
    Participant

    Six Red Admirals now in the castle, and one more to eclose. Have no idea which are male or female. There is some showing off and attention seeking behaviour, but the recipients are not interested, so I guess time will tell.

    I wonder how long until mating takes place? Assuming of course that I have both sexes.

    #28896

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    Male butterflies in general are able to mate several times, some species more than others, but would need time between pairings to produce more spermatozoa. Females also can mate several times.

    #28864

    Anna
    Participant

    These ones took ages….so I hope she coffs up with plenty of eggs for me:)
    I have seperated these two now from the rest of the group, so they can have their own space.
    Just another question Norm….would he be likely to mate with several more if he was left in with the others instead? Seems once he has the knack it would be a pity to give him too many restrictions seeing I want lots of fertile eggs.
    A while back I had happily egg laying ladies, and one bloke who wasn’t interested in persuing them:( so I ended up with lots of infertile eggs.

    #28859

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    It probably depends on the individuals as I have had pairings at 2 hours and others much longer ie. I gave up going out to check and went to bed. Generally it takes a minimum of 15 minutes for the male to transfer its sperm sac, so anything after that may depend on how much they are enjoying it!!! LOL

    #28857

    Anna
    Participant

    Much excitement last evening, just on dusk I had a couple of Red Admirals paring, so I have put a tiny mark on them and will keep an eye out on the female and gather up any eggs she may leave. PS/ They were paired for hours. How long is it usually Norm? I have seen others pair, but haven’t gone out later to check if they are still together till I did with the last night ones.

    #28848

    Anna
    Participant

    Today I was pleased to get a visit from a scruffy Red Admiral that looks as though he has survived a bird attack with a beaked shape chunk out of his wings. He spent ages on a buddleia, returning several times during the day, so I bravely put a female Red Admiral out on the same plant (bravely cos of all the birds that hang around for a free feed) and so far so good. I’ll keep a check on them over the next few days, and if they survive, and return, I’ll let more Reds out. At present the freshly emerged Reds (Theres about 10)are in my mitre 10 netted gazebo with lots of nectar filled flowers, and nettle to encourage egg laying.

    Also all day I have noticed a lot of chasing….Yellow Admirals after monarchs, after one another, then monarchs after one another, and just before, the Red admiral chasing the Yellow one who in turn was after the monarch!

    The Buddleia sure is popular:)

    I just hope all the welcome swallows don’t get them, as theres some fledglings being escorted by their parents as they do until they become more independant…(I have seen several yellow admirals with wedges knicked out of their wings on the buddleia today.

    #28846

    Jane
    Participant

    The larvae from the nettles have mostly hatched out and even with the magnifying glass it is hard to tell if they are Yellow Admirals or Silver y moths. There are still many eggs being layed on the nettles outdoors and they are all glistening white and mostly in pairs on the stingers. I have seen yellows laying on this patch so hope the ones I have brought indoors are admirals, but won’t be able to tell until the larvae are big enough for my eyesight.

    Are silver Y moth larvae fluffy like the admiral larvae?

    On the Red Admiral front: Now have a second red butterfly, but not much activity from the first one. The weather is unseasonably cloudy and wet here, and the Red is ignoring my fresh flowers and gatorade station as well. Time will tell when we get a bit of sun, then perhaps there will be some nectaring and if I get really lucky more reds will eclose soon and if REALLY LUCKY – a pairing.

    #28827

    Anna
    Participant

    When I do nettle for the larvae in containers, I collect it, then wash each branch to remove any bugs and to keep the plant from wilting, then I cut it up into smaller bits, and drain it in a colander before using it. That way the nettle stays fresh.
    I wouldn’t recomend raising caterpillars in containers unless you are prepared to replace the nettle and handy towel frequently…I do it daily, or you can end up with trouble. I keep no more than 25 per Icecream container, and this system works well for me.

    #28820

    NormTwigge
    Keymaster

    Differing sizes of the same species of adult butterfly usually equates to the feeding of the larvae. When the hostplant is not in prime condition, such as insufficient moisture, aphid infestation etc. or if food becomes scarce the larvae will often pupate at a smaller state than normal. This is seen with Monarchs when the food supply runs short and the larvae will pupate early, some do not pupate successfully and others emerge as a smaller adult butterfly. Several years back I carried out some experiments and isolated two groups of Yellow Admiral larvae, both groups from the same batch. One group was fed on cut nettle fresh each day in their cage, and the other group kept on potted nettle in the cage. The larvae on the potted nettles attained a larger size before pupating than the other group, and comparison of the imago showed that they were also slightly larger than the other group.
    Most growing plants will gradually lose condition once separated from the root system that nourishes it, which must stop the flow of chemicals and nutrients. While I occasionally feed my Admiral larvae on cut nettle I prefer using potted plants, and the largest Admiral butterflies I observe are the wild caught ones. But everyone has their own system, and small or large, they are all keeping our butterfly population buoyant.

    #28819

    Anna
    Participant

    Oops…I forgot to add Jane, that I have also collected small branches of nettle with eggs or tiny caterpillars in their tips, and kept them in a vase inside a caterpillar castle, and they do well there.

    #28818

    Anna
    Participant

    Jane, I have photos of Yellow Admiral and Red Admiral eggs that I took after watching them lay their eggs, so I’ll try and hunt them out, and send them to you. Once you have seen a few, it can be a bit easier to distinguish which is which. I think of them as clearish…but they have a greenish tinge. Also to my eyes the Yellows have more sparkly, delicate ones than the Reds.

    At times I have collected the eggs and put them in a petrie dish with a bit of dampish kitchen towel to make the leaf last longer. Theres probably no need to do this though, as like Norm, I have watched them emerge from their egg cases, then wander off in search of fresh food. I drop a young leaf or two just by their leaf when I see the eggs have gone black, or if they have started to emerge.

    Then the next day they go into “intensive care” for a few days, when they are transferred into one of those small clear food containers with damp kitchen towel, and nettle tips. From “Spotlight” I managed to get some very fine mesh cloth a bit like those mesh bags I’ve posted caterpillars in, and I use that for the top of the clear food containers, as they can’t escape, as the holes are so fine.

    Using a very fine tipped slightly damp paintbrush helps when transferring the teeny caterpillars. Also I have a couple of fine tipped tweezers, that are fantastic once they get bigger.

    Its exciting that you have got Reds….The ones that have emerged for me the last few days (9 Reds)seem a bit larger this time, so I wonder if its the amount of food they ate before pupaeing, or sturdier stock? I had found these 9 caterpillars in the Marlborough Sounds on Ferox a few weeks ago. Incidentally the only pupae I found at the same time and bought home had been parasitised sadly.

    I have fingers crossed that the caterpillars that came from the Murchison Area will be Reds as well….I have to be patient for a couple of weeks yet, but they are looking promising.

Viewing 25 replies - 26 through 50 (of 79 total)

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