Terry's Admiral Project in Britain update?

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  • #14476

    Jane
    Participant

    Hey Terry,

    How did your admiral project get through? I remember at one stage you Admirals were looking like they might not make it through, and seeing your name in the forum has made me wonder how you got on………I think you were down to a last few at one point…..any chance of an update?

    Regards and best wishes – Jane

Viewing 25 replies - 1 through 25 (of 985 total)
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  • #58234

    Terry
    Participant

    Yes your description is urtica urens! I know they are more common in NZ than urtica dioica. I have noticed that if I plant an u urens in amongst my u dioica the Yellow Admiral females plaster it with twice as many eggs as the latter. It must be an genetically inherited memory thing. The original stock came from NZ (I was told) so u urens would have been the main foodplant.

    #58224

    LeslieD
    Participant

    thanks Terry, I think these ones are Urens as they are quite short, tallest being about 1 foot high. they lurk under a conifer which hides a manure pile. So they are not in the way and don’t get dealt to.

    #58222

    Terry
    Participant

    Hi Leslie,

    I use perennial Nettle urtica dioica as it is the most common nettle in the UK. In fact if you visited the UK you would probably be amazed at how common it is. Its very persistent and can be grown from root division and cuttings and seeds very easily. Its found in gardens, fields, river banks, and roadsides, even quite close the sea line and everywhere except at the highest elevations. I always like to have a good laugh at the fuss New Zealand farmers make about preventing the spread of this nettle over there. In the UK it can take over huge patches in fields if they are left fallow for a few years. However, as they are fantastic nitrogen fixers when these fields are finally plowed and planted the resulting crops are better so like any plant farmers don’t like it can be turned to your advantage if you know how.

    #58209

    LeslieD
    Participant

    Hi Terry what nettle do you use? We have a decent patch of a short stinging nettle at the farm I keep my horse. I used to pick them to eat but found they were already claimed by admiral caterpillars. Anyway I’m establishing a patch at home. These nettles are a lot easier to live with than Ferox and seem easier to re establish once dug up.
    The caterpillars seem to behave quite a lot like the monarch caterpillars and are prone to wander off at will. Is it better to keep them in an enclosure? We have a lot of admirals here, mostly yellows in Karori but mostly reds out at the farm. They seem well adapted to the winds and not so high temps and this year are doing a lot better in this area than the monarchs.

    #58208

    Terry
    Participant

    Update as requested! The project is still running. I have about 100 Yellow Admirals in the butterfly house as of today. This winter has been exceptionally mild which has helped when finding small nettles to feed the larvae. As the days are now getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere, I am hopeful that I will be completing year 23 of the project. In the UK we sometimes suffer from an early spring followed by a (beast from the east) cold blast of weather from Siberia across Europe before spring proper kicks in. So dependent on weather things as I stated have gone quite easy this winter. The wilt disease is still a problem but for every 2 or 3 batches that perish 1 will make it through mainly due to sterilization of the eggs keeping the disease under some control.

    #57342

    Terry
    Participant

    Its been a very busy year for me this year hence the lack of reports, however the project is still running. The numbers of Butterflies and larvae I have at the moment are low due to lack of decent nettles in mid summer and the wilt disease in high effect. I have 125 pupae glued up and ready for emergence in the next week so this will help take me into September and then I need to get some reasonable sized broods into mid to late October to get me ready for the long winter period. I realize this must all end one day but I shall keep going until they either die out or some other disaster strikes.

    #57116

    Fabian.E
    Participant

    Very nice to hear that it is still going on after 22 years!

    I really understand what you want to say. These “pseudo conservationist” want to forbid everything, even to keep wild animals in general. So they are searching for something which could be interpreted as illegal. It is best if they don’t know anything, then they cannot get some ridiculous ideas. So I keep everything away from them that they don’t know anything and so they are also not interested.
    Under these circumstances that I watch out that nobody knows about it in my experience also nobody cares about a few pupae or especially some eggs in a letter. I send very often eggs to the UK and also regularly get eggs and pupae from the UK and never had problems. I did not even have problems sending pupae of very big Saturniidae species as Attacus atlas or Antheraea paphia to the US where they are far more strict. There import of non-native species is strictly forbidden, but somehow nobody cares. In contrast in the UK and the rest of the EU it is abosutely legal. Actually there are just a few species, which are illegal in the UK as the tobacco hornworm, which is considered as series pest. Furthermore protected species are really problematic. If one owns and sells them one can get serious problems unless the right paperwork is provided. But actually that’s also no matter about export or import, but only about owning and selling.

    Thanks a lot for your nice offer that I can visit you and get breeding material there. I really have to consider if this is somehow possible, but probably unfortunately not this year. Maybe next year 🙂

    Do you know other persons apart from you breeding them in Europe?

    #57114

    Terry
    Participant

    Hi Fabian,

    Yes my captive bred stock is still going after 22 years. I read your other post and realise you are in Germany. I am sorry to say that I do not supply livestock any more via post as the EU and particularly the UK now have adopted ridiculous environmental laws for so called species protection. We also have environmentalists who are really uneducated thugs who would probably try to destroy my project given a chance on some crazy excuse such as introducing foreign species to the UK. (I would never release my stock to the wild). As you stated the Northern European winters are far to cold for this species to survive, even if they escaped, and I keep mine going with enough warmth just to keep the Butterfly House temperature above freezing on cold winter nights. The UK being less cold than German winters I can still find nettles and keep a few larvae through to spring. If you are ever in the UK I will give you my details so you can visit and take some stock back with you if you can get it through customs as we will be out of the EU soon I hope.
    My reason for being so cautious Is that I have a fellow Butterfly Breeder who is exporting and importing livestock “legally” has been seriously persecuted by environmental thugs and other so called conservation bodies and I don’t want to attract attention to myself. I am a scientist at heart and want to learn as much as I can before the laws get even more stupid and draconian.

    #57111

    Fabian.E
    Participant

    Hi Terry,

    Are there any news about your project? Did your colony make it through the winter?

    Best regards
    Fabian

    #53785

    Terry
    Participant

    I managed to bring through nearly 500 larvae to pupation and over 300 have now emerged. The weather is holding up and so far no frosts have occurred. The weather looks settled for the next week or two and we had some much needed rain last weekend so finding autumn nettles should be a bit easier. Once the much colder weather kicks in the butterflies in the GH activity will slow down and then the, getting them through the long UK winter, battle will begin.

    #53728

    Terry
    Participant

    The project continues in to September and now as the temperatures slowly drop and days get shorter in the UK, its time to build up stock ready for the winter season. After one of the longest droughts and heatwave since 1979 nettles were scarce and the stock of Yellow Admirals low. However the drought was broken by thunderstorms and rain and then nice fresh nettles appeared and I am now in the process of building up numbers again. I have at this time about 60 pupae and if the last instar larvae make it through I could get 150 or maybe more. The resulting butterflies will probably last until mid October and from these I will need to get plenty of eggs and then healthy larvae to produce another generation in late October to early November, these are the generation that in the cold temperatures will be required to produce just enough eggs to keep the project ticking over during the winter period. The wilt disease is still active although some larvae from the butterfly house from unsterilised eggs are surviving and the pupae are gathered up and the resulting butterflies mixed in with others from sterilised stock to try and breed in resistance. As anyone out there with a scientific medical background knows this is not a perfect solution as in nature not only the host develops resistance but over time the infection adapts as well, so its a difficult battle to win.

    #53541

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Terry sent some photos – you can see them here:

    Raising Yellow Admirals

    #53523

    Terry
    Participant

    Apologies for lack of posts for 3 months but health problems, work commitments and other distractions have kept me overwhelmed to say the least.
    The project is still going strong after an amazing spring brood, followed by a smaller generation we are now suffering a drought in the south east of England, the worst since 1976, with it almost impossible to find decent nettles to feed my larvae. To cope with this I decided to sterilise eggs collected from the butterfly house and then place the eggs in small clear plastic boxes in the refrigerator at no lower than 3 centigrade. I can then bring eggs out and when larvae emerge from eggs I transfer them via an artists paint brush on to nettles in other plastic rearing boxes. Doing only small numbers of larvae at a time helps with the lack of foodplant and the eggs go back into the refrigerator until I require more larvae. So far the eggs have remained viable for 5 weeks using this method so it could also come in handy in very cold winters when nettles are also in short supply. It must be noted that as the eggs are sterilised using the Domestos 5% treatment that the eggs fall from the leaves and after washing and drying are therefore in the plastic boxes in a clean environment with no foliage to rot and cause other problems. Even small 1st instar larvae are surviving using this method as long as the temperature does not hit freezing or below. No doubt many Yellow Admiral larvae survive your winters in New Zealand as very small larvae. Sterilisation of the eggs is still essential as wilt is still active in my stock but has been less of a problem that last year, so far!

    #53110

    Terry
    Participant

    I have approximately 94 butterflies emerged to date and all went much better than expected. No sign of wilt disease yet and another 250 pupae have formed. the total could even reach 410 exceeding my best estimates. next job; start collecting eggs for sterilisation and then on to the next brood.

    #53030

    Terry
    Participant

    Things just keep getting better at the moment and I know have 175 pupae glued up with the first 5 butterflies emerged. 1 yesterday and 4 today with the 1 butterfly remaining from the winter generation. The timing was perfect. I could end up with 240 at this rate which is way beyond what I expected. Today is also the first proper spring weather in what has been a dismal springtime. It was nice to see Brimstones flying around in the wild as well.

    #52929

    Terry
    Participant

    I now have 75 Yellow Admiral pupae glued up ready for emergence with a possible total from this batch of 95, however the second batch is now getting ready to pupate and there are 19 at this moment spinning silk pads for pupation. If wilt does not strike this generation then possibly another large batch of pupae could be ready soon.

    #52896

    Terry
    Participant

    I have just glued up 50 Yellow Admiral pupae and with the larvae about to pupate the total could reach 90. This is far better than I expected and so far no sign of wilt. As the weather is going to start to warm up at last in 1 weeks time, I expect the disease to show when the Butterfly House gets higher temperatures within, for longer periods. It’s a relief to have managed to scrape through this winter once again although failure was only just avoided.

    #52832

    Terry
    Participant

    Finally, after one of the longest spells of poor spring weather for a long time I have managed to get some larvae to pupation. I have 27 larvae pupating or already pupae meaning that the project has survived another UK winter. Moving now toward year 21 of the project. These spring larvae are large due to the quality spring nettles at this time of year. No sign of wilt disease yet but as it is almost impossible to eradicate once it’s in the stock that will probably reappear as the weather warms up.

    #52698

    Terry
    Participant

    The Butterflies survived the Siberian weather blast known here in our ever sensationalist media as “the beast from the east”. After 2 weeks of better weather, though still below average, we have starting today a “mini beast from the east” for 3 days. However in the brief window between these weather phenomenons the remaining Butterflies paired and laid eggs and I now have a few larvae to try and get another generation from. The remaining 13 butterflies are rather tatty now, so once again it’s very hit and miss whether the project will continue or finally fold. Patience is required now as it is a wait and see moment. As a footnote it’s snowing outside as I write this post.

    #52540

    Terry
    Participant

    As you may have heard in New Zealand, we in the UK are having a bad time with very cold weather, with snow blown in from the east, namely Siberia in Russia. Luckily before this hit us at weekend I managed to collect some eggs laid by the very last Butterflies I have. These eggs have produced some larvae so provided they survive then the project continues. The weather is meant to improve by the beginning of next week but there is no sign of proper spring weather yet. So it’s a case of continuing patience.

    #52215

    Terry
    Participant

    More eggs were laid today when at last, we had enough sunshine to briefly warm the butterfly house up to 22C. Tonight is to be cold and frosty but tomorrow is forecast to be sunny for most part. That is no guarantee that it will be sunny as the weather forecasters are often quite wrong. Hopefully there will be more eggs laid tomorrow if all goes well weather wise, and then if they are fertile a new season will begin. I just hope the wilt disease does not strike early and a reasonable number of larvae will result from the early season brood.

    #52174

    Terry
    Participant

    I have 18 butterflies and 5 pairings but it was only today that the first eggs were laid when the sun came out briefly, and warmed the butterfly house up enough. There are only about 6 eggs but I collected them up in case the slugs find them at night and make a meal of them. The weather here in the UK has been appalling and tonight could be the coldest night of the winter so far. With no prospect of better weather for the next 2 weeks I am still staring down the face of defeat in my quest to keep the project alive.

    #52092

    Terry
    Participant

    I counted 16 butterflies in the GH last evening and 2 pairings. Now all I need is some decent sunshine to get some eggs laid. The weather is still very cold as would be expected in the UK at this time of year but as the days get longer my chances of success increase. If I fail then 20 years of continuous breeding is still a fair achievement, so I can at least be satisfied with that effort.

    #51986

    Terry
    Participant

    The very last batch of pupae are now producing butterflies. I have 12 emerged and a few more may make it. They do not look particularly strong and are on the small side, but this is it, the last chance. The weather is mild for the next week but what is needed is sunny mild days to get the butterflies to pair and start laying eggs. Now all I can do is hope for the best.

    #51782

    Terry
    Participant

    Having passed the shortest day here in the UK and down to 2 Butterflies in the Butterfly House I was surprised when they turned out to be male and female and paired. However the female has not laid any eggs due to the cold, mostly overcast weather. The remaining batches of larvae from earlier egg laying batches all died except for one and from these I have 20 pupae. So as so many of the pupae from past batches died this really could be the end of the project. This is I suppose what is known as “drinking in the last chance saloon”. If any of the pupae are viable they should produce butterflies in the next 2 weeks. Whatever happens, after 20 years I think I can call the project a success overall as I never expected even 2 years when it all began. If it all ends soon the Butterfly House will need to be completely re-netted and thoroughly sterilised throughout before starting a new species. I already have in mind breeding Red Admiral vanessa atalanta using pellitory as the foodplant to save all those nettle stings on my poor fingers. I have already overwintered Red Admiral successfully in the past, but using nettles as foodplant. In it’s southern range of North Africa and Southern Europe the Red Admiral is more often found solely on Pellitory species.

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