GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR HAND-RAISING BUTTERFLIES & MOTHS
General Instructions for Hand-Raising Butterflies & Moths
EGGS - Collected eggs should be kept in a very small container. Fresh host plants or additional moisture are not needed and could cause mold. Check the eggs often for hatched caterpillars. In general, eggs hatch in 14 days or less. If you need to delay egg hatching, you can place them in your refrigerator for a few days if they aren't already near hatching.
CATERPILLARS - Newly hatched caterpillars are very tiny and should be handled using a toothpick. Many species will eat their eggshell after hatching and most will begin wandering around. Hatchlings should be transferred to a small airtight container to limit wandering, prevent dehydration and keep the host plant leaves from drying out too fast. If drops of condensation occur, remove the lid until they evaporate. Host plant leaves can be cut into small strips to give the caterpillars more edges to chew on. Don't mist hatchlings, they could drown. Chlorinated water will kill hatchlings in seconds. Caterpillars normally get all the moisture they need from the leaves they eat, so additional watering shouldn't be necessary. If your caterpillars do become dehydrated, lightly misting their leaves with distilled or rainwater will help.
Nearly all types of caterpillars go through 5 growth stages (called instars). Hatchlings are considered 1st instar caterpillars. When the caterpillar is ready to shed it's skin and advance to the next instar, it will stop feeding and become inactive. It may attach its feet to a layer of silk and you may notice a new larger head forming behind the old one. Caterpillars at this time should not be moved from their anchoring or they will have difficulty shedding and could die as a result. This inactive period can last up to 2 days.
As the caterpillars get larger, they are in less danger from dehydration and can be moved to larger ventilated containers. Never place contained caterpillars in direct sunlight. Avoid overcrowding.
Non-gregarious caterpillars can become cannibalistic if they are too crowded,
especially in later instars. Also avoid mixing caterpillars that are different sizes. Larger cats will often eat smaller ones. Keep your caterpillars supplied with fresh food and remove frass daily!
Avoid grocery store-bought host plants (like parsley). They almost always have pesticides on them that don't wash off. This also includes 'organic' stores. (Bt is considered an organic pesticide) When a caterpillar is fully-grown and ready to pupate it will "clear it's gut". This is usually indicated by runny frass. After this happens the caterpillar will no longer feed and will begin wandering around looking for a place to pupate. In some species this is also accompanied by a color change.
PUPATION - Butterfly caterpillars generally pupate on a branch or stick, seldom on the host plant. Monarchs and other species that make hanging...