California Sisters life cycle

Chris Durden drdn at
Mon Jun 21 18:55:49 EDT 1999

  Good luck Laurel.
  For tips on raising this species I would suggest putting out a call on
leps-l for information from Europe or Japan on raising *Limenitis populi*.
It may be one of the closest relatives of your beast. Tips for raising *L.
populi* could apply to CALIFORNIA SISTERS.
  I would suggest trying several methods. Separate some of the hatchling
larvae for solitary rearing. If they have trouble getting started on the
oak leaves, chop the leaves so they have fresh damaged surfaces to get
started on. If the first kind of oak is not accepted try others from
different trees or from different oak species. You could try a cheescloth
or net sleeve on an oak branch outside if you have trouble keeping foliage
fresh. I suspect the larvae may start feeding as a group, then wander off
as individuals as they get older. Keep solitary larvae separate to prevent
  You may want to photograph each stage or take specimens for future
reference. In any case the shed headcap can be kept to guide your
identification of the instar in future. Headcaps can be saved in small
gelatin capsules (from the drugstore or herb store) pinned (with label) in
the collection. 
  To make durable specimens of lepidopteran larvae -
1. boil water and take it off the hotplate.
2. drop larva into hot (almost boiling water) to poach the proteins. Larva
will clench as it dies very quickly, then the body relaxes extended. 
3. fish the larva out and preserve in 85% ethyl alcohol (best) or 75%
isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol (not as good).
4. the preserved (and labelled) larva can be kept indefinitely in the dark
in a securely stoppered glass vial. It is efficient to keep a number of
vials with larvae in a sealer jar of preservative. Colors will change in
time, so a photograph is most important.
5. the preserved (and labelled) larva can be mounted in clear embedding
plastic (available at most hobby stores).
 Alternatively the larva may be killed and fixed in an acetic acid - methyl
alcohol mixture (I can look up a recipie if you wish). When fixed this way
the muscles turn out rigid and it may be dehydrated by soaking in stronger
and stronger alcohol. It is then removed from alcohol, dried, glued to a
card on an insect pin, labelled and kept dry in the collection. These dried
larvae can be painted in lifelike colors (watercolor) but this does muddy
up some of the tiny characters used in research.
 I give these directions because butterflies lay hundreds of eggs to
compensate for normall loss to parasites, disease and predators along the
way. If all goes well you should end up with more than you have time to
care for.
...........Chris Durden

At 02:14 PM 1999:06:21 PDT, you wrote:
>Ok.  I have them.  Was up in the Sierra foothills last week and they 
>practically flew into my net.  Either that or my back swing is getting 
>better!  No fish soup needed.
>Saturday's plant search showed four eggs.  Hopefully more now.  I'm 
>wondering if there is anything specail or odd about their life cycle that I 
>should know?  Seems I've amazed a fair number of people by my desire or 
>affliction to rear the most difficult of all the leps; checkerspots, 
>fritillaries and parnassius.  I'm less than gifted intellectually so how 
>should I know know any better eh?
>Same as telling a small child that they "can't."  "Well why not."  "Because 
>you just can't," says the adult.  Well like most full-grown children, I 
>guess I'm irrationally stubborn.  Oh goody, I get to rear sisters!  Now I 
>just need to figure out how best to do it, while killing the least innocent 
>by-standing critters with my less than gifted intellect.  Sorry, I'm feeling 
>happy and whimsical today!
>Wish me luck...  Laurel
>Get Free Email and Do More On The Web. Visit

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