rearing red admiral butterflies
godley at hotmail.com
Thu Sep 7 12:59:04 EDT 2000
I have successfully reared red admirals during the winter here in the San
Francisco area of California. We at times have quite mild winters being
near the ocean but at times our temperatures get frosty too.
I'm not familiar with the species you mention here, so do not know exactly
how similar their behavior would be to the red admiral. Here's what worked
for me though. I'm a hobbyist, so this will not sound exactly scientific
but please feel free to ask questions.
I started my culture in the February of 1998. It was a bumper year for us
here, is it was a very wet and warm winter. I gathered a large batch of
caterpillars from the nettle growing in the lagoons. I work for a
wastewater treatment plant and the stuff had volunteered it's self along the
edge of the sludge ponds. Nutrient soil, I guess. This is the Urtica eunes
(sp?) I believe which is a non-native annual variety with a gentle bite.
Our native type is a perennial called Urtica holoseria and this stuff hurts!
I have found though, that the red admirals seem to prefer the annual over
the perennial, which is more likely to host satyr anglewings.
At any rate, I was quite successful at continuing to line throughout the
spring and summer. When winter came, I simple moved them into my apartment
bathroom. By using the overhead heat lamp, and keeping the door closed I
was able to provide them with a nice warm, well lit environment. They would
have received perhaps 14-15 hours of light per day, given that I would turn
the light on in the morning when I woke and would turn it off at night while
The nettle itself will grow quite well here in the winter and can be induced
to survive during our hot summers by providing shade and daily watering. As
Ms. Daniels suggested, they will eat another non-stinging plant called
pellitory (which she gave me my first one, thanks again!) I personally have
found that they don't generally like to lay on it in captivity and the
smaller caterpillars don't like the cut leaves so much. What I do is use a
potted nettle for egg laying, feed the first two instars on nettle and then
switch the later instars to pellitory.
As far as the actual mating process went, I didn't bother them. For me,
they were quite happy to cooperate all by their selves. What may have
contributed to this is the density. I was using small homemade hanging
cages at the time. These were constructed of 9-10" hoops and bridal
tulling. I would estimate that I generally kept around 35+ adult in a cage
at the time. I think that crowding them a bit is what helped, since they
really couldn't get away from each other. I say this because I've had
trouble with egg laying at other times when I kept a smaller number
At any rate, I was able to keep both red admirals and buckeyes going
throughout the winter in this manner. I lost the colony later the following
summer due to troubles with a bacteria in my caterpillars (hygiene, hygiene,
uugh). Bad luck that, but I would estimate that I had 10-12 continuous
generations before this occurred. I've been working on chalcedon
checkerspots and pipevine swallowtails since, so I'm not certain that I
could duplicate my luck with red admirals again.
Hope this helps and best of luck... Laurel
>From: "Barron, Mandy" <BarronM at agresearch.cri.nz>
>Reply-To: BarronM at agresearch.cri.nz
>To: "'LEPS-L at LISTS.YALE.EDU'" <LEPS-L at lists.yale.edu>
>Subject: rearing red admiral butterflies
>Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2000 10:38:42 +1200
>Does anyone here have any experience in raising red admirals (Vanessa
>atalanta) in captivity? I am about to start a PhD project on the closely
>related New Zealand red admiral (Bassaris gonerilla) and would appreciate
>any tips you could give me. I hope to get a continuous lab culture going
>I can do experiments during the winter, but I can't find anyone that has
>managed to rear a second generation in captivity. They seem reluctant to
>mate and don't lay eggs in captivity.
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