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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know this is kind of a strange request, but thought I'd just throw this out there just in case someone could help. The last of our little Painted Lady butterflies have emerged. Just a few hours ago, I saw two of them mating! Wow, these guys don't waste any time! On the other hand , I guess if one has only three weeks to live, one gets down to business as soon as possible, eh?
Does anyone know how long before they lay their eggs? My plan is to release them as soon as I see they are eating and flying about on their own, probably Monday. I hope this will be soon enough for the female to find a good place to lay her eggs, but I can't seem to find any info online. Does anyone out there know if I have enough time?If not, what do I do? Should I put some sort of branches in the habitat for her?
 

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Erhm. I had Painted Ladies mate once, and it was disastrous. Thousands of larvae crawling in and out of the mesh. Yes, they're really that small, and there really are that many of them.

I remember looking ALL over for the information, but unfortunately the babies were hungry, and by the time we were able to get the proper plants it was too late. I dumped the jar outside but I'm sure most of them died


However, I can tell you exactly what to do, as I know the information now. I have had time to get very experienced with insects, so I hope this helps.

First of all, you have no idea if it is too late or not. We released ours fairly soon and still there were eggs, so it's very possible they have already laid the eggs. You will want to find out where they laid the eggs. They usually will lay them on open surfaces that remind them of leaves, such as cloth, or likely the floor of the habitat if you have the same kind as me. Note that the eggs might not be visible. If they are they usually look like little light yellow spots. If you see them then you will know it right away. If you don't see them, there's still a chance they might be there, so take these preparations just in case.

Painted Lady larvae have a fairly specific diet. By that I mean they won't just eat any plant in your backyard so if you want to care for them you may have to go a bit out of your way. Hollyhock is a favorite of theirs. Most plant and garden stores sell them, they are fairly common plants. Other available diets for them include thistle and mallow, though it may be easier to just go get a Hollyhock. Shouldn't be too expensive, and if it turns out there are no eggs, then you'll just have a nice plant to put somewhere in your yard or garden. If you can't find any of these plants do a quick google search, there are probably tons of breeders who have experimented with different things and you could get help from there. I've always found that a quick and cheap alternative for caterpillar diets lies in Lilac leaves, which my very picky Forest Tent caterpillars ate even though it's not really in their diet and thrived on.

Anyways, if experience proves right those larvae, when hatched, will just zip right through the mesh of the cage. What size of mesh enclosure do you have? I recommend putting it into a glass box or something of the sort and sealing it nice and shut. If it's big enough, you won't have to put too many airholes, so that makes for less escape opportunities. Make sure the entire mesh habitat is put into this box - it may not look very pretty but if you want them to thrive it's probably best. I remember the state of panic seeing the hundreds of caterpillars just crawling around wherever they pleased, be it the inside or outside of the habitat. Remember to do this AFTER you release the butterflies, ha. The eggs are nice and flexible and even if a bit of pressure is put on them from squeezing the container in somewhere (just not too tight of a fit please) they will probably be okay, but obviously butterflies need more room than that.

So once you get that all set up, put some hollyhock/thistle/whatever compatible plant you buy leaves into the mesh habitat, where the larvae will be, and just wait. It should only take a few weeks for them to hatch, so check every day and see if anything popped up. It should be pretty noticeable when the caterpillars hatch, they look like little tiny 1/2 - 1 cm black lines that crawl all around in very erratic manners. Egg batch sizes vary dramatically - you could get like ten of them, or you could get like 60.

So if you do end up with some larvae, start feeding them some hollyhock/whatever leaves every day. Make sure they have an available source of water, too. Don't just stick water in there or they'll drown themselves. A good way to go would be to wet down the leaves before you put them in. They will drink the droplets of water. Another way to get a constant source of water is to wet down a paper towel, wring it out a little bit, crumble it up, and stick it in there. They sip off of it and obtain water without danger of drowning. You'll just need to change it out every once in a while.

If you intend on keeping them til they pupate, you will need to care for them for a while. However, I suggest you let them loose once they get a bit bigger. Maybe like 1/2 the size of the ones you originally received. Then, they can be let go outside. Make sure you put tons of leaves near them from the source plant or just plant it there altogether. I don't suggest the second one if you're very fond of the plant. Hungry little buggers.

But yeah, hope I helped, and good luck! Keep me updated. Sorry for the long post, heh. XD
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Wow, thanks so much. I was at a loss. I've done this several times, but this is the first time they've mated! I wasn't able to release them today after all after discovering someone sprayed insecticide on our school's garden( a garden for little kids-go figure). My neighbors have a nice area where they can be set free without having to deal with bug spray. I did see one sitting on an orange slice at the bottom of the enclosure for a long time so there may very well be eggs. The mesh is pretty small. It's one of those Insect Lore habitats. I'll follow your instructions and see what happens. Thanks again, vegkid. I really appreciate the help and will keep you posted.
 

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Yep!


And yes, I had the insect lore habitat, that's what they crawled through.

What you always could do is poke around for one of the similar insect lore plastic habitats, then put the mesh container inside of the plastic one?
 

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I'm glad it went well. They love to hang around where you let them go, so check for them. They should visit sooner or later.


As for the eggs, no, they are usually yellowish-clearish, which makes them really hard to spot. Don't worry about looking for them now, because you probably won't be able to see any. Just put the cage somewhere where it's sealed in, and check it every day for about a month. If there aren't any larvae by a month in then there are no eggs, and the habitat can be cleaned out.

Make sure before putting the cage into whatever container that is sealed off, you don't mess with it too much. That orange in there might get a little rotten, but don't remove it. On second thought, you may want to carefully remove it and check it for eggs, because if the orange molds over and does in fact have eggs it could end up bad for the eggs on it. When you take it out of the cage, hold on to as little surface area as possible to avoid crushing any eggs and set it gently on a napkin on your hand. Pick it up, again utilizing as little surface area as possible, and check around for the yellow dots. If you don't find any of them, you should put the orange outside, in the shade near a plant, just in case there really are eggs on it, since they will have a better chance in the wild than in a landfill. If you do find eggs, try to figure out if they can be removed without harming them, and if they can't, then just keep the orange in the cage and wait for them to hatch.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Got it. I put the orange near my neighbor's garden and made the enclosure safe just in case there were more eggs. We'll see what happens. Thanks again for the great information.
 

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Yep!

Also, if there are eggs on that thing you better hope the neighbors react kindly to having thousands of tiny worms crawling and eating their plants. :p

If anything happens, keep me updated!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by vegkid View Post

Yep!

Also, if there are eggs on that thing you better hope the neighbors react kindly to having thousands of tiny worms crawling and eating their plants. :p

If anything happens, keep me updated!
They're actually pretty excited about it! I will let you know if anything interesting happens.
 

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Wow, I don't usually see people seeing it from that angle. I just hope they don't have any plants they like in that garden or their opinion could change very quickly... 0_o
 
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