Raised Lepidoptera

The links that follow are to pages of butterflies and moths that I have raised and photographed at various stages of their development. I hope to be able to add to these pages as the years go by showing more species. Each page has about 200 to 300KB of images to load.


I have found butterfly raising to very easy as long as you can find the eggs or young caterpillars and that can be easier said than done. I've had the most luck planting the foodplant for a particular species in my yard and waiting for the butterflies to come by and lay eggs. The Anise Swallowtail was my first success. Only a few months after transplanting four young Fennel plants to my garden I found the first eggs on the plants. These plants turned out to be very popular and by the end of the summer I estimated up to 15 different females had laid eggs on the plants. At one time I had 50 eggs on the plants. I also found out that the predators are many and only a half dozen or so eggs out of a couple hundred made it to adult butterflies. Roving spiders get the young caterpillars and birds get the larger ones. If you want a lot of butterflies the best thing to do is raise them indoors.

Silk Moths

Raising silk moths has been easier than raising butterflies. Many people don't realize that these amazing creatures are likely to be in their neighborhood because most only fly at night and the adults live for only a few days. The adult moths do not eat and their whole purpose is to mate and start the next generation. Females emit pheromones that the males can detect up to several miles and they stay quiet conserving their energy waiting for a male to come. The night after mating they part and the female searches out the food plant and lays her eggs. She dies shortly thereafter.
I have placed polyphemus females in a cage with large holes and have seen the males come flying into the yard attracted by the female. Nothing distracts them. If they have trouble locating the female they leave the yard and return shortly for another attempt. I grabbed a male on one of its passes and released it only to have it return a minute later. Its an amazing sight to witness these huge moths in flight. As soon as the male locates the female they couple and remain quiet.
The females are happy to lay their eggs in a paper bag so they're easy to collect. My eggs hatched in about 10 days. I placed the hatchlings on the food plant in a container with the stems sticking through the bottom into water. The top of the container is mostly covered to prevent the caterpillars from walking out and dying. They also must be prevented from reaching the water or they will drown themselves. I changed the foodplant every few days when they were small and everyday when they were large because they ate all the leaves everyday! Once the caterpillars make their cocoons, I placed them in a cage outside in the shade. Some silk moths have only one generation a year and some have multiple generations. Nearly all overwinter in a cocoon and hatch in the spring.

Anise Swallowtail
Polyphemus Moth
Luna Moth
Cecropia and Ceanothus Hybrid Moth
Rothschildi cincta Moth

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