Rearing set up

Here are a few details about my set up back at my home base.
I set up a large screen tent outdoors. I tried to set it up so it was halfway under tree cover and half in full sun. There are eyeholes along the bottom edges every 6 inches or so to peg it down. I was glad that I pegged down every hole because we had a huge windstorm (25-35 km/h) a few days after I got it set up. I think the fact that it was pegged down and that the whole thing is mesh (even the top) stopped it from becoming a kite! Here’s what it looks like:
Swallowtails are known to drink from puddles. Oddly enough this behaviour is called ‘puddling’. I have also seen male Swallowtails feeding on animal scat in this way. A friend of mine took a great photo of this out in Bobcaygeon, I’ll see if he lets me post it on here. I set up a puddle inside the tent for the butterflies to drink from. All I did was dig a hole, lay down a plastic garbage bag then cover the bag with some of the dirt from the hole. It evaporated fast and needed to be refilled with water almost every other day. I only rarely saw butterflies drinking from it though.

I set out sliced fruit for them to feed on too, but I never saw them fly down to it. Occasionally I would rub my finger on the fruit juice then try to get the swallowtails to crawl onto my finger. Sometimes they would uncurl their proboscis (feeding tube) and start dabbing. I would place them onto the fruit then try to get another.  In the end both the puddle and the fruit are good ideas, but they don’t really work well in practice. Other people feed swallowtails homemade nectar (e.g. 10%honey 90% water solution) by placing them near the a nectar-soaked cotton ball then unfurling the proboscis with an insect pin. I suspect this works better, and I am currently trying this method.

I also transplanted 2 trembling aspen saplings into the tent. Beside the saplings I placed 2 rods meant for hanging plants, then covered them with a mesh bag. The trees did surprisingly well after the transplant. I did give them lots of water and sun. Above this I hung a UV heating lamp. The goal here was to create a micro habitat where adult females would be likely to lay her eggs. The key is to provide live host plants with lots of leaves where the saplings touch the top of the mesh.  Live plants increases the chance that your eggs will hatch successfully too, because it prevents the leaves the eggs are on from wilting and going mouldy.  The added heat is supposed to induce egg laying, but might be unnecessary if it’s already hot outside. I wanted to maintain the temperature at about 25°C. I have seen temperatures 23-29°C recommended.

When I caught a female I placed her in this set up. On the first day I saw eggs, but I’m not sure they were from her. I also found another small caterpillar. Lesson: always check your host plants for unwanted company. These are the eggs I had originally thought were from the Swallowtail, but later I realized they are probably from somone else:

Later, I found a total of 9 eggs laid over the course of 3 days. Here is what they look like:

Note that I did not hand-pair this female, she must have mated before I caught her. I haven’t heard of anyone having success hand-pairing wild caught females, and sleeving them over their host plant worked fine for me so far.


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