From caterpillar to Butterfly....



One of my main project to do during 30 days wild was to hatch some Butterflies, I had read how Mandy at Chateau Moorhen, CT at Countryside Tales  and especially 

Ragged Robin's nature notes, on her other blog...
A year in the life of my wildlife garden had raised butterflies and moths.

I have photographed them the best I could throughout all their stages.
Before we start I want to give a big huge thank you to Ragged Robin, for all your help and  worried messages I have sent over the past few weeks.

.....SO THANK YOU.....


I bought some little grub/fish tanks to house my caterpillars in and read up as much as possible how to look after them.

Nettles are their primary food, this made it easy to feed them, apart from getting stung, I was having to wear gloves and pinch the fresh nettles of while my hand was in a bag as the sting from the nettles were making me feel a ill. I made sure I cleaned and fed them every day so by the time they stopped eating I had got the knack of collecting nettles.



It was great to watch them daily and soon they grew bigger and bigger, it says in the notes from UK Butterflies that they feed night and day, but I found mine liked to feed mostly at night, and they still liked to stay together, often wrapping them self's up in a nettle leaf to sleep



On emerging from their eggs, the larvae build a communal web, usually at the top of the nettle, from which they emerge to bask and feed. As the larvae grow, they move to new plants, building new webs along the way. This leaves a trail of webs, decorated with shed larval skins and droppings, that show the passing of time, and allows the patient observer to trace the larvae all the way back to the plant where the eggs were laid. The first experience that some people have of a Small Tortoiseshell is seeing these webs as they extend over stretches of nettle, with the larvae resting communally and quite visibly on the surface of the web, or feeding from nearby leaves.

Larvae have several techniques to avoid predation. When disturbed, a group of larvae will often jerk their bodies from side to side in unison, which must be a formidable sight to any predator. The larvae will also regurgitate green fluid and will, if necessary, curl up in a ball and drop to the ground. Larvae feed by both day and night and there are 4 moults in total.


This is a photo of the ones at the park





Because of their shape, size and colouring I was convinced they were Peacock Butterfly, so I divided them up into two tanks.

Round about the tenth day they slowed down and did not eat as much, this is when I started to panic a little, as I was not sure what was going to happen, a few frantic messages to RR followed.

Then on the twelve day one of the caterpillars moved up to the top of the tank, it attached its self tail end and hung there. The next day all the other caterpillars did the same thing, it was a strange thing to watch, they spun webbing all round them  to hold them self in place.

Here you can see them hanging of the roof of the tank, a few were attached to the twigs I had place in the tank.


and if you look close you can see all the webbing.




The larvae disperse as they become fully grown, and eventually wander off to find a suitable pupation site. The pupa is formed head down, attached to a stem or leaf by the cremaster. The colour of the pupa is quite variable, often having a beautiful metallic sheen. This stage lasts between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on temperature. (all red notes from UK Butterflies)








The pupa was the most beautiful colour, with hints of gold.
After a few days, making sure all the pupa had gone hard, I moved them to a bigger tub with more sticks, at this point I was still thinking they were peacock butterflies. If they are not ready to move they can still "wave" quite fast, this is to deter a predator.







On the 28th day we notice the first pupa had changed colour, it had gone darker and if you shone the torch at it you could see the colours of the butterfly coming through.

By the morning the butterfly had emerged.

still very soft, it was left to the afternoon before taking it out of the box.





They turned out to be 
Small Tortoiseshell 
(Aglais urticae)

 This butterfly can turn up almost anywhere, from city centres to mountain tops. As such, it is one of our most successful butterflies. It is most-often seen, however, where nettles grow in abundance, such as field margins. This butterfly is often encountered while hibernating in an outbuilding, such as a garage, shed or barn, where they may be found in the company of other individuals. Other hibernation sites include hollow trees and wood piles.



No more hatched that day but they were all changing colour, the next day five more were drying out, one thing I notice there was small pools of what looked like blood under the empty pupa, they were released later that day and the rest will be left till tomorrow.







Out in the big wide world.



It has been a wonderful project, and we have all seen things happen we would not have done, if I had not got them in my home. 

I recommend you give it a go 



Comments

  1. Fantastic post Amanda, great photos.

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  2. What a lovely project... great photos :o)

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  3. That is such a beautiful thing to do!

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    1. Thanks Simon, this is something you could do next year as you don't even need a garden...
      Amanda xx

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  4. I enjoyed this story so much! Thanks.

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  5. Awesome sequence of images. The butterfly is beautiful! Enjoy your day and the week ahead!

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    1. Thanks eileeninmd, glad you enjoyed the post..
      Amanda xx

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  6. Oh how fabulous - even more exciting I think when you are not sure which species you are raising. Really interesting to see how they form their chrysalis and the webbing. The liquid they secrete when they enclose is normal - forgotten what it's called offhand! Well done Amanda and thanks for sharing all the stages with us. xx

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    1. Thanks Mandy, it's a great thing to do, especially seeing the chrysalis, as it's very rare to see one in the wild..
      Amanda xx

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  7. Great collection of photos and a brilliant thing to do!

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    1. Thanks Louise, you would enjoy doing this...
      Amanda xx

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  8. What and interesting project Amanda. Well done on increasing the S/Tortoiseshell population.

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  9. A fascinating little project Amanda :-) Small Tortoiseshells might be common but I think they are one of our most beautiful of butterflies!

    Hope you are well and kindest regards to all :-)

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    1. Thanks David, glad you enjoyed it...
      Amanda xx

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  10. A great project Amanda - a wonderful way to get connected to the world of the wild.

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    1. Thanks Elaine, the whole family got involved which was nice to see..
      Amanda xx

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  11. What a wonderful post! thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    My son once kept spiders from egg to spiderlings, that was fascinating to watch too.

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    1. Thanks Annie, a great project to do...not sure about spiders though...
      Amanda xx

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  12. Well done Amanda.......you are an absolute inspiration.
    I love the small tortoiseshell .........such a pretty little butterfly.

    I have a friend in America who has been bring on endangered butterflies for years.................

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    1. Thanks Cheryl, if I can find a different cat next year I will have another go...
      Amanda xx

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  13. Great poste for a great thing ! Congrats for this beautiful adventure ....

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    1. Thanks Géraldine , glad you liked it...
      Amanda xx

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  14. What a lovely post and your photo's too, I followed and read with interest.

    That pupa was a lovely colour, with some hints of gold.

    Lovely to read and well done

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thanks Jan, the special bit was seeing the pupa, such a lovely colour tinged with gold...
      Amanda xx

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  15. How beautiful to watch something so magical from beginning to end! Such an ugly duckling to transform into a beautiful 'swan'! xx

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    1. Thanks Chel, beautiful to watch...
      Amanda xx

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  16. Hi Amanda - A wonderful project and a really brilliant post Amanda. Its great to see all the photos and follow the progress and see the magic moment of emergence :)

    I am really sorry that this comment is so late but we have been away on holiday and only got back tonight. Thanks so much for the mention. I was really happy to help in a very small way - you were the one with all the hard work and its great to see how it all paid off! Well done :)

    Look forward to you rearing some more :)

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  17. Thanks RR, do not worry about been a little late to comment, glad you had chance to get away, hope you had a nice time.
    You would never believe it but gone and bought a Skinner moth trap this week, came Friday... is this what you have ?
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thanks very much Amanda - we had a great time thanks although it was too hot for me the last few days!

      So glad you have bought a Skinner Trap - can't wait to see what you trap :) Mine is a Skinner - with a 15w actinic bulb. You will have such fun with your purchase - with the hot weather arriving every morning it is like Christmas and you never know what surprises will await :) So pleased for you. Please take lots of photos of your catches and do lots of posts :)

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  18. Awe well done you on this splendid observation and recording Amanda. I have done this many times and it's so rewarding and educational. Superb post!

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    1. Thanks JJ I was like a expectant mother through the whole project, but when I see Small Tortoiseshell flying I often wonder if it's one of mine..
      Amanda xx

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