Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Butterfly Master and his Student!

Hey guys!

There is nothing that delights me more than young people showing an interest in animals, insects and the environment. Consequently, when young Andrew first approached me for the first time a couple of months ago asking for advice on starting his own Butterfly House and breeding project I was more than delighted to help him! He came up with his own design for the "house" can built a small-ish structure consisting of cardboard making up a  four posted frame with net walls for his young caterpillars and adult butterflies to live in. 
Andrew's modest butterfly house
Like most beginners, Andrew was extremely eager to begin! If I recall correctly within 2 days of him building the butterfly house, he had already caught and collected two caterpillars plus a great bunch of unidentified eggs from the Oleander plant and showed them to me.

I immediately recogised them as the Oleander Hawk Moth caterpillars (which I have raised before myself on occasion) and I told him so, and although he was slightly dissapointed that they were not butterfly larvae, he was still eager to raise his first lepidoptera. Unfortunatley though, luck wasn't on his side and through an opening in the netted walls of the butterfly house his first two caterpillars (shown above) escaped and the later one hatched from the eggs dissappeared a few days after as well. He was a little disheartened but after a bit of encouragement from me he was at it again. But hard work, is bound to pay off and eventually he found a plant just teeming with caterpillars that he collected, and showed to me for identification. Finally, success! These were DEFINITELY butterfly larvae and very familliar faces too. Familliar because they were of the very same species that I love to breed in my own Butterfly House! The Common Lime swallowtail and Common Mormon swallowtail butterfly.
Andrew came back with some 15-20 butterfly larvae in an old tupperware
This was truly amazing because I'll be honest, I've never know to find plants with such high concentration of caterpillars in the wild, even in my Garden and when the butterflies breed outside of my care, often only 5-6 caterpillars a plant can be seen. On the one hand it may simply be my praying mantises feeding on them (they are not discriminate, unfortunately) or on the other, it could simple be that the place Andrew lives is much more condusive for butterflies than the town of Kuala Lumpur. At any rate, I do wish him all the best with his 20 caterpillars and although more than likely every single one of them will turn into healthy strong adult butterflies, accidents can and do happen and deformities sometimes occur because of diseases so, cleanliness is the key! (time to clean out some of that poop Andrew!) Who knows, perhaps when I visit in Penang again next week he will have some good news for me about chrysalids!

There's a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought; that when you become a teacher, by your pupils you'll be taught.

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