|1. Adult Lime Butterfly|
When I visited Penang Butterfly Farm some time ago, it was just for some hurried sightseeing and outdoor photography. However, I was quite amazed by the many species of beautiful, colourful native butterflies of my country, Malaysia. I have in fact learnt more about butterfly conservation, the nectar plants and host plants. There were live specimens of butterflies at every stage of their life cycle. I see so many butterflies; some were perched on gorgeous flowers drinking nectar while others were romancing in mid-flight. I could observe butterflies mating and ovipositing but the most unforgetable experience was watching the adult butterflies emerging from their chrysalis right before my very eyes. The process of metamorphosis is very intriguing indeed. From a caterpillar buster, I have now become a NANNY to them, rearing, feeding and raising these creepy crawlies so that they can safely become the butterflies they are meant to be.
Here's how I do it in my home garden, the DIY way.....
|2. Lime butterfly eggs|
“Rearing and breeding lime butterflies in the home garden in Malaysia”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ http://www.mynicegarden.com/ on April 22nd, 2012.
We can easily spot a caterpillar by their droppings on the leaves. Caterpillar poop is called "frass".
I notice that if I leave the caterpillars alone to fend for themselves in the open, they will soon disappear without a trace, perhaps eaten by their predators. I wanted to provide them with a safe home to feed, grow up and mature into adult butterflies. So I decided to try rearing them.
I read about the Life Cycle of Lime Butterflies. A good site is Butterflies of Singapore.
|4. Butterfly House|
I use an insect container purchased from Daisho as a butterfly house. I bought this container for RM 5.
You can also recycle an old aquarium, jar or laundry basket. It should have a lid or netting with holes large enough for ventilation but small enough to prevent the caterpillar/butterfly from escaping.
|5. Caterpillars at different instars|
I like to wait for the eggs to hatch on the leaves before harvesting the caterpillars. I will pluck away the whole leaf or branch with the caterpillar on it. As I still have not overcome the fear of touching these creepy crawlies, I'm so glad that I don't have to touch the caterpillars during the whole process.
Note: Even if you are brave enough to touch them, please DO NOT pull the caterpillar out from the leaf as this will provoke/frighten it to go on the defensive and cling hard to the leaf surface hence doing so may injure the caterpillar.
The life cycle of the lime butterfly consists of 4 stages - egg, larvae, pupa and adult.
It takes 2 to 3 days for the eggs to hatch. The eggshell and its contents are the first meal of the caterpillar. The caterpillar will go through 5 stages of development or instars. During each instar it will molt and shed its skin. From 1st to 4th instar, the caterpillar looks like bird droppings on the leaves, with a spiky appearance and dark brown in colour. There are white markings on the body. Each instar lasts about 2 to 3 days. At the 5th and final instar, the body changes to pale green. This is a time of rapid growth in body sized. It will continue to eat hungrily for 3 to 4 more days before it turns into a pupa.
I feed the caterpillars daily with fresh leaves from the host plant. They don't eat dried leaves. It is crucial that they are well fed. Make sure the fresh leaves do not contain tiny bugs or ants.
Do not place a dish of water in the butterfly house, otherwise the caterpillars could drown. They can get their supply of moisture from the leaves. Caterpillars eat a lot and hence they poo a lot. It is necessary to clean the container regularly to remove the poop and shed skin.
|8. Pupa stage|
For lime butterflies, the pupa/chrysalis can be green or brown in colour. This is the easiest stage because you don't have to feed it anymore. Keep the butterfly house in a safe place away from mischievous pets. The pupa inside the container will be protected from predators.
The next thing to do is to count the days so you'll roughly know when the pupae will eclose.
This is a wonderful feeling! A butterfly in my arms, so close by...
Make a wish and whisper it to the butterfly. It may just come true!
Here's what's left of the empty chrysalis (on the right).My article in the New Straits Times titled, "Nanny to Butterfly Babies" was published on March 31st, the day of Earth Hour 2012. It would be great if more people are encouraged to breed and save butterflies.
Her ablum titled, "A lime butterfly has finally emerged", is on her Facebook here.
One of Seet's caterpillars has already matured into an adult butterfly. Another is on the way.
Seet, thank you very much for letting me know about the good news!
Glad to know you. Great to know that we have encouraged each other in raising live butterfly babies to release them back to the environment. Since I started this year, I have already reared and released 5 live butterflies.
To my blog readers in Malaysia and Singapore:
For those of us who buy lime trees during Chinese New Year - buy a good tree. After the season is over, do not throw away the tree even if you do not want to eat the fruits for fear of heavy application of pesticides prior to purchase. You can recycle the tree as food plant for the Common Lime, Common Mormon and Great Mormon butterflies. You may decide not to rear the caterpillars in captivity but let nature take its course. Don't worry about the bald/ugly looking tree if you can bear with it for some time. The tree is a survival. It won't die but will spring back to life with new shoots, new blooms and fruits. I think all my citrus trees became "fitter" after the process.
If you wish to read more about our butterflies, you can get "A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Singapore" by Khew Sin Khoon. This book is fully illustrated with many well-taken, colourful photographs of the butterflies that we are familiar with. The book is currently not available in Malaysia but can be purchased online from NHBS here.
HAPPY EARTH DAY 2012 !
Google's logo is themed Earth Day today - just click on their logo and you will be directed to the Earth Day 2012 network site. You can make your pledge towards A Billion Acts of Green here. At the time of writing this post, the count is at 997,886,277.