Butterfly Breeding

The Butterfly Life Cycle

Egg – Larvae – Pupae – Butterfly

Breeding butterflies
Breeding butterflies is easy. Here is a simple method:
Let’s start with butterfly larvae. You can buy larvae from many sites on the internet to get you started on your butterfly life cycle.

First you will need a cage measuring 2ft X 2ft X 3ft. You can cover this in net curtaining. Make a solid base for it to sit on. If you want to you can put a zip on the front for easy access or cover the sides and leave the base open. If you use this design you will have to be careful lifting it off. I would suggest you start with something easy to rear such as Painted Lady, Small Tortoise Shell and Red Admiral.

You will need food plants such as Nettles. You can grow larval food plant in plant pots; you will need 3 large plants to fill around 70% of the cage space to complete the 2 life cycles. One extra plant should be half the size of the rest. This is to give the adults’ room to fly and couple. If you can grow more all the better if you do not use them in your cage you can leave then outside for wild butterflies to use.

Your larvae will be supplied by post to you. Or you may use your own collected larvae. Put the larvae onto the food plant. Do not touch your larvae with your fingers use a leaf from the food plant to put your larvae on the leaves or a clean small paint brush. Larvae faeces are called Frass and should be dry and hard, clean this away daily. I put news paper under the plants and just throw that away.

Watch your larvae grow they will go through 5 stages of growth called instars, this takes around 21 days. They will shed their skins something like a snake. When the food plant has been eaten down, do not move the larvae from one plant to the other, just put the new plant next to the old one and the larvae will find it and carry on eating.

The larvae will become slow and sluggish. Sometimes they produce one very large wet amount of Frass this is ok. They start to wrinkle this is a sign they about to pupate. Leave them in the cage to pupate. After the larva has turned into the pupae it will stay like this for 10-14 days after which a brand new butterfly will emerge from your pupae. You can then clean out the cage and start the next cycle. Throw away the empty pupae cases and sterilise the cage and equipment with a 10 to 1 Milton’s baby fluid mixture, leave for 20 minutes then wash the cage and equipment in fresh water, you are then ready to start again.

If you wanted to you could leave some of the adult butterflies in the cage to keep the cycle for a full season you may be able to breed many butterflies to release into the wild and help our dwindling butterfly population to grow. For this you will need to grow more larval food plant to keep the cycle going. The more food you grow the more butterflies you can release.

Here are some useful web sites:

If you want to take your love of butterflies further, whether you are a professional or and armature entomologist, you can visit the Entomological
Livestock Group at pwbelg.clara.net
If you have any questions pleases contact David Myers that’s me at Pili Palas and I will do my best to answer them.
Have fun with your butterflies!