Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Raising Question Mark Caterpillars

We have a huge crazy hops vine that grows up next to our fence. When we first moved here i picked a bunch of the flowers to dry thinking they would be useful. Turns out i'm extremely allergic to the hops pollen and have pretty much left it alone ever since. The vine is pretty out of control, it's  and has started winding around my bean fence and invading my garden. 

While pulling the hops that was in the garden i spotted this interesting looking caterpillar. Turns out it is a Question Mark Butterfly caterpillar and it eats hops. :)  i quickly began looking around the hops leaves and found 5 more caterpillars.

In the past we have raised Monarchs, Black swallowtails and Painted ladies.  We have always seen many Question Mark butterflies fluttering around. So i was excited to bring them inside. 

Raising caterpillars is easy as long as you know the food source for your caterpillar and have a good supply of it. Caterpillars eat a lot! 

We keep our caterpillars in a Butterfly Garden enclosure from Insectlore, but you can use an aquarium, one of those mesh pop up hampers,  just about anything.  We give them hops fresh leaves daily and keep the container clean.  The caterpillars eat for a couple of weeks and then shed it's skin for the last time to form it's chrysalis. Question Mark caterpillars spin pink silk to secure their feet before hanging upside down and making a J. i've never seen that before!!

The chrysalis is pretty neat looking. Those little white/silver dots shimmer like jewels. 

In 10-15 days the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. It will hang upside down for a little while to dry off it's wings. It's not unusual to see some pigment stains in the container from the excess pigment on the wings. Depending on the color of your butterfly it sometimes looks like blood, but it isn't.  

Once it we noticed it opening and closing it's wings we decided it was time to release it. We took it outside and my daughter held it out on her finger until it flew away.  

Question Mark butterflies are  beautiful butterflies, but often go unnoticed. They sit with their wings closed and look more like a dead leaf than a butterfly. The Question Mark gets it's name from the question mark symbol on it's wing.  They look very similar to Comma butterflies, but Comma butterflies have a comma, but no dot on their wings.

After releasing this guy we watched him sit on the fence post soaking up some sunshine and letting his wings finish drying. Not long after i snapped this picture he flew away. It doesn't matter how many times we raise and release a butterfly it's a magic experience every time. 

1 comment:

  1. It looks amazingly gorgeous. How exciting to be able to follow the process :)