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Welcome - Malaysian Tropical RainForest Garden Blog.

Here is where I share all my tropical garden design, concepts, themes & experiences, secrets and tips in gardening, plant care, my plant discoveries, experiments of my trials & errors.

I'm blessed with the Hot & Wet Tropical Climate and my endeavour with Tropical Garden & Rare, Exotic Plants.

I am a Plant Enthusiast and Gardening is a major part of my life where I love to share my thoughts, experiences & life work.

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Tropical Garden, Batu Caves, Malaysia


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Friday, October 9, 2009

Fly Away! Fly Away! Fly Away!!!

I guess this is going to be a norm in my garden story:
Rearing Butterflies.
For the record, this is the 3rd butterfly in captivity.
(2 more pupa to go & one caterpillar)
Born on last Tuesday - 6th October.
This one was already to go.
More like "Open me up! Open Me Up!! I want to FLY!!!"

After opening the box, she landed on the ground, gently flap her wings, like ready to take off and then flutter gracefully. This one was fast, no hiccup, no wet wings or delayed flights.

My 6th year old son was watching the whole episode with laughter and excitement.
And he bid farewell by naming her and saying,
"Goodbye Jessica!!"

Yesterday: 8th October night.
Status: 2 pupa & 1 caterpillar.
I hope you can notice something,
I put the flash on so you can view the difference.
Can you see it?
The pupa had changed its colour.
The normal one is green but this one is black.
I guess that is the sign which means the butterfly is going to pop out its cocoon by tomorrow morning.
Notice the difference?
This one had not yet ready to turn into a butterfly. (still green)
True enough, the butterfly had came out this morning, I had prepared my camera ready with the rechargeable batteries charged last night. I managed to take these few pic.
The butterfly seemed to be too active and fluttering very aggressively.
I didn't want to exhaust it and also noticed that the rain clouds had gathered and it did rain after half hour after the release.
Hope this butterfly knows where to take shelter...
Am I kidding, I'm sure nature will have prepared these creatures with their survival instincts.

Look at the beautiful patterns of these wings.. So admirable

Off you go. Freedom to Fly carelessly to Life's Joy!!
Ok, I have decided to reveal my secrets in getting these caterpillars into butterfly.
Well, not so much of a great secret -
just some tips and tricks which I found out in these moment in raising caterpillars.
1) Feeding leaves instead of letting them help themselves.
I started with a caterpillar, I don't think I may able to notice their eggs.
But if you do, you can nip the leave and keep them separately.
I think its good to feed the caterpillar by taking clean cuttings from the plant instead of letting the caterpillar chomping away the plant.
Its disheartening to see the half eat leaves everywhere.
So, my suggestion, feed the caterpillar by whole leaves instead of leaving them on the main plant.
2) Careful with moisture - especially glass bottles.
I had raised few before and they died without even turning into a pupa. I was very puzzled about it and later found out that they cannot manage water intake in their sensitive skin membrane.
So, do not let water or moisture from the leaves to stay in the caterpillar (box or container)
Once I was watering my plants and I accidentally sprayed water on the container and it got wet.
Sadly, that caterpillar didn't survive.
3) Clean the droppings.
This will keep the air clean and take away whatever water droplets or residue from the eating.
I use them as fertiliser for my plants. Don't think they are too few to notice, the leaves are stripped clean and appear to be in grains.
Make sure there is enough air to go through - too tight may suffocate the caterpillar.
4) Dormant stage
If you find that the caterpillar crawl up & just stay dormant, remember that its turning into a pupa. Normally it takes a day or two. You will notice that it would not eat the leaves that been fed to it.
5) Pupa stage.
There will be 2 strings attached to it, actually its silk.
The silk is very important for the balance, if you rip-off the pupa from the hanging silk, the butterfly is going to suffer and may take awhile to dry it wings or survive.
Occasionally the pupa will throb,
wriggle and move in few seconds.
Watch out for ants,
they may burrow into the helpless pupa and kill it.
(so don't leave it uncared for even though its a pupa stage)
Check the colour each day,
the moment it turns its colour,
it means its going to turn into a butterfly in the next morning.
6) Butterfly.
Well, What are you waiting for, Get your camera ready.
Safety factors: (Very Important)
I noticed that these Lime Butterflies caterpillar have a "horn like" spear that only appear when threatened. I guess that must be its defense mechanism.
Some Caterpillars are Poisonous.
So don't take for granted that all caterpillars are cute & cuddly.
Especially when placed in the hands of children.


Stephanie said...

This is so interesting! I am glad you took all these trouble to care or them. Surely many of the caterpillars will turn into beautiful butterflies from your garden/home. As for me, I am afraid of all creatures that look like snake especially lizards. Btw, I just saw one lizard in my garden today in my shrubs! I wonder why lizard bother to climb that shrub...???

lynn'sgarden said...

This is awesome, james! The colors on those wings are really something! I'm sure your little guy will remember this experience for a long time! Thanks for the information and tips! Have a wonderful weekend ;)

Chloe m said...

I will have to book mark this page... the tips are great, and the photos. Great post and not many bloggers are that dedicated to showing these metamorphises.(SP)


Noelle Johnson said...

Thank you for all the great information regarding raising butterflies. How wonderful that you son can witness this.

Jaime Boey said...

Thanks for sharing! We tried unsuccessfully with 7 caterpillars retrieved from our periwinkle shrub. 5 turned into pupas (for a very long period) and 2 emerged but their wings not fully formed! Eventually, we think sparrows would have eaten them :-(. Then we decided leaving 3 fat caterpillars on the shrub but a pair of mynas feasted on. We look forward to our 3rd opportunity and will refer to your advise!

James David said...

Steph. - Don't be afraid of the lizards.
None of them are poisonous. They come because there is food - those little bugs that come into your garden had attracted them. Lizards keep your garden healthy by eating all these.
That way, you control insect in as nature intended.

Lynn, Rosey & Noelle - thanks for your encouragment and comments, appreciate it very much.

Jamie - I just check your blog and saw those huge caterpillars. Wow, Im amazed at their size. Hope you manage to get them again to a successful pupa to butterflies in the future and share the Joy of their maiden flight.

Mary Delle LeBeau said...

James, Your butterflies are beautiful. You hae really made raising them an art. Your careful instructions show what care you take in letting them pass through their life cycle in front of your eyes. Lovely post.

Benjamin Vogt said...

This summer my wife and I helped many swallowtails (whose chrysalis looks very similar to what you have here in your pictures) and also many monarchs. This was our second year. It is very important to clean out their droppings, since they quickly turn to mold! It is a fascinating and inspiring experience to watch them, isn't it! Your lucky to have a son to teach in this regard.

James David said...

Benjamin - It must be quite an experience in helping out all the swallowtails & monarchs. And yes, its a wonderful feeling to release a butterfly!

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