Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum: Caterpillar cages and reptariums

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Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:15 PM CST
I've been raising and releasing butterflies and moths for about five years. Got my feet wet with common butterflies like Queens, Monarchs and Gulf Fritillaries but for the past few years I've concentrated on raising the uncommon and rare butterflies when I can.

Have used a variety of containers over the years but starting making my own using everything from plastic trash canisters to food storage containers to store bought reptariums.

The only medium I'll use to keep larval host plant cuttings moist and fresh is wet floral foam. Most times I don't cover it - just brush off the frash when I clean out the containers or replace the piece with a new one. When I raise piggies like Monarchs and Queens that eat and poop I'll use saran wrap to keep it clean.

I highly recommend using wet floral foam instead of putting cuttings in a jar with water. Caterpillars will crawl up and down plant stems and they will fall into the water and drown! There is no way they can hurt themselves when you use the wet floral foam.

Wet floral foam can be purchased at Walmart or any craft/hobby store. I buy it in three packs and cut the blocks into the size or shape I need.

Photos of wet floral foam. I use jar lids, old pill bottles, dog food tins, pretty much whatever I can find that suits my liking.

You can either pour water onto the wet floral foam piece or drop it into a dish of water and let it soak up all the water it can. You can also add more water each day or every other day to keep the foam wet and the cuttings moist.


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Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:16 PM CST
Wet floral foam blocks - these come three to a pack and can be cut to fit any shape or size you might need.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:16 PM CST
Various jar lids, bottle caps, dog food tins etc - anything can be used to hold the wet floral foam.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:18 PM CST
Just as easy to put a small chunk of wet floral foam in a jar lid for use with raising small butterflies like Dainty Sulphurs.

Here some wet floral foam holding cuttings of Tiny Tim - one of the larval host plants for the Dainty Sulphur.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:20 PM CST
A small dog food tin holding wet floral foam with fennel and rue - the larval host for Black Swallowtail butterflies. I've got eight second instar caterpillars feeding in this photo.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:21 PM CST
Another small plastic dish holding Barbados Cherry. Not sure what I'm raising here but I found some type of skipper caterpillars on Barbados Cherry and brought them in to raise.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:24 PM CST
These are my favorite containers to use for raising caterpillars. They come in two-packs and I get them at Walmart. I use my electric craft tool to cut out holes and then use a hot glue gun to glue on nylon screen mesh (I purchased a roll of that window replacement screen that is made out of nylon instead of wire). Easy to cut with scissors.



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Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:24 PM CST
The lids for those square containers.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

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Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:27 PM CST
I even made a caterpillar cage out of a big plastic trash container :o) works well for larger/taller cuttings or putting in a potted larval host plant.

If you are going to use a potted larval host plant - please make sure you aren't bringing in any predators like spiders or ants into your caterpillar cages. Those critters can hide out in the soil or under the pot edges.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

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Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:27 PM CST
The trash can container lid.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:28 PM CST
Gladware containers work too.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:28 PM CST
Large plastic bin.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:29 PM CST
Bin lid.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:29 PM CST
Some plastic containers from doggy treats work too.

I used to use tule fabric but these deteriorated quickly in our south Texas heat and periodic washings. The nylon window screen replacement works so much better.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:31 PM CST
Store bought pop up hampers work too - just must be careful when using this type - pupating caterpillars tend to crawl to the top and more often than not will form their chrysalis on the zipper!!! You can invert it if need be.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:32 PM CST
Quick cat cage made out of a cupcake paper liner container :o)

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:33 PM CST
22 gallon reptarium. These are store bought and made of pvc tubing and mesh fabric. Apogee is the brand name. I got one from PetsMart when it was on sale and the others I found on eBay and online.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:40 PM CST
65 gallon reptarium. I like using these big reptariums for moths. I'll gather the cocoons and place them inside. When a female moth ecloses I'll leave her in the cage and let her call to a mate. When one shows up I'll unzip a corner and fold the flap down so he can find his way in. Zip it back up and wait for nature to have a go at it. Once the mating is over I'll release the male and put in a potted larval host plant for her to lay eggs on.

Of course, moths being moths - they pretty much lay their eggs on anything! More often than not I've had eggs glued onto the mesh. I started pinning slightly crumpled brown paper to the inside walls. It's so much easier to snip the paper with the egg clusters on it and move it into a caterpillar rearing container to continue the cycle.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:50 PM CST
Here's a reptarium with a female calling to a mate. I set the cage out into the yard - helps the pheromones catch the wind.

Most times the female will stay put so I am able to unzip a flap. This time several males showed up within minutes so I unzipped a flap and let several get in. It's amazing how they flit around the cage trying to find an opening :o)

Once a couple hooked up I removed the other males and left the mating pair alone. For this species, Rothschild Forbes Silkmoth, the pair mates for about 24 hours.

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

Name: Cat
Edinburg, TX
in the deep south tip of Texas
Image
TexasPuddyPrint
Apr 18, 2010 7:55 PM CST
Ah...also forgot, I have a glass aquarium that I made a wood frame and screen lid for. As you can see by this photo the Queen caterpillars like to form their chrysalis on the screen lid :o)

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My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

http://community.webshots.com/user/TraylorCatPuddyPrint

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