Overwintering Papilio chyrsalises

terrene(5b MA)January 1, 2012

Anybody else overwintering Swallowtail chrysalises this winter? Or in the past? I have 10 chrysalises overwintering this year - 3 BSTs (P. polyxenes), 7 SBSTs (P. troilus).

Last year I attempted to overwinter 2 BSTs in an aquarium tank in the garage, but they died by Spring. Looked like the chrysalises rotted. After discussion with Miss Sherry about them, I think I probably spritzed them too much and they didn't get enough air circulation.

This year I've put them in a mesh sleeve and hung them on the back side of the house. I think they are inaccessible to predators in this location and they get a small amount of sun and rain exposure and good air circulation. I hope this works. Any comments welcome!

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I've kept mine in the garage - open fish tank - and they were fine - I didn't spray mine at all. I've done both Black and Giant Swallowtails this way.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 5:15PM
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The mesh is a good idea. I have a big Cecropia Cocoon on a stick attached to my balcony with a twist tie. I need to research when Cecropias emerge in my area and bring it back inside in time so I can see it.

Our garage has windows on the east and west and gets pretty warm even in the winter if it's sunny. I kept a Black Swallowtail in there one year and it emerged just a bit early but at least it did live. I didn't spritz it but I may have kept a bowl with rocks and water in the container for humidity. I used to do that sometimes. It was years ago and I've forgotten.

If yours emerge sooner than you think, will they be able to open their wings?

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 7:09AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Christie, I'm hoping to put the sticks and chrysalises inside the aquarium tank just before it's time for them to eclose. I'm thinking that could be around late April/early May? The tank has a screen top and I could bring the tank inside or leave it out on the deck or near the house. Then they could eclose in the tank like they normally do when I'm raising them in the summer or fall, and then release them.

Or I could leave them in the mesh container, and put some additional sticks or something inside the mesh to prop it open further (give them a little more space.)

I'm not sure what will work best, but I really don't want these chrysalises to rot like last year so it seemed that it would be better for them to over-winter in a more natural environment. I raised only 8 Spicebush Swallowtails last summer, and 7 of them decided to hibernate over the winter. It would be wonderful if they eclose and start breeding nice and early next Spring, but not too early. :)

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 7:57PM
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Is there any hope of saving a butterfly that has hatched today. My family in NJ was keeping 3 in a jar, and 1 emerged today. Can anything be done to save this swallowtail? Thanks.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 3:26PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Mrpw, I think that happened to another poster on this forum recently. It is unfortunate, but no doubt you didn't mean any harm to the butterfly. I think you can keep the butterfly in an eclosure, and feed it diluted juice or sugar water, but I am unsure of the details. It is unlikely to survive let alone breed outdoors at this time of year during the winter. You should put the others outdoors or in the garage or perhaps basement.

Making sure that the chrysalises stay dormant is one reason why mine are outdoors. The other is so they can get a natural amount of air flow and moisture. I hope it works. It's amazing that they can survive our cold winters outside.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 7:01PM
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I have overwintered many BSTs in the past several years in a plastic file box in my garage. No spritzing but most eclosed...some even waited almost 9 months! I haven't had nearly the success with PVSTs...so I determined that I would leave them outside to the elements! I seem to loose more than I raise so I feel their chances are better on their own!
mrpw, is there a local butterfly house in your area? Texas Discovery Gardens has a new butterfly house & was happy to take in several of my monarchs & crysalids that were late as well as other butterfly enthusiasts in the DFW area that had similar problems. Even in North Texas...there were no flowers for nectar blooming & they would never have made it to Mexico.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 10:51AM
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How interesting, hope they all make it.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 8:14AM
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I keep mine in a mesh enclosure on the front porch. Most emerge just fine without any extra effort. I just need to watch them closely in spring so I don't forget they are there!


    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 8:36AM
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runmede(7a Virginia)

Overwintering Techniques

Here is a link that might be useful: Overwintering Techniques

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 7:37PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Yes Susan, I just need to watch them closely too, but first want to research the flight times for these species in New England so I know when to watch them closely!

Runmede thanks for the link. That is a great website! Lots of good info there, although it does seem geared more for the western butterflies. It's reassuring to know that I am concerned with the right issues - predation, humidity, and airflow.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 3:47PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

The container looks good, terrene, but like Susan says, watch them closely. They don't have much space in that mesh container to hang upside down, pump up and flap their wings and practice flying.
I sure hope they emerge perfectly for you this year!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 3:51PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Well, the first Black Swallowtail emerged successfully yesterday! On Mother's Day, which was a nice surprise. Apparently their first flight period starts around mid-May in this area, so he's right on time. I am happy this overwintering technique worked!

Chrysalis started turning dark on Saturday afternoon, and I could see faint stripes of the butterfly -

Put him out onto an Aster to warm up. Yesterday was a lovely Spring day, a thin haze of clouds and mild temps.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 2:01PM
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