Mourning Cloak chrysalis question

StarDancinApril 23, 2013

Hello all,

This is only our second spring at our new home and we are once again blessed with Mourning Cloak caterpillars using our house to shelter on as they change to chrysalises and then their beautiful butterfly selves. Last year, we only had a dozen or so, and while I've lived my entire life in Texas, this was my first year to see the Mourning Cloak Butterfly. I fell in love. I was overjoyed when about 5 days ago, the caterpillars started making their way to our house again. By Thursday, we had over a 100 on the house. Today, we have a little over 70 chrysalises thanks to the birds finding them and eating them. I had planned on letting nature take its course - it is the cycle of life - but I can't stand to have this many killed. I'm afraid we won't have that many survive if I don't move them. They are grouped rather heavily in one area under the overhang and the birds must think they have found a real smorgasbord of a feast!

I've found the information on how to remove them and how to reattach them, but I can't find the information on whether the container I have found for them to hatch in needs to be ventilated or where is the best place to put them in the house (ie in front of a window, etc). I would appreciate those with experience in moving and hatching butterflies to give me some tips.

I am in central East Texas. Thanks for your help!

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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Hopefully, the article you read about removing them recommended that you remove the silk that the chrysalis is attached to - when you pull it off, the chrysalis will come with it, and there will be no danger of tearing into the chrysalis itself and killing it.

I don't reattach chrysalides after I've removed them - the methods I've seen recommended look too risky, like you could easily puncture the chrysalis in the process of reattaching them. I just put them in a butterfly cage, that is, a rectangular shaped frame with a mesh covering, put foam rubber on the bottom, put a paper towel over that, and lay the chrysalides on the paper towel. They emerge just fine that way with no danger of me accidentally killing them.

If you don't have a butterfly cage, you can use an old aquarium or even a plastic (clean) bucket, with foam rubber or something soft on the bottom with a paper towel over it. Put mesh or bridal veil type material on the top - I secure that with clothes pins. Also, put something that the newly emerged butterfly can climb onto and then hang upside down on for about half a day or so, depending on the size of the butterfly. Aquarium and other glass sides are too slick for them to climb. You can take a left-overs container, add some rocks to weight it down, punch a few holes in the top and put sticks in the holes. As long as the butterfly can get a firm grip on it and have room to hang upside down, it'll do. Then when the butterfly has hung upside down long enough for it's wings to harden properly, it will flutter around the cage, wanting out. Keep the container in a shaded, protected place outside, so the butterfly can respond to the sunlight. Wait until the butterfly's flutterings are strong - my butterfly cages are big enough that they can actually fly around inside them. Small butterflies can be released in just a couple of hours, but big swallowtails take about a half a day or more.

Good luck and congrats on the mourning cloaks - I'd LOVE to raise some myself!


    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 1:14PM
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Well, I removed 65 chrysalises this afternoon. There are another 14 I can't reach that I hope the predators don't find. I feel bad that I accidentally killed one - I didn't realize it had just recently turned into a chrysalis and when I removed it, the outer layer tore and it started 'bleeding'.

I saw the post about using a tomato plant stand and a mesh bag to hold them and I think I'm going to do that vs putting them in a Rubbermaid box. That way I can sit them out on the porch during the day and they will still be protected.

They were all wiggly except for about 16 of them. I don't know if that means they are just further along in the metamorphosis or if they aren't viable. Now to wait till my husband comes home to trim the tomato cage so I can string them up (so to speak).

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 4:36PM
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nice job! don't worry about the one that didn't make it. Far less would have made it if they would have been left as bird hors doueurves!


    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 9:35PM
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Well, I finally got all the chrysalises strung up, but not before I had 3 hatch on Sunday and then 12 hatch overnight. I released 11 of those Monday, but the 12th one didn't make it. The last 51 will probably have a few days before the next hatching due to the cold snap we had delaying their transformation. I counted and the 15 chrysalises still outside have survived the birds, so I am very hopeful for a good hatching number!

I think next year I will just move the caterpillars to a safe enclosure before they transform. Taking them down and getting the silk was difficult. They don't produce much silk when attaching to the overhang. I used inert poster putty to attach them to the string - worked okay but hard to work with wiggly chrysalises!

I haven't been able to get a good picture of a newly hatched butterfly. Their wings are drying very quickly and they fly off before I can get a clear picture, but I have plenty to try on. I do have some photos I have taken. Enjoy! (but please don't repost the pictures as they are copyrighted to me. Thank you!)

Here is a link that might be useful: Mourning Cloak butterfly saga

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 4:58AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)


Loved the photo saga. Incredible pictures. Wanted to let you know, we have a butterfly site on FB for Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I started it last year. Would love to have you as a member. I'll send you an invitation. Glad the tomato cages worked for you!


    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 9:30AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

The FB page is Lepidoptera of Oklahoma, Kansas and Northern Texas. Anyone on FB is invited to join. We share photos and locations of finds, as well as trips. Also any other pertinent information and IDs. We are still very small, but growing.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 9:38AM
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Hi Sandy,

Thanks for the invite. I applied to join. :)

I am very thankful for the tomato cage idea. Next year I'm just going to put the caterpillars in the set up. Will be a lot easier and hopefully will cut down on the losses from birds and such.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 9:58AM
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