misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)May 24, 2011

I planted two black willows last year - one in my garden and one outside it - in hopes of getting viceroys. I haven't raised any viceroy caterpillars since well before the hurricane (2005) and haven't even seen an adult in about ?two years - I saw one in late fall a couple of years ago. Still, if you don't plant willows, you can't expect to increase the population, so I planted the one outside the garden in a hole near the well, with a thick leaf mulch covering the space between the top of the plant and the surrounding soil - I keep it wet at all times. I planted the one in the garden a little lower than soil level and keep it equally as wet. I figure if the garden willow gets too big, which it undoubtedly will, I can always prune it.

I found six red-spotted purple eggs on the one by the well - red-spotted purples usually use wild black cherry, but they'll occasionally use willows and crabapples. I was going to leave them there to raise themselves, but when one disappeared, I brought them in to raise myself. I've always had trouble keeping willow fresh in a water pick, so I put very small branches in small containers of water with a hole punched in the top and put all this in some little plastic containers (about 9" tall X 6" in circumference) with a vented top. I figure this would keep the willow more humid. Well, it worked! The leaves stayed turgid the entire time the cats were eating them, wonderful! These cats pupated early - I wondered if maybe willow leaves were less nutritious than the usual wild black cherry leaves and would make smaller red-spotted purples. Three of the cats pupated on the ceiling of the little containers and two pupated on a willow branch. I put the branches in water picks and put them in the big chrysalis cage, and I laid the lids against the side of the cage. I saw what looked like a butterfly on one of the lids this morning, from a distance it just looked smallish, so I figured it was a male red-spotted purple. You can imagine my surprise when I approached the cage and saw that it was a viceroy!! I never saw the Mama, so it never occurred to me that I had gotten so lucky!

I looked up the usual sizes for adult viceroys as compared to red-spotted purples, and my Audubon field guide lists RSPs as being 3"-3 3/8" across, but I've released some that I'm sure were 4" or more, undoubtedly females. Viceroys are listed as being 2 5/8"-3" across. This butterfly hasn't opened his/her wings for me, but I'll guess it's under 3" across. There is a smallish RSP that also emerged this morning in the chrysalis cage with it.

Hopefully, I'll be able to get a picture.

Words can't described how pleasantly surprised I am!


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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I released the viceroy. Here's a picture taken in the cage -

And here's a picture taken of him/her in the bushes just after being released -

I think he/she is beautiful!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 1:18PM
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jrcagle(z7 MD)

Surprise indeed! The Viceroys are truly regal.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 1:33PM
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Whoo hoo! I know you have been waiting for them. Such a proud mama. I am so happy for you.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 3:32PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Yes indeed, it's good news!
This year I've raised three different types of butterflies that I hadn't raised since the hurricane - viceroys, question marks, and variegated fritillaries. Now if we could just get our big moths back, like the imperial moths, ios, and others. The only big moths I've seen naturally since 2005 have been lunas and sweetbay moths.
This is very encouraging!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 3:44PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Congrats. I hope to have similar surprise someday.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 5:07PM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

So exciting--I remember that you've been wanting to rear a Viceroy!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 5:08PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Yes, it is exciting, bernergrrl!
And I know you'll have a great surprise soon, KC, let's just hope it's of the good type!
Two more have emerged this morning! One is small like yesterday's butterfly, but one is considerably bigger, undoubtedly a female. I found yesterday's viceroy nectaring on the buttonbush with jillions of bees all around - they didn't sting him. :) He showed up in the front yard this morning!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 10:13AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I found two hatchlings on one of the willows. If they are viceroys, the Mama laid the eggs without me seeing her, once again. I brought them in to raise myself under the same conditions. Here's one of them -


    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 1:23PM
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Lovely pics Miss Sherry, that viceroy is indeed beautiful.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 10:30AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)


I constantly learn something new here, thanks to you and others who share their photos and knowledge of these lovely creatures. Excellent image of the little guy/girl.

Congratulations on your latest success. It is a beauty.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 11:15AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Thanks Mary and Siam!
I got another surprise this morning. There are two chrysalides left from the willow caterpillar group, the first three having been viceroys. I expected the next two to be viceroys, also, but a red-spotted purple emerged this morning from one of the two remaining chrysalides! So now I'm wondering if the three tiny cats (I found another one) I'm raising from one of the willows are viceroys or red-spotted purples.
There's a surprise a minute!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 11:41AM
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