I couldn't help myself...

bev2009(6 IN)August 1, 2011

I keep checking the dill plants and finally saw a BST cat today. However, once I did a thorough check, I found 8, including my first egg.

I brought in 5 cats because I don't know how much dill they will eat and I will be wasting some changing it daily. Can you find all five?

I think it must be the 2nd instar, because I would image the 1st instar would be much smaller.

I am a little apprehensive, but we all have to start somewhere.

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OMGosh bev, I am so excited for you,wow, 5,that is so good.
Do you have an empty vitamin bottle,with lid?I poke a hole in the lid,fill the bottle with water,replace lid,place your dill in the hole, and stand up straight in the container you have them in, it will keep your dill fresh, longer, they really like it fresh,and will eat a lot.any way, my Monarch cats did,and they poop, big,and alot, I saved the droppings, and added to to my flower bed,ha ha
Please post pictures as you go along,just last year, you were hoping,now look at you,:0) Good job.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 10:14PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Congrats, Bev, on your darling cats!
And good luck!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 10:23PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Congrats, Bev. Have a wonderful time raising your caterpillars. It's fun to watch them eat, grow and change.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 11:13PM
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wifey2mikey(7a Tulsa, OK)

I started with BST too and they are very easy. They will eat a lot especially at the end, so be prepared! :-) I always keep a papertowel underneath mine - makes cleaning easier.



    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 11:04AM
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mechelle_m(z9 TX)

Congrats! It really is a good idea to get the dill into some water and upright, the cats don't like being in their frass (poop). Also be aware that when they get to the stage where they are ready to pupate, they will purge their gut: this slimy green stuff comes out and it looks gross. It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with your cats, they must do this before they pupate. I thought there was something really wrong with my cats when they did this!

That is what is so wonderful about the people on this forum. Advice and knowledge, very helpful when you have a question or need an id on a cat or bf.

Enjoy your new obsession!


    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 7:26PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

Just to give you an update. The egg hatched and I couldn't believe how small it was.

A day or two later I went outside to pick a bunch of dill. I washed it under running water, slapped it against the side of the sink and then scrunched it all with paper towels to dry it off. I figured I better still inspect it for spiders and found another 2nd (?) instar so I put him in with the original one. They must be more hardy then they look.

Here are the 5 amigos getting bigger every day.

The medicine bottle works great for the greens and I am also using a small vase for the little guys. There are three more 4 or 5th instar outside, but I hesitated to put them in with the others and I only have one laundry basket at this time. I'll be prepared with more containers next year.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 5:38PM
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garnet69(6A S.Ont)

Congrats Bev on your new acquisitions. I too started with BSTs and quite by accident too.

I keep my cats indoors until about the 3rd or 4th instar but then they go outside. Not wanting the mess in my house, my dh and I came up with a plan to have them outside but safe from predators. We made what I call a "cat house" out of 2x2 and window screening. It looks like an aquarium but instead of glass, we put window screening to allow for ventilation. It sits right in the garden and the window screening on the front is velcroed on for easy access to change and add fresh plants. I've attached a pic for your reference. If raising bfs is going to be a yearly thing, it's quite handy. I've had mine for 4 years now and I just replace the window screening as needed.

Have fun raising these guys. Only took 1 year of raising and I was hooked.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 8:36PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

Garnet, That looks like a great setup. Is it open to the ground?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 12:32AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Wow, Bev congrats on all your BSTs!

Garnet, what an interesting setup. How do you attach the screening to the frame? I would worry that some predator could get in there somehow, but I suppose the predators of large cats would be larger themselves.

I am jealous, I've seen BST females come through the gardens, but haven't found any eggs in several weeks. And I've got so many host plants - Dill, regular and Bronze fennel, Rue, Parsley, and Zizia. Oh well. :(

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 9:53AM
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garnet69(6A S.Ont)

Bev, it is open to the ground, this way all the frass can be worked into the soil. I just change the plants as needed. When I was raising BSTs I would put long twigs from trees in the ground around the food so the cats had somewhere to pupate. Now that I raise Monarchs, I bury large yogurt containers in the ground, fill with water, cut slits in the lids and insert Milkweed as needed. Just this year I started some milkweed seedlings just to the right of the cage so that when I go away for a week or more and I can't change the milkweed regularly, all I have to do is lift the cage onto the patch of Milkweed. I expect to have this fully functioning by next year.

Terrene, on every side except the front of the cage the screening is stapled on, just fold over a seam and staple - similar to sewing a hem. An office stapler won't cut it for this job, you need one those you can get at Home Depot. On the front, I use velcro on the frame and on the screening, this way I can lift the flap for easy access. If I were to do it again, I would double up the window screening. I used a single layer the first time and by the second year there were holes so I added a second layer and it's been great since. I would also make it taller and add a cross piece in the top section just to give the Monarchs solid locations to pupate. There have been a couple times where I have found spiders in there and have lost a couple of small cats because of that but since then I haven't lost any due to predators. Bear in mind, it is in a raised bed (raised by about 18" to 24" off the ground) and up against my house so it is in a protected spot in my garden and I only put cats in there that are 3rd instar or more.

Even though my growing season is short, I try to make it as easy and convenient as possible. I am a working mother of three so time for this is a luxury. Still, I can't imagine a summer without raising some kind of butterfly.

Here's a pic of the cage with the Monarch "growing op". As you can see, the cage is not buried as much as it should be and the screening is still only single layer, but all in all though, this system works great for me. As I said before, if anyone, newbie or not, is planning on raising bfs long-term, this cage is very handy, adaptable and easy and cheap to make.

Sorry this is so long-winded.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 6:22PM
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Ament(5a SD)

Wowza! I love the cat cage you have. That is awesome. I'll have to convince hubby to craft one for me. :) Thank you so much for sharing this! *g* I spotted 15 cats in the last image. How many do you have in there?


    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 6:39PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

Garnet, I love the setup. Maybe DH can help me build something like this over the winter. I'm so impressed with all your cats.

When I brought the first 5th instar cat into the house that I found wondering in the garden, he attached himself to a stick in just a few hours and had his chrysalis within 7 hours. Yesterday 3 of the cats in the laundry basket settled down on the sides and are now hanging, but they still haven't formed their chrysalis. Does the time it takes vary? Now the other two are running around the basket. Of course the first one attached himself to the zipper and I hadn't made the elastic cover yet, so now I will have to cut the cover off to get the bowls with leftover food and frass out. I'll make the cover tonight and get that done.

While picking dill for the two 2nd instars, I picked a sprig and low and behold, another egg. Actually while walking in from work, I saw a BST omviposting (? couldn't find the exact word) for the first time. Maybe I've seen it before, but didn't know what it was doing. I don't know if the egg I found was a fresh one it had just laid or an older one. But the time I ran for the camera, I couldn't remember where it had laid it.

The 5th instar I brought in the other day is ready too to make a chrysalis. (I really need to get the proper terms down on a note card so I can use them.)

So that makes 6 cats ready to make a chrysalis.
2 2n instar
1 egg

Yeah! While I was sitting her a monarch flew by my window. I have not seen any in weeks. I keep checking the milkweed, but nothing.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 7:31PM
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garnet69(6A S.Ont)

Tina, that pic was taken two years ago. At the moment I have 8 cats and 4 chrysalids in the cage outside but I have 52 1st or 2nd instar indoors, plus about 20 eggs. Once they get big enough, they will all go outdoors. Once they pupate and their "shell" has hardened enough to handle, I carefully remove them and bring them indoors. Then I string them up! I like to have them indoors for the final stage because they are safer inside. Below is a pic to give you an idea what I mean by "stringing them up". I have a video too of one of my chrysalids emerging. I'll post that too if you're interested.

Bev, sounds to me like you're hooked - lol! As time goes on and you do it more and more, you will find easier and more efficient ways of raising them. As for the time it takes for them to pupate, having only raised BSTs for two years, I'm no expert but I can tell you based on the Monarchs, they do it when they are good and ready. They all go through the same process but some take their sweet time. Perhaps someone with more experience with BSTs could chime in on this one. Really sounds like you're enjoying it.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 8:57PM
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Ament(5a SD)

Oh my gosh! That is just amazing Garnet! lol I've never seen such a thing! :) The one chrysalis that accidentally got sent in a bunch of plants to me was the very first I have ever seen in my whole life. I would absolutely Love to see the monarch eclose. I missed the one I had eclose. :/ I was so bummed about that too. LoL


    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 3:02AM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

I am reading this thread which was sent to me by Bev, after I spotted two cats. in my parsley and did not recognize them. I have grown a butterfly garden for a few years, seen several monarch cats., one chrysallis (which was gone the day after I saw it), and although I have grown parsley for over 15 years I have never seen a BST cat., in fact the only time I saw a BST was several years ago in a lilac bush. Sadly, only one of my cats. remains. It is growing well and this morning I spotted it munching away. The parsley plants seem no worse for the moment, they seem to prefer the curly over the Italian. Still wondering if I want to grow them. Lots of interesting informtion here. I just wanted to know what the result would be. I also wonder what the major predators are. I will look it up. Thanks for all the info.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 12:55PM
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Tony G(5a)

Hi northerner,

although BST's will eat parsley, I don't think it's the preferred egg laying plant. This was also my first year of BSTs and all eggs/cats were found on the fennel. I also have rue, but it has taken some time to establish itself. we'll see what happens next year!

I gave the BST cats a choice between parsely and bronze fennel. All but one preferred the fennel.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 1:12PM
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Ament(5a SD)

Makes me glad I have fennel seeds, lots of them. Also some dill. Still have to get the rue seeds. Does it have to be any specific type of fennel, dill or rue? I've got curly parsley too but haven't seen anything near that yet.

So much work to do when the veggie garden is harvested...so little time to do it in. LoL


    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 3:50PM
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garnet69(6A S.Ont)

Tina, here's the video of a monarch eclosing.

When I raised BSTs, the seemed to prefer fennel and dill over parsley. Never raised a BST on parsley but I always had lots of dill and fennel so I was never in a position where I had to use it.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 3:38PM
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garnet69(6A S.Ont)

I can't seem to make this work, if anyone has a tip on how to post a video, please share. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 3:46PM
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Garnet, thank you for sharing the photos I showed your setup to my hubby and asked him if he could hook me up. That would be awesome to have.

How were you able to attach the chrysalis to the cord?

Happy gardening!


    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 9:15PM
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bev2009(6 IN)

Garnet, I believe you said the video was on YouTube. Just copy the web address and paste in the "Optional Link URL:" below your new message and give the link a title in "name of the Link:". Let me know if you need more help.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 9:20PM
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garnet69(6A S.Ont)

The video is not on YouTube, it's in my photobucket. I think it wasn't working because the album was private. I'll make it public and try again.

Kathy, I use a hot glue gun. I put the hot glue on the cord, let it cool for a few seconds, then attach the Monarch. I've only done this with Monarchs as they have that little black end that looks like a bee's stinger, so the hot glue never touches the chrysalis. As I've said, it takes patience and a steady hand so make sure you have somewhere for your arms to rest on when you do it. Good luck.


Here is a link that might be useful: Birth of a Butterfly

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 8:02PM
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Im SOOOOOOOOOO glad I came across this thread. I am LOVING the set up you have. I goggled "indoor butterfly cage" and this popped up! YAY.
Im so making it this weekend. =0)

Thanks !

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 8:57PM
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