Delaying BF emergence with bad weather coming?

shannon74September 6, 2010

Hi everyone

I have a Giant Swallowtail chrysalis turning dark, looks like it will emerge tomorrow. We also have two full days of possible bad storms coming with high winds, etc. Is there a way to try and delay the BF's emergence, OR should I try to keep him enclosed until the weather passes? I have never done that before and just wanted some advice on how to feed, or if it will even need to feed if it is not active.

Thanks a bunch!


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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I have never tried delaying a butterfly eclosion. With the chrysalis probably emerging tomorrow, I wouldn't even think about trying it.

Once it is out, I'd try one of two things:

1) Feed it. I have never had a GST (waiting for my chrysalids to provide me one) so I don't know what they like. I'd try Gatorade, Juicy Juice, sugar water, cut peaches, etc. When I have fed butterflies in the past, I put the liquid in a medicine cap but the person I know that does it everyday just pours little puddles on an impervious surface.


2) Put it in the fridge. I'd suggest inside wax paper inside an envelope. If the butterfly is very calm, you could just use a tupperware container (an excited butterfly will beat itself up trying to get out). That said, I've never put a GST in a fridge so I don't guarantee success. I have done it with monarchs, lunas and imperials (and probably some other big moths) for up to 3 days with no problems.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 12:42AM
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However you feed it try to do it in a way to make sure that none of food gets on the wings. I had painted ladies in a buterfly habitat and I put the sugar water on a papertowl on small plate. The plate was too big because some of them got the sugar water on their wings and the wings got stuck together :( I felt so bad. They didn't fly right after that. It only happened to a few and most were okay to release and they flew away with no problem. I misted the other ones with a spray bottle and the wings came apart but looked raggedy after that. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 1:35AM
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Hi Shannon,

With the color change its way too late to delay the eclosion of the adult. So I'd let it eclose naturally and keep the adult in a dark secluded place for at least several hours to let the wings fully dry. The easiest from here is to feed it and put it outside in a sheltered place on its own. They survive bad weather on their own naturally all the time. Otherwise the best solution is to feed it and put it in a glassine envelope with the wings folded over its back and lay it on the shelf in your refrigerator that is the warmest. This will slow its metabolism and keep it calm. You'll have to feed it regularly, how often depends on how long you plan to hold it before you release it, but at least once a day. Personally I prefer to feed them highly deluted honey water. A cotton ball in a small lid (gallon milk jug lids work fine) covered with screen or fine mesh cloth and soaked with the solution works well and will not let the solution get on the body or wings (you can hold it all together with rubber bands). Very lightly hold the adult by the closed wings and touch its legs to the cotton ball. It will take hold, and when you see it's proboscus probing the cotton ball you can let go and it will usually stay there feeding for several minutes. When it looks like it has slowed down on feeding and is getting more active, carefully take hold of the wings and gently lift it off the feeder (be patient and don't force it - a little pressure will cause it to eventually let go). Put it back in the glassine envelope and your refridgerator until the next feeding or release.

A note on handling adult butterflies... with care it does not hurt them at all to be handled. A very light touch will work fine if you master it, but special weak tweezers are sold for doing it as well. You can also make a serviceable tool with an old wooden cloths pin and two 1/2"-3/4" X 2"-3" strips of light cardboard (like cerial box cardboard, etc). Glue the strips to the inside of the jaws on the clothespin so they extend the length of the jaws, and grasp the wings with the very end of the cardboard. If they don't have enough grip at the end, cut a little off the end until they do.

Lep tweezers and glassine envelopes are a couple of supplies that even a hobbyist should keep on hand. The tweezers can be obtained from entomological supply houses (like BioQuip, Carolina Biological, Ianni, etc); the envelopes from the same or stamp and coin shops, etc. Neither are expensive. Lep triangles can also be easily made in several sizes from wax paper. A year or two ago I posted how to make and fold them with pictures and sizes.

Keep in mind the adult does not live that long, so after 2-3-4 days it should be released.



    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 2:21AM
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Thanks everyone! Well, the weather today was not super terrible, just rain off and on so when she emerged and looked really ready to go a few hours later, I did not have the heart to hang on to her, mostly just too afraid I would not do something right and she would starve or something. So good luck to her! :-)


    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 7:27PM
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Congratulations on your successful release.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 7:57PM
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