Raising the Green Hairstreak

End of May 2015 I spent one Saturday searching for caterpillars of the Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia). I found none. Nevertheless, on the search I bumped into a forest completely covered by growth of Lingonberry and Blueberry. Green Hairstreak butterflies (Callophrys rubi) were enjoying the warm sun.

The Green Hairstreak is one of the most common butterflies in Finland. Tracking down caterpillars, however, is not that easy. After one of the Hairstreaks took a quick rest on a branch of Lingonberry I couldn’t resist turning the leafs upside down. There is was, a single but clean white dot. A fresh egg.

Raising that egg has provided me a lot of joy during summer. I kept the caterpillar on potted Lingonberry. While the plant was on blossom, the caterpillar enjoyed its feast. The butterfly will hatch in late spring 2016.

Edit (March 20, 2016): Added photos of the hatched butterfly

Raising the Orange Tip

Late in spring I love when the first Orange Tip butterflies (Anthocharis cardamines) start appearing. The orange color of the male butterflies is something that I’ve enjoyed already as a small boy.

Season 2015 I set myself the target to raise this species. Finding the first egg one a great feeling. It turned out to be rather easy after that to locate many more. Even mid-sized to adult caterpillars (once you know where eggs where laid a couple weeks earlier).

Here’s a couple shots from adult caterpillars and the chrysalis.

Beautiful caterpillars: The Small Emperor Moth

The Small Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia) is one of the most gigantic domestic species to the fauna in Finland. This counts not only for the adult moth but especially for it’s caterpillars. Here’s only a couple photos from the caterpillars I raised last summer after receiving eggs from a friend. Right now, the cocoons rest for diapause. The adult moths will hatch early summer 2016.

Raising the Brown Hairstreak

To raise the Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae) has been a particular joy in 2015. After collecting eggs in the wild (see this post) I had the chance to see one of the caterpillars hatch from the egg while capturing the moment with my camera.

Place a decent twig of food plant in the cage and you’ll have a true meditation moment whenever you try to find the well hidden caterpillar on the bottom side of a leaf. Also the chrysalis can hardly be found. I definitely suggest this species to anyone who likes raising caterpillars that like to hide themselves.

Look up!

Not always are caterpillars found on the ground. Occasionally, you can find some on the height of one’s eyes. But that’s not all, it may also be worth to have a look up.

The White-letter Hairstreak spends almost all of its life high up in elm trees. This includes the larval stage, therefor it’s possible to spot the caterpillars by standing right under the leafs of a tree. Then, have that look up to the bottom side of the leafs. This may requires a sunny day to get a good look. Some twigs hang almost down to the ground (see photo below), making it possible to get a close-up or collect a caterpillar for raising.

If you want to raise the species from eggs here’s a couple tips for tracking them down in winter.

The First Apatura Caterpillar

For a long time I’ve wanted to raise caterpillars of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) or the Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura Ilia). Before getting that chance there was one challenge thought: Finding eggs or caterpillars.

After spending quite some time on the quest I finally found what I was after a couple days ago. A hibernating caterpillar of the Purple Emperor on Goat Willow (Salix caprea). Here’s some images on the specimen, including a photo of the growth where the larva was found (see red marking).

Hatching fun

Watching butterflies hatch is definitely one of the highlights when dealing with butterflies. In case of many species reaching this moment requires patience. It may easily take up to 10 months or more before the adult hatches.

This spring the first butterflies to hatch were Map butterflies (Araschnia levana). They hatched pretty late due to cold weather throughout spring. The timing was good as most of the 11 chrysalises hatched on a Saturday. The evening before the wings started shimmer through the pupa, a sign that something’s about to happen. I used the moment to prepare a “hatching window” for our daughter Sienna. Despite of the small size of the butterflies I also allowed her letting some of them free (taking some good shots first, of course).

A week later, the first White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) emerged. This individual was way too early for its species, but originally the caterpillars (which overwinter within the egg) hatched early after spending winter in our fridge. This species is often difficult to spot in nature, and when seeing one flying the wings may have suffered quite a lot already. Therefor, to get a perfect specimen raising them is the best option.

The third species to hatch was surprisingly a Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi). After confirming that it was a female I brought the moth to a friend of mine who tried to place it into a cage for attracting males. This way we could get fresh eggs to raise a new generation, which will hatch and show the same beauty again next year.

How to find eggs of the Orange Tip

The Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) is a common butterfly (that counts at least up here in Finland) and finding eggs is not too difficult. However, as with any species, the time and place must be right.

The shape of the eggs is pretty similar to those of the Common Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni). Eggs will be around only for a short period as the caterpillars tend to hatch already after 5-7 days. Once you start seeing the first males flying, wait for another moment. I waited two weeks this spring after spotting the first male, and got lucky. The first female I actually sighted after first finding the first eggs.

Here’s a couple photos from my search this spring. I also tried to capture the larval habitat to show what kind of surrounding I found eggs in.

Disguised on a flower bud

Exactly one week ago the first two caterpillars of the White-letter hairstreak hatched. Right after hatching, the tiny, black larvae had one mission: to find a flower bud on the elm twig and dig in.

It took about 4-5 days for them to appear again. From now on, it appears they don’t hide anymore inside of the flower bud but feed from outside. Nevertheless, due to their excellent disguise it doesn’t matter where or how they feed. They won’t be spotted that easily. Having them on the buds makes it much more fun to be able to search and also sight them.

Looking forward to seeing the caterpillars grow and reach more size. Raising hairstreaks, note this is my first time and species, differs quite a lot from raising other species.

Hatching Hairstreak

Last Friday night I was able to observe a step in the butterfly metamorphosis that I haven’t witnessed before: A caterpillar hatching.

During the afternoon I saw that some of the eggs in the raising box started to show tiny holes. They appeared smaller than those of empty egg shells which I sighted quite commonly while searching for eggs last autumn. In the evening I took a closer look with a magnifying glass. I saw something shiny inside the egg, and it was moving. I quickly realized it was the black head of the tiny caterpillar. Only moments later the caterpillar started to leave the egg. Just enough time to get the camera.

Due to poor light conditions and my camera equipment shooting close-ups it always a challenge. Nevertheless, here’s some photos of the first moments of a young caterpillar. Minutes after hatching, the tiny larva disappeared in a close-by leaf bud. This is where it will spend a couple days.