Raising the Green-veined White

The Green-veined White (Pieris napi) is, with no doubt, one of the most common butterflies. The species also has many generations per year, which enables us to see them fly almost all year long. Caterpillars, however, usually remain well hidden on their host plants.

One day in late May last year, while searching for other caterpillars, I saw a couple Green-veined Whites flying around plants that can be considered their caterpillars food plants. I decided to keep my eyes on one of them. After the butterfly took a short rest on the growth I took a close look. It turned out the butterfly, a female, wasn’t resting after all but laying a single egg on one of the leafs.

I took the egg home for raising. Here’s a couple photos from the journey from egg to butterfly. Note though, the adult butterflies featured below (including the copula) are other specimen to show the imago.

The quest for the Small Copper

This year one of my target caterpillars for raising is the Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas). This butterflies is one of the smallest but most common species in our region. Nevertheless, finding caterpillars is a bit tricky.

As with many species of the Blues, caterpillars are tiny and well disguised. This counts for the Small Copper, too. I’ve been browsing through vegetation accepted as host plant every once in a while, with no results so far. In autumn 2015, however, I tracked down a habitat where I’ll continue my search this spring. Just nearby where we live, in a small rocky forest.

One afternoon I spent checking Rumex plants on those rocks, finding two empty egg shell. Caterpillars I found none, possibly they had already withdrawn for hibernation as it was later in autumn. I’m optimistic to find slightly larger caterpillars once the snow has gone and the warm spring sun gets the plants to grow again.

Beautiful pest – The Large White

Some butterflies are not only seen as beautiful creatures. While the caterpillars of most species enjoy plants growing in the wild others have a preference for cultivated plants. The Large White (Pieris brassicae) is often referred to as being a pest, causing severe damage in cultures and gardens.

Usually, the Large White is kept in balance by natural parasites, especially the White Butterfly Parasite (Cotesia glomerata). I recall raising caterpillars as a small boy when usually most of them died due to these wasps. That was in Switzerland, where the species is common. It took a while to sight adult butterflies up north in Finland. Pretty soon after seeing them fly I also humbled into caterpillars, lots of them.

I grabbed a hand full of caterpillars home for raising. It will be nice to get them over winter by keeping the chrysalises in the fridge. Normally, the Large White is known as a migrating species in Scandinavia. Most winters are too harsh for the butterfly to survive, and it takes until late summer again for the next generation to arrive from South.

An interesting observation while raising the caterpillars this time was that none of them were affected by parasites. All 27 caterpillars made it to pupae, and they’re now hibernating in the artificial, mild winter of our fridge. It felt like the butterfly’s enemy, the White Butterfly Parasite, didn’t make it at all to Finland that year.

Raising the Black-veined White

In case of the Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi) I got young caterpillars from a friend. Usually, I prefer finding the eggs or caterpillars on my own in the wild. Finding what you’ve been searching for gives a great kick. Nevertheless, I never had contact with this species and wanted to get to know more about these beautiful whites.

Don’t touch!

Watch out when touching hairy caterpillars. Not all of them are harmful, but some can cause an allergic reaction on your skin.

The Oat Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) caterpillar is one of those that needs to be treated with care. Touching the hair of the caterpillar is somewhat similar to touching nettles. To protect itself from predators, the caterpillar also builds its cocoon using the same hair.

I couldn’t resist testing what happens on my skin after gently rubbing the surface of the cocoon against my wrist. The reaction, a nasty, itchy allergy. The interesting part of the test was that the allergy remained for about 6 weeks, leaving a visible rush and occasional itch. The conclusion? Don’t touch!

Letting them fly

Letting butterflies free after raising them from egg or caterpillar is always a nice moment. Here’s a couple random photos from 2015, pointing out how kids can get a decent look at creatures that normally wouldn’t stay still.

Good luck our daughter also shows interest in caterpillars being raised. Moreover, searching them in the wild is of particular fun.

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