Releasing Red Admirals- advice please

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  • #15471

    joanna
    Participant

    I have 10 Red Admiral pupae which are due to emerge soon. I collected pupae and larvae from ongaonga growing on bush margins in this area (wairarapa) with the aim of getting them to adulthood away from predators. Now my concern is, should I take them back to bush areas for release or let them go here in suburban Masterton? I have only seen the very occasional Red here at home (more often see Yellows). The nearest farmland is only a couple of kms away and I know there is Urtica urens growing there, but I’m not sure where the nearest U. ferox would be. Basically I don’t want to release them here in town if it means their survival chances would be worse then if I had left them in the bush at the mercy of wasps!
    I had thought of letting the butterflies oviposit in the caterpillar castle ( I have the jumbo sized one)on U. urens and then release, but 2 issues there: I have both Yellow and Red – should they be separate? Also I don’t like the idea of seeing the Reds frantic to escape all the time Should I toughen up and try to get another generation going to release?
    Any advice from experienced breeders most welcome.Thanks

Viewing 18 replies - 1 through 18 (of 18 total)
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  • #32797

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    Quite possibly Anna, it is the reason why soy sauce is put in artificial nectar, to provide salts for the males, females don’t need it.  It would be a good idea to try some damp clay as I guess you have a good supply.

    #32792

    Anna
    Participant

    Norm…I wonder if that would help the low sex drive of the male Red Admirals?? Might be an idea to experiment with next time I have some tardy males, but willing females?

    #32759

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    If there was a damp patch in the clay the butterflies were most likely getting the minerals and salts from the clay, in which case they would have all been males as the females are not known to partake in this habit.  The minerals and salts are to help develop a strong spermataphore in the males.

    #32756

    Errol
    Participant

    Back around 1968 when I didn’t know a butterfly from a buttercup, I was on holiday on the West Coast touring the back blocks when I stopped the car for a pit stop. I came across a clay patch clearing at the end of track and clustered on it were several dozen butterflies, covering an area about two metres in diameter.

    They were all just sitting there fluttering their wings in the sunshine, with the odd one taking off for a circuit – before coming back down again into the cluster. I watched them for several minutes before going back to my car.

    Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera at the time and from my hazey memory of that event, I’m now pretty sure they were Red Admirals. But why were they all gathered together is such a mass on the dirt patch?

    My guess is that they were getting salts from the soil, can anyone offer an opinion or expanation?

    #32744

    joanna
    Participant

    Update on my first serious Admiral breeding programme (both yellow and red):

    most of the Red Admiral pupae gathered from the wild produced white-spotted inchnuemon wasps (as predicted) but I sucessfully raised and released 12 butterflies from larvae (also gathered from the wild).

    I raised and released 2x generations of Yellow Admirals numbering about 30 altogether. These were from larvae I found on Urtica urens. It was great to get that second generation – thanks to the large size Castle (worth it’s weight in gold!). Decided not to try for a 3rd generation as my supplies of nettle became very scarce due to the drought here in the Wairarapa. I had only grown a smallish crop here at home and was previously gathering plants from farms and roadsides.

    Today I revisited one of the original Red Admiral sites where there is a large area of Ongaonga growing – there were plenty of mid-stage larvae on the nettles and a couple of adults flying about. I brought home 3 chrysalises, but suspect they have been parasitised as they have the coppery sheen you warned me about Norm. Anyway it will be interesting to see what happens with them. Noticed a small reddish/orange wasp on the nettles also a smallish black one so presume they would also be the parasitising varieties, alas.

     

    #31181

    joanna
    Participant

    Yes thanks Norm – over the weekend I was able to spend more time observing and the Red A was feeding on both artificial nectar and flowers, which was encouraging to see.
    I am going to release the 4 yellows I have had today (sunny and no wind) as I see their wings are getting a bit frayed and I want them to be able to fly well in the wild. They may have already bred – not sure as I haven’t taken the nettles out to check. I still have plenty of pupae yet to eclose and more larvae coming on.
    Hopefully the other Red pupae I have will eclose soon.

    #31169

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    There are a number of things one can do to encourage butterflies to pair and a good nectar supply is one them, and remember you can ‘lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’. If there is a good supply of both artificial and natural nectar the Red Admiral is unlikely to starve, and may well be feeding when you are not watching. Probably every person who had bred both Red and Yellow Admirals will tell you that they can be as different as chalk and cheese in many respects, and while yellows will pair up at the drop of a hat the reds are not so obliging. Many butterflies need some flight space in order to engage in a chase ritual prior to mating, but at the end of the day butterflies will do what they want in their own time, and it can be a week or more before butterflies in captivity decide to mate. Perseverance is the keynote and more butterflies eclosing will help.
    Keep us posted and good luck.

    #31165

    joanna
    Participant

    OK…. I only have 3 butterflies out – 2 Yellows and one Red. The weak Yellow has died. I haven’t seen the red feeding at all but the Yellows are, on artificial nectar and the cut flowers provided. I put a mixture in a vase and the two they have fed on are purple hebe and Buddleia globosa(?) (round orange flowers about the size of cherries). None of the wild B. davidii is flowering here in Wairarapa yet.
    I have to admit that I don’t like seeing the Red Admiral flapping about looking for an escape – especially as I haven’t seen it feeding at all. Don’t want it to starve to death! But I was hoping more reds would emerge soon and then I might be lucky enough to get another generation going before releasing them. That would be great 🙂

    #31145

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    Females are able to pair as soon as they can fly, but males usually a couple of days before they can, as their claspers need time to become firm. But they can’t be hurried and will pair in their own time, assuming you have both sexes. The one that is not flying may be less than healthy, or it may be a slow starter. They often don’t feed the first day.

    #31141

    joanna
    Participant

    Thanks Terry and Norm…it’s great to have this expert advice on the forum. I have 3 Yellow Admirals emerge today but the first one seems unable to fly, despite it looking perfectly formed (to my eyes). Any thoughts? It moves around but seems unable to move up the wall much. I have put nectar down low but not sure if it’s feeding.
    How soon after emerging do Yellow Ads pair up? I have placed the castle so it has both sun and shade.

    #31092

    Errol
    Participant

    Jacqui, thanks for the thought but I’ve already got that one.

    #31090

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Terry has put together a fantastic booklet on raising Admirals, you can find it here:

    https://www.monarch.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/yellow-admiral-breeding-programme.pdf

    #31089

    Errol
    Participant

    Terry and Norm, thanks guys. I have cut and pasted your advice onto a document and saved it in my ‘Butterflies’ documents.

    #31084

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    Errol – Both Red and Yellow Admiral caterpillars can have several different colour forms which makes it difficult to determine the difference. The caterpillars will sometimes display cream coloured spots at the base of the dorsal spines or setae, and where the spots on the fourth and sixth abdominal segments are larger than the others, this indicates a Yellow Admiral. However some colour forms do not have these spots and in that situation that method is not applicable. The most reliable method of determining Red or Yellow is to examine the setae of late instar caterpillars under high magnification to compare the ratio of the length hair or bristle to the thickened base but this requires some practice and is not always obvious when the bristles are worn. Or you may opt for the easiest and 100% accurate method – wait until the butterfly emerges from the pupa. Tagging or labelling larvae and pupae and recording information is a good idea as much information is learned.

    Joanna – misting the pupae is helpful particularly in hot weather but stop misting when the pupae start colouring up, as at this point they lose their waterproof coating, in their natural state the pupa is usually hanging under a leaf or protection which shields much of the rain. Butterflies are sun loving creatures and some sunlight is best but at the same time be sure there is some shade for them also. The R/A’s are not as tolerant to warm temperatures as the Y/a’s and will seek shade when temperatures rise towards 30c. in which the Y/A’s revel. Its hard to put a number on overcrowding as it depends on the size of the plant, but have some plants in reserve and be guided by your judgement and instinct.

    #31082

    Terry
    Participant

    UV light and airflow can be helpful in keeping disease under control but is not essential for the eggs and larvae and UV light is definitely not good for the pupae stage, but sunlight is essential for pairing in captivity. Yellow Admirals pair up late afternoon/evening times and The Red Admiral is very similar and I found they will fly in lower light levels. At least my NZ Red Admirals did in the UK.

    #31080

    joanna
    Participant

    Thanks very much Norm for your clear and helpful advice. Yes, I had read of your experiment with various nettle species and was somewhat surprised that Red A’s show no particular preference for ongaonga. Handy actually, as U urens is easier to find for me!

    I appreciate your comments about having a sufficient nettle supply – can you give me some idea as to what you would consider overcrowding on a plant (U urens)? Yes I make sure there is constant air flow around the castle. I mist the pupae once a day – is that wrong? I figured that outdoors they would be getting dew each night – if not rain at times.

    The room the castle is in has plenty of light but they get no direct UV – I guess that can’t be vital as no-one seems to have mentioned it.

    #31078

    Errol
    Participant

    Just the answers I need too, thanks for that Norm. Courtesy of Anna, I now have both yellow and red Admirals hatching in my castle and have started growing a nettle patch outside as well.

    Just one thing, some of the cats are a bit greener than the others, might they be the yellow ones?

    Another thing I do is put a little sticker beside or above each chrysalis with the date it eclosed, so I then have some idea when it’s due to hatch.

    But I haven’t been doing it long enough yet, to check which cats might or might not be yellows.

    #31072

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    Hi Joanna, no need to worry about taking the Red Admirals back to the bush area as they are members of a migratory family of butterflies with powerful flight capabilities and will find nettles no problem, they will oviposit on all species on nettle and not just Ongaonga. Both Red and Yellow Admirals will oviposit on potted nettles in a castle once gravid,but the Reds may not pair readily in confinement whereas the Yellows will. There is no problem keeping them both together in the castle and they will be quite happy together, both as adults and as larvae even on the same plant. Any wild caught or reared butterfly will try to escape confinement, but if you can get some eggs from them and then release them they will continue to oviposit when free, plus you will have some to rear in a safe predator free environment. Don’t make the mistake (common) of trying to rear more caterpillars than your supply of hostplant as this can lead to problems such as overcrowding which can cause disease, and ensure the castle always has good air circulation.

Viewing 18 replies - 1 through 18 (of 18 total)

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