Butterfly breeding guide

Swallowtail (Papilio Machaon)

Starting point is here assumed to be pupa (if starting point is egg/larva, start from item 7. below). Swedish West coats climate conditions are assumed to apply.

1. Store the pupae in an air sealed plastic containers in a fridge during winter. Use cotton as material to put them on.

2. In the beginning of April, transfer the pupae carefully with your fingers to a cage/box for pupae emerging, with corrugated cardboard in the button, netting on the insides and dry twigs laid above (not on the pupae!) for the pupae to climb on after emerge for expanding their wings. Place the pupae in the wells of the corrugated cardboard with the pointed side of the head upwards. Place the cage/box protected from rain, wind and direct sunshine. From time to time, maybe once a day if it is dry outside (or if you keep them inside which can also be done), give them a very light shower with a flower spray bottle filled with pure water.

3. The butterfly will emerge end May/beginning June depending on weather. Normally males are emerging first These shall be transferred to a cage with nectar flowers (different kind of fragrant summer verbena is excellent and available in most flower shops early spring) for feeding at least 3 days before pairing. Preferable they should also be hand fed as a complement (normally once a day is sufficient with a solution based on 10 parts water and 1,5 parts sugar which is brought to boiling and then cooled down). Females should be paired as soon as possible after emerge after having expanded their wings. If the females emerges before the males, the females should be placed in the fridge in an air sealed contained with netting on the inside including the ceiling (so the butterflies get grip with their feet) and a small wad of cotton or kitchen paper damp with water in the bottom. The females can be stored in the fridge for at least a week. If they are stored in the fridge longer then one week, it might also work, but in that case hand feeding is recommended every second day after a warming up period of 15 minutes They should also be kept warm after the feeding 15 minutes before being put in the fridge again.

4. The pairing is best done by hand. It is possible to get a natural pairing in a cage in sunshine but it is to take a change that might not work. Hand pairing is the most demanding part of the breeding but after some practise it goes relatively easy. It is important that it is warm, e.g. 23 degrees or more. Hand pairing is well described in the CD ”Handpairing Swallowtail Butterflies” which can be ordered on

5. After the pairing, the male is replaced in the cage with nectar flowers (with continued supporting hand feeding). After a day or so, it can be used for pairing again (females can only be paired once). The first time a male pairs, it takes around 30 minutes, second time around 60 minutes and then longer and longer (up to several hours) for each additional pairing

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© Copyright, Anders Eliasson, Öjersjö Sweden, 2010

Swallowtail (Papilio Machaon)

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