The cage was oriented so that the majority of the foliage rested against one side of the cage, and that side was aimed towards the sun. The
butterfly is attracted to the warmth and light, and by flying to the sunny side of the cage, she was surrounded by, and landed on, the Willow host.
About twice per day, I removed her from the cage and brought her into the lab for feeding. The 10% honey-water mixture was poured into a red plastic bottle cap. The butterfly was held by the wings and her two
front legs were allowed to dip into the honey-water as she struggled to get free. As soon as the scensors on her feet detected food, she uncoiled her tongue, grabbed on to the lid, and began to feed. At this point she could be released and happily stayed still while feeding.
After about 5 minutes (and as long as 15 if she was really hungry) she stopped feeding and rested. I placed her back into the egg-straction cage before she became too restless. After warming back up a bit she
started ovipositing again. Warm temperature and bright light is absoultely necessary to encourage ovipositing. Here are some shots of her feeding on 5-26-2006.
This method worked much better than expected, and I found ova not only on the host leaves, but also scattered all over 3 sunniest sides of the cage! Although she placed some ova on the sides of the cage (possibly
just "missed" the leaves) she preferred to oviposit on the very tips of the leaves. Some of the leaves had been visited mutliple times, and had a several ova. I removed about 32 ova from the foliage (so far) and left
a few on the plant to develop and hatch on their own. The images below were taken on 5-30-2006. Shortly thereafter, I replaced the cage and female on the host and she resumed ovipositing.
These ova were removed from the inside of the cage (hamper). The ova are very fragile and could not be simply popped-loose with forceps like Saturniid ova. Instead, I had to use a Q-Tip saturated with water to
slowly dissolve the glue holding the egg in place. After a few minutes of soaking, the egg could be carfully rocked loose with gentle stroking of the wet Q-Tip until it came loose from the cage side and stuck to the
Q-Tip. I carefully placed the ova on a paper strip so I could monitor them until they developed and hatched. I pulled 25 ova from the cage sides alone! 5-29-2006
This is a wild-collected Lorquin's Admiral egg shortly after being oviposited on the Willow host, taken in 2004.
Here is the same egg about 10 days later - case is now transparent with larva visible inside. 2004
On 6-4-2006, this ova hatched and the tiny first instar larva crawled out. After a short rest it began eating its eggshell, the nutrients providing a good first meal before heading out to find a good feeding location on the Willow host plant.
These fresh first instar larvae are shown in the container in which they were reared from ova to pupae. Only a day or two old, they have already started feeding at the end of the leaf tip, where they eat the green leaf material but leave the leaf vein behind as a sort of platform on which to rest. 6-6-2006
By 6-8-2006 several of the larvae had already molted into 2nd instar. A few shots of the fresh 2nd instars are shown below.
These 3rd instars are a few days old now. They are really starting to show their strange body shape and bird dropping-like coloration. By twisting themselves around a leaf or twig, they further break-up their outline, making it even more difficult for a predator to identify the shape as a caterpillar. 6-14-2006
By 6-17-2006, a number of larvae had molted into 4th instar. Note the "horns" now visible just behind the head. The fleshy growths serve no known function other than to intimidate potential enemies. 4th instars of various ages are shown.
4th and 5th instars are shown below. Note the longer "horns" of the 5th instars. 6-18-2006
By late 5th instar the larvae are very cryptically patterened with earth-tone greys and browns. Depending upon the larva's posturing, they could resemble dried foliage, curled/rough bark or a bird dropping. 6-21-2006
These fully mature 5th instar larvae were shot on 6-22-2006, and are about 1.5" long.
On 6-24-2006 they were hanging in typical "J" fashion and a few had even pupated.
On 6-26-2006 only one larva remained to pupate. Note that the others have retained much of their larval coloration and even the weird shape is somewhat similar to the bent larval profile.
After only 10 days, one of the pupae was nearly developed and the adult's wing pattern was clearly visible through the pupal shell. It was late in the day when these pictures were taken so eclosire will probably occur the next day. The other pupae are still looking like they need some more time in the oven! 7-2-2006
On 7-3-2006, bright and early in the morning, I found this freshly-emerged male hanging in the enclosure. He had already expanded his wings but they were still quite soft and limp. After a couple of hours he was getting active and was ready to pose for a few pictures...
On 7-5-2006, another pair emerged and I was onhand to get the photos. The sequence below shows the adult breaking the pupal shell open and then climbing out. Once free of the shell, the butterfly has to connect the two halves of its tongue, and completely expand and dry its wings.
Freshly emerged adults are fairly docile, and can be placed onto various perches for photos. They are especially interested in bright/warm light sources, probably to boost their body temperature and speed the drying of the fluid used to expand their wings. This pair emerged on 7-5-2006.
The differences in wing pattern between male and female are subtle. Both female(left) and male(right) are shown side-by side, recto and verso for comparison. Both are also shown in one frame to illustrate their size in relation to each other - the female is the top butterfly.
The entire life cycle finished in just over 1 month. Here is a timeline:
oviposited on 5-26-2006
Ova developed and hatched on 6-3-2006 (8 days)
Larval hatch to pupation on 6-23-2006 (20 days)
Pupation to eclosure on 7-3-2006 (10 days)
Total life cycle: 38 days
This project is now complete, but more information will be added for this species as time goes on!