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Santa Clarita and Northern Los Angeles County Area
Butterfly and Moth Site

Low and 0-cost ideas for raising lepidoptera. Be Green - recycle!

Collapsable screen cages
These "cages" are actually sold as laundry hampers. They are made in China out of 4 spring steel hoops and heavy nylon netting side panels with nylon cloth edges and floor. They can be folded-up much like a collapsable pocket net for transport or storage. The top is open, but can be folded closed and held with clamps, or a piece of styrofoam or other material can be cut to form a lid. (see below)

They are commonly available at low cost stores. If you can't find them and are interested in obtaining some, please e-mail me. I can supply them for $3 each (plus shipping, about $2). If you'd like the 2 clamps also, add a buck. E-mail for pricing on larger quantities.

I found them handy for mating, eclosing and housing adult butterflies/moths, and for raising larvae (1/2" long or larger). When suspended by their handles in open air they provide great ventilation, which is good for larvae that are sensitive to the excessive moisture and humidity build-up that plague closed containers.
This is the package to look for...

When released from it's folded position, it springs (much like a BioQuip pocket net) into a fairly large enclosure with an open top, as shown. A 6-inch scale is shown for size.

When folded, the "cage" is very compact, making it ideal for transport and field use.

The simplest method of closing the cage is to clamp the top closed as shown. First, the two opposing sides without the handles are squeezed together. Then the remaining sides (with the handles) are pulled together and clamped in place. Two small clamps are used to provide sufficient and balanced clamping force. The completed enclosure can then be hung by the handles by a semi-stiff wire or light rope, as shown in the last frame. This method works well for temporary enclosure of adults or larvae and host plant samples in the field.

For longer term use and a little more space while rearing larvae, I hot-wired a styrofoam "lid" to cover the top. The lid was pinned in place using medium straight pins. Three holes were cut into the lid to allow a branch of host plant to hang from the top, with the stalk-end protruding through. On the protruding stalk, I fashioned a water supply container to help keep the host plant hydrated and usable for longer periods.

The water "hopper" is made from a plastic prescription bottle, and short length of thick surgical tubing. The tubing is pressure-fit into the hole with a short piece of ball-point pen housing. The surgical tubing stretches to fit over the protruding stalk to prevent leaks. I crammed three branches in each cage, so I had three hoppers cable-tied together as shown. Providing water to the cut branches allowed the host plant to stay fresh and usable at least twice as long as without. In the case of Ceanothus, 5 days was not uncommon.

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