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

Caterpillar-proof water jars and enclosures
Water jars allow host plant to stay fresh longer than simply tossing clippings into a container. Because they hold the plant in a more natural position, the larvae are less likely to wander onto other surfaces and become lost or starve. The jar and host plant can be placed in a more open enclosure than typically used closed containers, providing a drier environment which helps reduce disease.

A couple of ideas I've put to use are detailed below...
The first example is good for medium to large larvae, and uses a transparent vitamin jar (plastic) and a medium-sized fish aquarium with a screen lid (it's actually a fish aquarium converted to a reptile cage).

It's important to make the holes in the jar lid just large enough for the stem to fit with no gaps. Larvae aren't very smart and don't know not to crawl down into the water and drown. If the hole is too large, use a layer of tape over the hole(s) and cut a small slit in the tape to provide a tight fit.

A large and heavy water jar works well to provide a stable base to hold the host plant clipping and larvae without falling over. A transparent jar allows for easy water level check.

Place the jar and host plant inside the enclosure so that it doesn't touch the sides. This will help prevent the larvae from crawling onto adjacent surfaces.

For really tiny larvae, this setup worked well. In this case, Chalsedon Checkerspot larvae, which are about 3/32" long when hatched, need a very small enclosure. In case they wander off the plant it will be much easier to find them. I used a 35mm film container with small holes drilled in the lid.

Short sprigs of MonkeyFlower were inserted into the holes very tightly. This setup provided fresh and growing host for the tiny larvae for almost 2 weeks, and is still green as of this writing. A long-lasting host plant really helps reduce the frequency and trauma of moving the little larvae to fresh host plant.

The film can and host plant is placed inside a medium jar, again making sure that the host plant doesn't touch the sides of the jar to prevent the larvae from crawling off.

Finally, the enclosure is covered with a scrap of nylon stocking or other material that provides good air ventilation and rubberbanded in place.

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