Caring for cabbage white

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    • Caring for cabbage white

      Hi all,

      I have recently adopted the hobby of raising butterflies, after growing attached to some caterpillars that were munching on my cabbage plants. I released the first 10 or so butterflies (pieris rapae[i])[/i][i][/i]. However, after learning that they can be kept as pets, I wanted to give it a shot. Unfortunately, two of the three butterflies I kept died within a few days! Do any of you have tips for me? I am a complete beginner, so every tip (or link to an article) is welcome!

      Some details on the care I'm given them: I'm housing the butterflies in a spare 3x3m room with two windows, one of which is open for ventilation (and covered by mesh). I closed the curtains in front of the other window to prevent the butterflies from flying against the glass. There is sun in the morning but also plenty of nooks to hide. The temperature is about 15-25 degrees Celsius depending on the time of day. I have no measurements on the humidity. There are some cabbage plants in the room in case they need to lay eggs. I feed them a store-bought buttery nectar mix, placed in a small yellow container to (hopefully) make it more attractive. The butterflies drink from it when I put some on my finger or when I guide them to it, but they don't seem to drink from it without my help. I had three butterflies in the room, all of which ate yesterday evening. Two of them had died when I came home today. They were near the mesh window, maybe they wasted their energy trying to get out? The one butterfly that is still alive has a folded wing and cannot fly well, so it would make sense that that one is still alive.

      My questions are:
      1. Why did two of my butterflies die, and what can I do to prevent it?
      2. Are there other things I need to change about the habitat?
      3. Can the butterflies find the nectar themselves? If not, what do I need to change?


      Thanks a lot to anyone leaving any tips!
      Karin
      https://www.exotic-insects.com
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    • Well, if you ask me butterflies are really bad pets. They don't live very long, if you want to keep them as long as possible their natural habitat is quite difficult to reproduce and they require a lot of care, depending on the species. To keep them in a big space like yours is especially difficult because they will fly towards the light and as you already observed will mostly fly against the window. The only thing that I would do is locating all the important things to that window (the cabbage plants), so they will find it there. If you want them to reproduce it would probably be a good idea to check if you even have both sexes.

      To the first question, they probably died because they didn't feed enough. I don't know what's in the "nectar mix" you're feeding them, it sounds certainly weird. Just giving them plain sugar water or honey water will do. But you have to feed them by hand. They won't find a food source reliably in captivity. You could try to offer them flowers, but that's usually not enough. You can't provide as many flowers as a butterfly would need. Yeah, I kinda answered the rest of the questions already...

      Greetings Dennis
    • bellargus wrote:

      Well, if you ask me butterflies are really bad pets. They don't live very long, if you want to keep them as long as possible their natural habitat is quite difficult to reproduce and they require a lot of care, depending on the species. To keep them in a big space like yours is especially difficult because they will fly towards the light and as you already observed will mostly fly against the window. The only thing that I would do is locating all the important things to that window (the cabbage plants), so they will find it there. If you want them to reproduce it would probably be a good idea to check if you even have both sexes.

      To the first question, they probably died because they didn't feed enough. I don't know what's in the "nectar mix" you're feeding them, it sounds certainly weird. Just giving them plain sugar water or honey water will do. But you have to feed them by hand. They won't find a food source reliably in captivity. You could try to offer them flowers, but that's usually not enough. You can't provide as many flowers as a butterfly would need. Yeah, I kinda answered the rest of the questions already...

      Greetings Dennis
      Hey Dennis, thank you for your input. When you say butterflies are bad pets, do you mean butterflies specifically or also moths? Would moths be easier to take care of because they are active in the dark (and thus do not fly towards the windows as much)?

      Based on your feedback, I have decided to at most keep the butterflies until they have laid eggs, and release them afterwards. I did have both sexes, and one female laid eggs in the small box that I kept the caterpillars in. One butterfly had a damaged wing and lived out its full lifetime when I fed it by hand. It does indeed seem easier to keep them in a smaller space. Do butterfly cages (e.g. silkmoths.eu/cages.html ) help in keeping the butterflies from flying against the mesh, towards the light?

      I believe the nectar mix is just honey water with a few minerals. I wanted to compare it against the honeymix I used earlier.

      Kind regards,
      Karin
    • Yakalentos wrote:

      When you say butterflies are bad pets, do you mean butterflies specifically or also moths?
      I mean Lepidoptera in general. Moths aren't really any different because even though they fly at night, they need at least a little light to see. So if there is a tiny amount of light they will fly towards that. It's maybe not as pronounced as in butterflies and there are some exceptions. I found Hippotion celerio and Macroglossum stellatarum are exceptionally good at navigating in small spaces without hitting cage walls, etc.
      I mean it's not a problem keeping Lepidoptera for generations and breed them but if you want pets as in "nice to look at when they fly around a big space" or like you have fish in an aquarium, that's not really what you can expect.

      Yakalentos wrote:

      Do butterfly cages (...) help in keeping the butterflies from flying against the mesh, towards the light?
      No, not really. They just provide a reasonably small space where they can find each other and their hostplants easier. That's not to say that in certain cases bigger spaces don't work. I know of people that had successful attempts of breeding some species in a greenhouse.

      Yakalentos wrote:

      I believe the nectar mix is just honey water with a few minerals
      I didn't know you can buy stuff like that. In America, I could see that, maybe for feeding hummingbirds but in Europe? You always find out new things...

      Greetings Dennis
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