19 November 2011

Life History of the Lime Butterfly v2.0


Life History of the Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus malayanus)



Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Papilio Linnaeus, 1758
Species: demoleus
Linnaeus, 1758
Subspecies: malayanus
Wallace, 1865
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 60-80mm


Caterpillar Local Host Plants:
  Citrus microcarpa (Rutaceae), Citrus maxima (Rutaceae, common name: Pomelo), Citrus aurantifolia (Rutaceae, common name: Lime) and other Citrus spp., Ruta graveolens (Rutaceae, common name: Herb-of-grace).


A male Lime Butterfly.


A female Lime Butterfly.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
Above, both sexes are black with yellow spots and markings, some of which forming  an  irregular and intermittent macular band running across the forewing to the mid-dorsum of the hindwing.  A submarginal series of smaller yellow spots can be found on both wings. In space 1b on the hindwing, there is a red spot in both sexes. In the male, this spot is capped with a narrow blue lunule with a very narrow intervening black gap. In contrast, the red spot and the blue lunule in the female have a  rather large black spot between them.  Underneath, both sexes are mostly yellow with black streaks and irregularly-shaped spots.  On the hindwing, several black spots are lined with blue striae. There is  a series of orange post-discal bars on both hind- and forewings.






Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour:
Lime Butterfly is rather common in Singapore and can be found in both forested and urban areas in Singapore. The fast flying adults are frequently seen in flights in and around residential areas, often  visiting flowers growing in gardens and  potted plants  in common areas outside houses/flats.  The females can also be seen making ovipoisiting visits to the many Citrus plants, cultivated or wild, in the residential neighbourhood. The hyper-active adults are easier to approach for photographic captures during the cooler hours in the morning and late afternoon, when they retire to rest among the foliage. 




Early Stages:
The local host plants include a number of species in the Rutaceae family, with majority belonging to the Citrus genus.   The caterpillars of the Lime Butterfly feed on the young to middle-aged leaves of the host plants.

Host plant : Citrus aurantifolia.


A mating pair of the Lime Butterfly.

The eggs of the Lime Butterfly are laid singly on the young stem, the petiole or the underside of leaves of the host plant. The egg is pale creamy yellow with a finely roughened surface. It is nearly spherical with a diameter of about 1.1-1.2mm.


A mother Lime Butterfly about to oviposit on a lime plant.


Two views of an egg of Lime Butterfly, diameter: 1.1-1.2mm


Two views of a mature egg of the Lime Butterfly.

The egg takes about 2.5-3 days to hatch. The young caterpillar eats its way out of the mature egg, and then proceeds to finish up the rest of the egg shell. The newly hatched has a body length of about 2.75mm and has a rather spiky appearance caused by bands of spiky processes which are longer dorso-laterally and much shorter laterally. Overall the body  is yellowish brown dorsally and darker brown laterally. The head is dark brown.


Two views of a new hatched caterpillar nibbling at the egg shell.

The first 4 instars of the Lime Butterfly  resemble bird droppings with the resemblance in the 3rd and 4th instars being closer due to  the body  taking on  a slimy appearance. As the 1st instar caterpillar grows up to a length of about 5mm, the  whitish saddle patch on the 3rd-4th abdominal segments become more evident. After about 2.5-3 days in 1st instar, the caterpillar moults to the next instar.


Two views of a 1st instar caterpillar, late in this stage,  length: 4.8mm

The 2nd instar caterpillar has a similar appearance to the late 1st instar caterpillar except for the more prominent whitish saddle. As the caterpillar grows, small whitish patches appear laterally on the first two thoracic segments. This instar lasts about 2 days with the body length reaching up to  10mm before the next moult.


Two views of a 2nd instar caterpillar, newly moulted, length: 4mm


Two views of a 2nd instar caterpillar, late in this stage, length: 7mm

The 3rd instar caterpillar has whitish lateral patches on the anterior and posterior body segments. The white saddle is  more extensive and prominent than in the two previous instars.  This instar takes about 2 days to complete with the body length reaching up to 16mm.


Two views of a 3rd instar caterpillar, early in this stage, length: 10.5mm


Two views of a 3rd instar caterpillar, late in this stage, length: 16mm

The 4th instar caterpillar resembles the late 3rd instar caterpillar initially but with a more slimy appearance and a ground colour which is in darker brown.  This penultimate instar lasts about 2-2.5 days with body length reaching about 25mm.
 

Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, newly moulted, length: 15.5mm


Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, late in this stage, length: 25mm

The next moult brings the caterpillar to its 5th and final instar with a drastic change in appearance. There are two lateral eye spots near the leading edge of the  third thoracic segment with a   milky brown transverse band linking them. Another transverse band can be found at the posterior edge of the same body segment. A long oblique bar, dark brown in colour, stretches from the base of the 4th abdominal segment to the dorsum of the 5th abdominal segment. A much shorter  bar can be found in the 6th abdominal segment. Round dorso-lateral marks, variable in size, can be found on the 6th to the 8th abdominal segments.  After the moult to 5th instar, the body ground color is initially mottled  yellowish green, but this changes gradually to a uniform green or yellowish green after about 0.5 day.


Two views of a 5th instar caterpillar, freshly moulted, length: 23mm.


Two views of a 5th instar caterpillar, late in this stage, length: 41mm


Two views of another 5th instar caterpillar, late in this stage, length: 39mm

As in the case of all Swallowtail butterflies, the Lime Butterfly caterpillars in all instars possess a fleshy organ called osmeterium in the prothoracic segment. Usually hidden, the osmeterium can be everted to emit a foul-smelling secretion when the caterpillar is threatened.


The 5th instar lasts for about 3.5-4  days, and the body length reaches up to 41mm. Toward the end of this instar, the body gradually shortens in length. Eventually the caterpillar comes to rest on the under surface of a stem or a leaf. Here it stays dormant for a while before performing a purge of  loose and wet frass pellets. It then spins a silk pad and a silk girdle to become an immobile pre-pupatory larva.


A pre-pupatory larva of the Lime Butterfly.
 
A Lime Butterfly caterpillar molts to its pupal stage.

Pupation takes place a day later. The pupa suspends itself with a silk girdle from the substrate. There are two color forms. In the green form, the pupa is is mainly green with a large yellowish diamond-shaped patch on the dorsum of the abdominal segments.. In the brown form, the pupa is mainly greyish  brown with dark patches. Each pupa has a pair of cephalic horns, a dorsal thoracic hump and is angled in side view. Length of pupae: 30-32mm.


Two views of a Lime Butterfly pupa, brown form.


Two views of a Lime Butterfly pupa, green form.

After 9 days of development, the pupa turns black as the development within the pupal case comes to an end. The yellowish spots and band on the forewing becomes visible through the pupal case. The next day the adult butterfly emerges from the pupal case. The beautiful undersides of its wings are fully displayed as it dries its wings for the first one to two hours after eclosion.

Two views of a mature pupa.

A Lime Butterfly adult emerges from its pupal case.


A newly eclosed Lime Butterfly clinging onto its pupal case.

References:
  • [C&P4] The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition, Malayan Nature Society.
  • Butterflies of Thailand, Pisuth Ek-Amnuay, 1st Edition, 2006
Text by Horace Tan, Photos by Tan Keyang, Bobby Mun, Loke PF,  Sunny Chir, Khew SK and Horace Tan

122 comments:

Dee said...

Love your blog!

Recently we grew a lime caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly too.

http://prunenurture.com/?p=3836

Link up your post to my blog. Hope this is ok.

Horace said...

Thanks, Dee. :)
Certainly we have no problem with you placing a link to our blog article.

It is nice to know that you and your family enjoyed your time with that Lime caterpillar/butterfly. :)

Serena Ho said...

Fantastic blog, love your videos! Great documentation and the write-up is very informative!!

My preschoolers will definitely go wooo and waahh. We've 5 chrysalis in the classroom, one just popped and we named it Isabelle before freeing it in the garden...yap! Very exciting, thank you all for your wonderful work ;]

Horace said...

Thanks, Serena for the kind words. :)

It is nice to know young kids these days have teachers like you who give them a head start in nature watching and strive to make preschool days as joyful as possible for them. Great work! Selena.

akmar shakilla said...

can i ask?why some journal said the color of third, fourth and fifth instar is green color?

Horace said...

Hi Akmar, could you quote the referenced journal article which stated the said coloration of the larvae in 3rd, 4th and 5th instar?
It would be interesting to note and compare the sample sets in terms of geographical distribution and other environmental factors which might play a part.

akmar shakilla said...

actually it quite confusing..especially the picture..can you take a look and explain to me?maybe i misunderstood somewhere there..thank you :-)
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in786

Horace said...

It seems to me that the author at that site mis-labelled the figure with the three final instar larvae at those of 3rd, 4th and 5th instar larvae.

akmar shakilla said...

i do think so..btw, thanks :)

liangrui said...

there is a lime butterfly pupa on my door!i saw it wiggling after shaking off its head... expect a Butterfree in 9 days!

Horace said...

Hi liangrui,
Interesting that the caterpillar chose to pupate on your door. :)
Thanks for sharing.

Robin Cardew said...

I found a pupa in BC Canada. interesting read.

Horace said...

Thanks, Robin. :)
It would be interesting to see the adult emerging from that pupa.

Royal Naning said...

Hi this morning just saw three of the caterpillars at first I thought was a Common Mormon but later when I surf your blog I now get the picture it is Lime Butterfly and yes the caterpillars are enjoing chewing the lime leaves would they be greedy to eat all the leaves? Curious man who wants to know :)

Horace said...

Hi Royal Naning, the caterpillars will eat whatever amount of leaves they need to grow through the larval stage. Hence it is possible that they eat up all the leaves if the plant is "small" and does not have sufficient leaves for them. :)

Muckpuk said...

Hi I am in need of a quick Butterfly lifesaving information. I had three puppa's on my lime plant. 1 did not manage to come out of it puppa and died while trying. And the other one is now drying of his wings but the wings seem to be the wrong way around (the bottom bit is on top instead of tucked underneath. First we noticed that only with one wing and we tucked it bak under but now it keeps popping back onto the top, and the other one has now also oppped to the top. Is that normal? And how long before they fly away? It has been drying on the plant now for almost the whole day and is not able to fly.

Horace said...

Hi Muckpuk,
I am not too sure of what is happening to your newly eclosed Lime butterfly. Normally the butterfly will take flight after a few hours of resting on or near the pupal case. Could you take a pic of the butterfly to show us what is wrong with the wings?

xinni tay said...

hi guys,my lime caterpillar run out if lime leave where could i find leave in singapore ?

Chilli the Dog said...

How can we keep a hatched butterfly after it hatches before letting it go? The caterpillar I passed to a friend has hatched but thinking of keeping it till her mom comes home. Is it a good idea?

Horace said...

Hi Xinni Tay,
Many households have lime plants cultivated along the corridor outside their units, you could try asking your neighbours who happen to own the plant. Otherwise, you could try purchasing the lime leaves solid in packet form from NTUC Fairprice or stalls at the wet markets.

Hi Chilli the Dog,
Usually we release the newly eclosed butterfly as soon as it takes flight. Otherwise, keeping it in the container for longer period of time would risk damaging its wings, especially for super-active butterflies. To calm the butterfly, you could place it in a dark surrounding.

Kaira K. said...

I saw ants crawling out of a tiny hole in the pupa this morning. Does that mean it is dead for sure?

Horace said...

Ant? These could be some tiny parasitic wasp sp. instead.
A hole on the pupa and exit of other organisms are definitely proof that the pupa is parasited. The Lime specimen is dead for sure.

Kaira K. said...

Thank you so much for the information. Your site is great by the way, I have learned so much from it. I must say I am a little bummed by this. It was the first caterpillar I have even seen turned into a pupa. Was looking forward to see it fly!

Kaira K. said...

Oh and it was definitely common-looking ants although I noticed that one of them was a little bigger than the rest. They had no wings.

Horace said...

Kaira, it is an intriguing piece of information worthy of documentation. :)
How long did it take for the emergence of those ants, counting from the day the pupa was formed?

Kaira K. said...

Hi Horace, I had initially found the fresh pupa on the ground near my rue plant, already swarmed by ants. I realised it was fresh as its previous skin was laying near it in the midst of some gooey liquid. I "saved" the pupa (only recognising it as a pupa after looking at your website) and glued it onto a chopstick. It was still wiggling at this point. I then left it on my bookshelf for about three days. On the fourth day, I thought it might be better to place it near a plant, such that it might get more moisture, so I brought it out and stuck the chopstick into the soil of my plant pot. It was evening that day when I found a hole on the pupa and ants began to crawl out upon further inspection. It's a long story but hopefully you get the picture!

Horace said...

Hi Kaira, thanks for sharing the sequence of events leading to the exit of ants from the pupa. :)
It does seems that the pupa was attacked by the ants, and not parasited by wasps/flies.
Sad that this Lime Butterfly met with this tragic end. :{

saky sahida afroz said...

it's been 4 days since my caterpillar(lime) pupated, but it still hasn't turned brown. it's the same shade of green as it was in the beginning. is there something wrong with it??

Horace said...

Not all Lime Butterfly pupae turn brown. Some remains green until the last one to two days prior to the emergence of the adult. :)

Carol Jade Sarah said...
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Carol Jade Sarah said...

I need help! The pupatory larva was found on the soil. When probe it did wiggle a little so I stuck it on a double side tape and tape it to a stick. Will it still survive?

Horace said...

Oh dear, for a proper pupation to take place, the pre-pupatory larva should be in a girdled position. Try to secure it by the posterior end and hope for the best (that the pupa will be properly formed).

Poh Peng Goh said...

Hi, I brought in 11 caterpillars from my lime tree. Due to limited supply of lime leave I decided to purchase lime leaves from supermarket. The next day caterpillars that fed on the bought lime leave died. Why they died after being fed on the bought lime leaves and not leaves from my lime tree? Really sad seeing them gone and not knowing the reason. Please help. Thks.

Commander said...

Poh Peng Goh, it may well be that the lime leaves from the supermarket have been laced with pesticides to keep them from being eaten by pests such as caterpillars in the first place. If you did not wash them, or if there is even a small trace of the 'poison' on the leaves, the caterpillars would be killed.

Poh Peng Goh said...

Thkd commander, yes, i was worried of any traces of pesticide on the lime leaves so i washed them thoroughly leaf by leaf. However they still died. I tried to ask some from my neighbour and still the caterpillars were not spared. Only by eating my lime leaves or lemon leaves did they successfully live on. I have tried feeding them on supermarket and neighbour one before and they were fine with it. I really dont know what really happen this time? A different species? Due to my limited resources, i need fresh and non toxic apply of lime leaves.

Dot said...

I found an egg on a line plant in my daughter's school garden & we brought it home hoping to see a caterpillar emerge. However, it has been 3 days and the egg still hasn't turned brownish. We have left it indoors by the window, and it is still on the leaf on which we found it.

Does it need the warmth from the sun to incubate?

May I have some advice please?

Commander said...

Thanks for your post, Dot. In many instances, eggs that a female butterfly lays may not be fertilised and will not hatch. In other cases, the eggs may be parasited. There are a lot of reasons why the eggs may not hatch. If it's after 5 days, chances are the eggs are not viable and are likely dead.

Dot said...

Thanks Commander! We'll wait for another 2 days & hope for the best then!

How long does an egg stay brown for before it hatches? (I have 3 young excited children at home hoping to see all the changes?)

Thanks again!

Dot said...

Hi again, I eventually found a caterpillar 1 week ago, and he is in his 5th instar, and in a few days he will pupate. Just wondering if I should remove the leaves so that he'll pupate on a sturdy stem?

If so, how will I know he is looking for a spot to pupate? (I don't want to remove his food source unnecessarily.)

Worried that if he pupates on a leaf, then when the leaf dries and falls, the whole pupa will fall too! (I currently cut fresh stems daily and stick them into a cup of soil. So the leaves tend to dry up and fall off in 2 days.)

Thanks!

Horace said...

You know it is time for pupation when the caterpillar stops feeding and wandering about with body length shortened.

Should it pupates on a leaf and the leaf falls off, you can always proceed tosecure the leaf to a stick or a surface.

yinfunn said...

This blog is an excellent source on sharing about butterfly. I also encounter similar problem. Finds that they grow better on the plant than in captivity.

jojo said...

i am jojo and student of UAF pakistan
Thanks for ur information i am rearing lime butterfly and i was worried about some who goes in resting stage i feel they become sick and i disturb those who attach themselves to wall i am worried that sometimes they stop feeding for a moment and later on again start feeding why they stop feeding for longer time

jojo said...

i am jojo and student of UAF pakistan
Thanks for ur information i am rearing lime butterfly and i was worried about some who goes in resting stage i feel they become sick and i disturb those who attach themselves to wall i am worried that sometimes they stop feeding for a moment and later on again start feeding why they stop feeding for longer time

Horace said...

Stopping between feed is normal, but stopping for a long period could mean the caterpillar is going to moult to the next phrase or that is is "sick" for some reasons (virus or parasitoid). For such cases, you just have to monitor closely.

Dot said...

Hi again, I took in 9 eggs from my plant, and although they all hatched within an hour of each other exactly 1 week ago, a couple have already moulted to the 4th instar today, while the others are still happily in their 3rd instar.

Is this accelerated growth rate normal?
And should I expect them to pupate more quickly?
Could they also eclose earlier than the 9-10 days as documented?

Horace said...

It is normal that siblings do not grow at the same rate. The faster will reach adulthood earlier. This has an advantage of decreasing the possibility of inbreeding.


The length of the pupal period also depends a lot of environmental factors such as prevailing temperature. 9-10 day period is just a reference for a tropical setting.

Dot said...

Ah I see, how interesting. Thanks Horace! This blog has been the main source of information for my little group of friends and I who have begun looking after Lime Caterpillars. Although each of our caterpillars looks slightly different, especially their markings in the 5th instar, they're all absolutely beautiful & a delightful pet especially for our young children. So, thank you again!

Horace said...

Kudos to you for educating your little group of friends about the life history of this beautiful flying jewel. :)

Dot said...

Thanks for the encouragement.

I have a new question though. My caterpillar just pupated on a leaf on a stem which I cut from a plant. Do I have to snip the leaf stem off and secure it on a vertical stick? I'm asking because I'm not sure if the leaf will hold up when it dries up, even though I noticed many silk threads around where the leaf joins the stem. I think this was the caterpillar's effort to secure the leaf.

Horace said...

For the leaf attachment to the stem, you could try to reinforce it with a good-sized lump of blue-tack encasing the attachment.

Dot said...
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Dot said...

In the end, I used a few drops of UHU glue at strategic spots to secure the leaf and it worked! Because my fat fingers couldn't attach the blue-tack without touching the chrysalis. The leaf would've fallen for sure otherwise. So it managed to hold up for 10 days, and we released the beautiful butterfly yesterday morning. Thanks, Horace!

May I also find out please ...
- how long do lime butterflies live?
- how long does it take for mating to be complete?
- how many eggs would a female lime butterfly lay?
- what if a chrysalis forms partially lying down, or hanging completely from the bottom only (without the side girdles)?

Thanks again!

Horace said...

I have not done the necessary research to answer your first three questions on the Lime Butterfly. If you google around, you might find some general answers applicable to most butterflies (You could take a look at this site: http://www.butterflyfarm.co.cr/en/educational-resources/the-scientific-realm/frequently-asked-questions-and-answers.html).

If a chrysalis comes into contact with a surface (like the bottom of a container) during the formation stage, and its features distorted as a result, then there is a chance that the emerging butterfly would suffer from birth defects on its wings or palpi, antennae etc. If the girdle breaks, the butterfly might not emerge properly or might have ill-formed wings.

Dot said...

Thanks so much Horace! Hoping for the best for my friends' two soon-to-be butterflies then.

Shilpi Gemawat said...

Excellent documentation!

Sarah Woon said...

My lime caterpillar fell off the stick it originally girdled on and is only a pre-pupatory larva. It's now on the paper towel at the bottom of the tank that I kept it in for the past 10 - 13 days. It still wriggled a little bit but I'm concerned about how I ought to reattach it to suspend it in the ideal position. The previous caterpillar I had also fell but in its fully formed pupa stage. I had glued it the wrong way unknowingly (cephalic horns pointing downward) but it managed to emerge alright. I'm not sure about this one though. Pls advise... Thanks!

Sarah Woon said...

My lime caterpillar fell off the stick it originally girdled on and is only a pre-pupatory larva. It's now on the paper towel at the bottom of the tank that I kept it in for the past 10 - 13 days. It still wriggled a little bit but I'm concerned about how I ought to reattach it to suspend it in the ideal position. The previous caterpillar I had also fell but in its fully formed pupa stage. I had glued it the wrong way unknowingly (cephalic horns pointing downward) but it managed to emerge alright. I'm not sure about this one though. Pls advise... Thanks!

Horace said...

Hi Sarah,
The pre-pupa needs to have its abdominal end attached to the silk pad and its upper body supported with the silk girdle, in order for the pupation process to proceed smoothly.
See if you can re-attach the pre-pupa in this way. Otherwise, we could only pray hard that it somehow is able moult to the pupal form on the paper towel. Usually a pupa formed not in the normal supported position tends to be 'out-of-shape' and the adult to emerge would likely to have wing defects too.

Emily Koh said...
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Emily Koh said...
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Emily Koh said...
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Emily Koh said...

Hello. Last night my caterpillar began to chrysalise very normally ( vertically) on a twig. This morning the chrysalis was hanging upside down . Dont know how come,but its girdle wasnt holding it. I have used a string to fasten it to the twig n put it somewhat vertically. Would you know of a better solution, as i'm afraid the string might obstruct the butterfly shd it eventually emerge. Please help, it 'd b really sad if it didnt form properly into a butterfly. Thank you. Emily

Nil said...
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Nil said...

Hi, i found a chrysalis on the lime plant n brought it home.. it has been 9 days n hv not eclosed. Is it dead?

Horace said...

Hi Nil,
Where are you from? In temperate countries and in the colder months, pupation period is typically longer. Just keep for a few more days and monitor any change to it. Keep your fingers crossed that what come out is a beautiful butterfly instead of some parasitoid larvae.

Nil said...

Hi im in singapore but i kept my chrysalis in my room which is air conditioned at night n out of the sun in the day. Should i bring it out where it is nt air conditioned? I'd totally freak out if it was sth else n not a butterfly. Lol.

Nil said...
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Bree Westphal said...

Hello Horace,
Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge about the lovely Lime butterfly. We've really appreciated watching ours grow.
But lately, I am terribly guilt-ridden and distressed because ever since I bought a new kaffir lime plant, our poor caterpillars have all met the same fate: they are fine to feed from it at first, until we find them writhing about with their little horns, as if in agony, and in not much time at all they fall off the plant, and die curled up in a greenish pool of their own fluids.
We've tried washing the leaves, isolating it from the cats and waiting for potential pesticides to dissipate, and still after a month or so it seems that a couple day's worth of eating its leaves proves to be fatal. What on earth is going on? I'm so disheartened that I'm almost ready to throw the lime plants out altogether. :( Please offer me your experience and advice.

Horace said...

Hi Nil,
Having an air-conditioned environment will somewhat slow down the development within the pupa. You could try to move it to a place (out of direct sunlight) with normal room temperature. There are occasions where the pupa might just decide to "hibernate" for an extended period of time even in our tropical setting.

Horace said...

Hi Bree,
It is hard to know for sure what is wrong with your lime plant or caterpillars, short of doing a chemical analysis of what was present on the plant. The easiest way to solve the problem is to use another lime species or from another source, or better sill grow the lime plant from seed.

Poh Peng Goh said...

Hi Bree & Horace
I had a similar encounter as you. Initially i thought it was due to the pesticide residue left on the leaves after washing. However after observing the leave pattern on my own lime leaves and the one i bought from supermarkets, i realised that the pattern was different. Those from supermarket have dots on the back of the leaves whereas mine is smooth on the back. As horace's advice, you may want to change another lime leaves to try. Recently i bought a pkt and it has no dots on the back and i tried it out with one of my 'catty'and it survived and now all of them is indulging it.

Nil said...

Thanks a lot horace! I will try moving the pupa to normal temp n see if it works.

Nil said...

Hi horace, why are some 5th instar caterpillars bigger n some smaller? Is it because of different species or gender?

Nil said...

Hi horace, why are some 5th instar caterpillars bigger n some smaller? Is it because of different species or gender?

Horace said...

Nil,
Just like any other animal species, the growth rate and maximum height/length achievable of a caterpillar could vary from one individual to another individual even within the same species. Reasons such as gender, genetic disposition, competition or other environmental factors could contribute to the variations in the size of fully grown larvae.

Brandon said...

I happened to disturb the caterpillar when it was adopting its pupation stage and its currently not moving.
Is there sufficient knowledge to know if doing so would have killed the larvae?

Horace said...

Only time will tell whether the larva is not going to make it.

Has the caterpillar "hooked" itself up with a silk girdle? If so, then it should be alright. Otherwise, wait a few days to see if it proceeds to do so.

Zogers Hsi said...

hi, i am rearing a lime caterpillar that my teacher passed to me. however, the leaves that it seems to be feeding on looks different from the lime plant that i have at my house. when those leaves have been finished by the caterpillar (millie), can i proceed to feed them the leaves from my plant?

Horace said...

Hi Zogers, lime caterpillars can feed on leaves of a number of citrus species. If the lime plant at your house is the common citrus species (Citrus aurantifolia) cultivated by many households, then your caterpillar (millie) should have no problem taking to it. However, do check whether anyone has sprayed any pesticide on that plant previously.
Pesticides can be deadly to caterpillars.

Zogers Hsi said...

hi Horace, thank you for the advice. Millie (in her 2nd instar) is now feeding on the leaves of my plant, and is doing fine.:-) just for more knowledge about lime caterpillars, could you answer the following questions:
1. does over handling harm the caterpillars?

2. how does someone tell the difference between the two genders--- and can they be told apart in the larvae (caterpillar) stage?

3. will the caterpillar be fine if put in an air-conditioned room for about 1-2 hours?

4. could we do anything to prevent the death of the caterpillars if we are rearing them?

thank you sooo much and if there are any other things that i should note, please tell me about them :-) cheers!

Horace said...

1. Gentle handling would not harm the caterpillars.
2. For some species with translucent skin, it is possible to tell the sexes apart by looking for the presence of immature testes underneath the skin. Refer to the following e-How post for details: http://www.ehow.com/how_5911369_determine-caterpillar-male-female_.html .
3. Air-conditioned room is fine. A lower ambient temperature just translate slower growth.
4. Keeping a good flow of good quality leaves and regular cleaning of the enclosure/container are things you could do to help prevent premature death.

Zogers Hsi said...

hi Horace, thank you again for the information. I got the stages wrong last time: millie was in her 4th instar when i last commented. she moulted a day ago and is now in her 5th instar stage. sad because it wont be long before we have to release her/him..:( but still, i'm glad that millie is well and healty :)

Nozomi Inuko said...

Please help! 2 of our caterpillars is in its pre-pupatory larva stage, but both didn't do its silk properly for the ends of its body, and so currently its silk near their face is the only thing supporting it from falling. We have once encountered this before with our previous caterpillar which died as its face was stuck with the silk and wasn't able to turn into a chrysalis. I really don't want both caterpillars to die so please give ideas and help me asap.

Nozomi Inuko said...

I have read some of the comments above and i was wondering if its safe to use
Glue to save my caterpillars.

Horace said...

Hi Nozomi Inuko,
If the pre-pupa has already spun some silk threads at where the abdominal end should be, you could try to gently push the abdominal end against the pad of silk there. Attachment should be possible if silk is present there.
Using glue (small amount) to secure abdominal end should be used as a last resort. If pupation is able to complete this way without the pupa falling or the process aborted, then you could try to secure the cremaster in the same way (ie. with glue).

Nozomi Inuko said...

One of my caterpillars just fell from its silk and so we are deciding to use glue or dental floss. We have laid it on a towel for the time being but as its late at night right now, im unable to get the glue. Will it be able to turn into a chrysalis if its laid on the towel overnight?

Horace said...

The pupation might not proceed smoothly if the pre-pupa is not secured in the usual "hanging" posture. The pupa might be malformed with the larval skin not fully separated from the pupa, and the side of the pupa which comes into contact with the surface might be flattened. Hope yours is alright.

Miti said...

Hi Horace, thank you for the wonderful documentation of Lime butterfly. I found a caterpillar on my lime plant 3 weeks back. Search on butterflies that lay eggs on lime trees brought me to your blog. With the help of your detailed description I showed my young children how the caterpillar will become a butterfly. They both eagerly helped me gather leaves and feed the caterpillar. It got a bit boring once it pupated. But today morning a beautiful lady graced us .. We loved watching her dry her wings and finally crawl on to our hands to be set free. Thanks so much again.

Best
Miti (PS I live in a desert country called UAE so a butterfly is a rare treat for the eyes)

Horace said...

Hi Miti,
Thank you for sharing your and your children's breeding experience with the Lime butterfly in such a unique environment. :) Hopefully you get to encounter or even breed other butterflies there.

Cheers, Horace

Jenny Wong said...

Thank you for all these valuable and precious information. We have bred almost a dozen of butterflies from our lemon pot plant and still didn't have a clue on what kind of butterflies they are until I found your blog! To share my experience : I only take the caterpillars out until its almost 3rd or 4th instar. Each individual caterpillar is kept in a plastic container with a piece paper at the bottom. We feed them with lime leaves bought from NTUC but we wash the leaves before we put into the box, worrying any pesticides left on the leaves. We clear the poop every now and then to keep its habitat clean. At it's 5th instar, a satay stick is put diagonally in the container to mimic the twig for pupation. My kids give the pupae to friends so that they can share the joy when the butterflies hatch out.
Great blog! Thanks again !

Horace said...

Thanks, Jenny for posting your kind feedback and sharing your experience of breeding this beautiful butterfly. :)

It is heartening that your kids are sharing the joy with their friends. Thumbs-up.

Arishah Lee said...

Hi! I love your blog, the information provided here is really valuable and interesting. (: I currently have a lime caterpillar myself, it is currently into the 5th instar stage, but it's curled up at the ceiling of the container, and I noticed that there's this yellowish stain/fluid at the spot he's resting above. It is quite a lot. I tried looking up online for what this could possibly mean, but found no valuable results ): Is this worrisome? Or is it a normal stage in their life cycle?

Horace said...

Hi Arishah, Thanks for visiting our blog and your kind words. :)
The yellow fluid could have been exuded by the caterpillar when it was frightened by some events (such as a sudden brush/stroke to its body). Unless the fluid continues to ooz out even when it is at rest and not provoked (this would mean the caterpillar is ill), the one-off event of yellow fluid is not alarming.

Nozomi Inuko said...

May i know the life expectancy of a lime butterfly? (After they emerge from chrysalis)

Horace said...

I released all eclosed adults of Lime Butterfly so I have no local data of the life expectancy of this species.

If you google search for it, you will find that the Wikipedia page on this species mentions 4-6 days of the adult stage in Riyadh.

Unknown said...

Do not buy the lime leaves from the wet market. My 3 caterpillars died after they ate the lime leaves from the market.

Doris Yeo said...

Do not buy the lime leaves from the wet market. My 3 caterpillars died after they ate the lime leaves from the market.

n i l e e y said...

Hi Horace, thanks for your blog, I find it very interesting and informative! I had one caterpillar just went into pupa stage 3 days ago. We kept it in an empty glass aquarium. yesterday its colour became a light brown. I am worried it could have died as we had 2 similar unfortunate cases where the caterpillar died during pupa stage. How do we know if the pupa is dead, or should we just wait and see? We live in Malaysia.

Horace said...

Hi nileey, since the pupal period of about 10 days is not that long, you could wait it out.
May be you could take a picture of the pupa, and post it here for us to judge whether the colour is the ``healthy'' colour of a good pupa.

n i l e e y said...

Hi Horace, can't quite figure out how to attach a photo here, please visit this link instead for the photo of the chrysalis :

https://nileeysphere.blogspot.my/2016/07/picture-of-chrysalis.html

Or

https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-l3ZtDip4pmU/V5LDmELKz8I/AAAAAAAAFWo/yLaZUZH6gMIdkOmVa4P4vCCMIFo8TLC5wCLcB/s1600/Picture%2BChrysalis.jpg

Really appreciate your advice and i hope it is still alive!

Thanks!

Horace said...

The colour is paler brown than the usual greyish/dark brown.
If the caterpillar was not bred from the egg stage and was taken from an outdoor plant, then the pupa could be parasited.

Hopefully this is not the case, and a beautiful adult Lime Butterfly will emerge from it.

n i l e e y said...

Hi Horace, happy to say that a beautiful butterfly emerged from the chrysalis this morning! We took some photos before releasing it. I am so relief and excited at the same time :)

Horace said...

Congrats. :)
It is great to learn that this Lime Butterfly managed to reach adulthood.

Thanks for sharing.

Nil said...

Hi, Faith here. My pupa was hanging down right after it pupated and after it emerged as a butterfly it was deformed. I'm keeping it in a container because it cant fly.. so is sugar and water enough for it as food?? I do wonder how long it can live. Shouldnt be much fun beeing cooped up in a box. :/

Horace said...

Hi Faith,
Sad to learn that the butterfly was deformed.
Haven't kept track of such statistics, but sugar and water should last the butterfly a few days. If you want, you can release it and let nature takes its course.

Nil said...

Hi Horace, Faith here updating. The deformed butterfly could hardly unroll its tongue so i dun suppose it ate much. Anyway it died in 4.5 days.

Nil said...

Hi Horace, Faith here updating. The deformed butterfly could hardly unroll its tongue so i dun suppose it ate much. Anyway it died in 4.5 days.

Horace said...

Hi Faith, Thanks for updating us of the fate of that poor butterfly.
Better luck next time with breeding of this species. :)

JO said...

Hi Horace, I need SOS advice on how to remove sticky tape from the ProLegs of a Late 5th Instar Lime Caterpillar.  The 3 prs of Thoracic (real) legs are not affected so it can still move about (slowly) & feed on the Lime Leaves in my plastic tub.  It even managed to shimmy up Abt 12cm of a stick using only the Thoracic legs.  i managed to remove only some bits of sticky tape by using some  water to render sticky tape soft & less tacky. It is abt 4 days past its anticipated pupation day. Is it abe to pupate in this "stuck" state?

JO said...

I thought of using some vege oil in lieu of water to try to ease the sticky tape off the Prolegs, but I'm not sure if this method will work & how the oil may affect the Caterpillar

Horace said...

Not sure about vege oil, but water usually works well with easing the sticky stuff from the sticky tape. If the amount involved is not excessive,the caterpillar should have no problem in turning into a pupa. There could be other reasons why the pupation is delayed. Hopefully, this particular caterpillar can reach adulthood.

JO said...

Thanks.  It did turn into pupa on 30 Sep lying on its side with no silk girdle on the bottom of my plastic tub.  The silk pad was weak & has dislodged. Pupal case is intact otherwise. Should i leave it as it is or try to attach the bottom of Pupa with some super glue on a stick so it can be in the normal position ?

Horace said...

You can try to secure it by the posterior end to a stick, using some moderate amount of glue.

JO said...

Yes, done that with a bit of UHU on 2 Oct.
Is the normal position of the pupa vital to its
(1) proper development into butterfly within the case, OR
(2) the position of the pupa is essential for ease of eventual enclosure? OR
(3). It is easiest for the pre-pupa to turn into pupa in that position?

JO said...

 In relation to conservation of butterflies, would u think picking up Lime Caterpillars from  their Host Lime Plants in our backyard gardens to rear them & then release them when they enclose will help? I can find about 10 Caterpillars ( various Instars ) on Ave a month. A friend of mine keeps urging me to take the caterpillars in to save them from regular NEA mozzie foggings & rain ( water kills the eggs & early Instars?)  I already had 15 Pet caterpillars turn into butterflies in the past year.  Friend prob has 3 x that # .  What are the survival rates in Captivity indoors vs in the "wild" ( aka in home / urban gardens)? 
Also, Are  SG butterfly spp. & #s monitored annually like Bird watchers do a Bird Census annually?

Horace said...

I am inclined to think that the normal position for the pupa happens for a reason, and all that you suggested are parts of that reason.

I am more of the opinion that caterpillars should be left alone to develop in the wild, being part of the ecosystem. Being a novice, I don't have any statistics like survival rates to share, sorry.

jerrycynx said...

I found a 5th instar in my potted plant. It went into pupa stage in a different position from your photos. In your photo above, the pointed end (not sure if this is posterior?) is below and attached to the stick, and the horned end is anobe and pointed upwards slanting at 45 deg. And your photo has the pupa in a almost vertical position.

But the pupa at my plant has the pointed end attached to the bottom of a stick (so this side is actually above), while the horned end is pointed down at 45 deg. So the pupa is in a horizontal position with horned end pointed down at 45 deg.

And develop into a butterfly and flew away without any defects. Have you encounter the pupa in a horizontal position before?

Horace said...

From what you described, the pupa is attached correctly at the cremastral end (pointed end) with a girdle in place. The actual orientation of the stick can always be altered manually, so it should not be too much of a concern. :)

Do keep us posted of the outcome of this specimen.

Lee Hui Ee said...

Hi there,
I have been raising a few butterflies successfully but today, one of the pupa had a hole in it and many parasite wasps crawled out of it. This pupa was raised alongside with other caterpillars. Will there be a high possibility that others are infected too? I'm really worried right now and the small swarm of parasitic wasps don't seem to want to leave my house. Any idea how I can chase them away?

Horace said...

Yes, there is a high probability that others in the same batch could be parasited as well. Hopefully this is not the case.

Those wasps will not last long if they are trapped in the confined space. You can always spray some insecticide (away from the caterpillars) to get rid of them quickly.

Fatin Mimie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christian Choo said...

Hi
I just found caterpillars that look just like these on my curry tree but when i checked, it also looked like common mormon caterpillars. Is there any way to differentiate between them?