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Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) Butterfly Kit with 10 larvae on leaf. Available now.

Product sku: AU10K Availability: In Stock
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The Gribblybugs Small Tortoiseshell butterfly kit provides an opportunity to observe stages of the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) lifecycle at first hand and makes an excellent educational project for all age groups.

What is included?

10 Small Tortoiseshell butterfly caterpillars.

Free-standing net with special soft, close mesh, and clear plastic panel for easy viewing

Care sheet

Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars only feed on nettles and you will need to continue to provide them with fresh leaves as needed. Therefore you will need some thick gardening gloves and secateurs when collecting nettles. You can place the nettle stems in a small jar or bottle of water inside the cage. Place a sheet of kitchen tissue in the bottom of the cage to absorb any excess moisture and catch the frass (poo). Make sure the jar cannot tip over, and put a piece of tissue or cotton wool in the neck of the jar to prevent caterpillars getting down into the water.  Alternatively, you can just place cut nettle stems inside the cage and the caterpillars will feed on these, if you use this method only put in enough food for them for 24 hours and put new nettles in every day because caterpillars will not feed on dry nettles.

Unlike many insects, caterpillars DO NOT like to get wet so don't spray them with water, they get all the water they need from the plants that they eat and excess water can make them more susceptible to diseases.

Within a few weeks of arrival, the caterpillars will begin their metamorphosis (change in form) from caterpillar into butterfly and will search for a suitable place (usually the top) in which to form a chrysalis (or pupa). This transformation is a very delicate process and if possible, they should be disturbed as little as possible.

The caterpillar forms a ‘J’ shape and sheds its skin to reveal a golden chrysalis.

The pupae are very soft at first and should be left alone for about two days. After this period, any old nettle stems can be removed and a few clean pieces of kitchen tissue can be put in the bottom of the cage. Carefully inspect the old nettle stems for chrysalis too, if there are any, they can either be placed in the bottom of the cage or a small piece of the stem cut around the pupa which can then be pinned to the top or side of the cage with safety pins. Butterflies will generally hatch successfully if just placed on the bottom but gravity does help with their emergence. As they get closer to hatching you can dampen the tissue and the increased humidity will help with their hatching.

After about 14 days as a chrysalis, the butterflies should start to emerge. A day or so before hatching the pupae will "colour up" and you will start to see the butterflies wing colours through the skin of the pupa. The adult butterfly crawls from the pupal case, hangs as the wings expand and rests until they have set hard. Whilst they are a pupa, they have no anus (bum) so one of the first things they do is get rid of all the waste built up during the transformation. This is often quite red in colour and is called meconium. This is completely natural and it is not the butterfly bleeding. Butterflies like other insects do not have red blood like ours because they do not carry oxygen in their blood like we do. Instead they breath through a series of little holes all the way down their bodies, so insects "blood" (more properly called haemolymph) is usually clear or yellowish.

The adult butterflies can only drink liquid through their long proboscis (tongue) so you can either give them some cut flowers, daisy type flowers and dandelions are best, or you can just give them a 10% sugar or honey solution (a teaspoon of sugar/honey dissolved in 9 teaspoons of boiling water and allowed to cool) on a piece of kitchen tissue or cotton wool.

Because the Small Tortoiseshell is a native and wide ranging species, after you have observed them, you can release them safely into the wild. If you have suitable flowers nearby, they may spend many days in and around your area.

If you have any nettles nearby, you may be able to find eggs and caterpillars and study their development further.

NB This is not sold as a toy and adult supervision is required. Because we have no control over the rearing conditions and foodplants offered, we cannot offer a refund/replace after 48 hours of receipt on this product.

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