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Frequently Asked Questions about Butterflies and Moths


We receive many questions about butterflies and moths. We appreciate these questions!
Answers to these questions are often found on other pages on our website.




How long does a butterfly live?

ANSWER: This depends first upon what you mean by 'butterfly'.
A butterfly is a butterfly whether is is an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or adult. In the same way an 8 year old person is human, a caterpillar is a butterfly. An adult butterfly, if not killed by a windshield, predator, or disease, will live from a few weeks to about nine months, depending upon the species and time of year. Some butterflies overwinter as adults, such as Monarchs, migrating to Mexico and California and Mourning Cloak butterflies which overwinter as adults. The species which overwinters as adults will live for many months.
If the question means from egg through adult, a butterfly can live over a year.
Some butterflies overwinter also as eggs, caterpillars, or chrysalises.


Does mosquito spraying hurt butterflies?
Will mosquito pesticide hurt butterflies?

ANSWER: Yes, it can kill them if it is close enough to butterflies.
Mosquito spray is essential to prevent diseases spread by mosquitos. In the US, mosquito spraying has undoubtedly prevented illness and deaths due to West Nile Virus.
If you know that your area will be sprayed for mosquitos, take a sheet or other cloth or plastic and cover your host plants before the spraying begins. Remove the cloth an hour after your street has been sprayed.
If the mosqito truck is not close to your yard, it will not hurt the butterflies in your yard. Mosquito trucks often fog on the road less than 1/4 mile from our butterfly garden without causing a decrease in the number of butterflies in the garden.


Do butterfly caterpillars sting?
Which butterfly caterpillars sting?
Do moth caterpillars sting?
Which moth caterpillars sting?
Which caterpillars sting?

ANSWER: Butterfly caterpillars do NOT sting! Several moth caterpillars do sting and may sting so badly you will take a trip to the doctor. You could even have scars to show after the stings heal. Please do not pick up a caterpillar if you do not know it is safe. Three moth caterpillars which sting are pictured on our Stinging Caterpillars page.

Why are some Monarchs larger or smaller than others?
Why are some butterfly pupae smaller than others?
Why are some butterflies smaller in the spring than in the fall?
Do adult butterflies grow?

ANSWER: Within the same species, size of a chrysalis or pupa depends upon whether it is a male or female as well as how much it ate as a larva or caterpillar. Sometimes less food is availabe for the caterpillar, such as in spring or in drought. Sometimes butterflies are diseased which causes caterpillars to eat less. Photos and more information is located at Chrysalis Size.


How can I tell what kind of butterfly will come from my cocoon?
Why are some butterfly cocoons different than others?

ANSWER: Butterflies do not make cocoons! The lifecycle of butterflies and moths is; egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult. A butterfly pupa is called a chrysalis. A moth often spins a cocoon and becomes a pupa inside the cocoon. A cocoon is like a sleeping bag for the pupa. Some moths go underground to become a pupa or become a pupa in leaves on the ground. Not all moths make cocoons. Our Cecropia Moth page shows a fresh cocoon. This cocoon is so fresh, you can see the green Cecropia Moth inside the cocoon in the photo. Learn more about cocoons.


How do you sterilize Monarch butterfly eggs?

ANSWER: We use bleach to sterilize eggs. Butterfly eggs may be contaminated with disease particles when the female butterfly lays the egg. The first thing a caterpillar usually eats is its egg shell. Since they may become diseased upon eating their egg shell, sterilization is a good precaution for those who raise butterflies either for fun or profit. We outline our method of sterilizing eggs on our OE page.


How do you spread a deceased butterfly's wings?
How can I preserve a dead butterfly?

ANSWER: A webpage of simple directions to spread an expired butterfly's wings is located at Mounting Deceased Butterfly Directions.


What container should I use to raise butterflies?

ANSWER: You can make or purchase rearing containers. Shady Oak Butterfly Farm offers zippered rearing containers.


How do you hand pair butterflies?
How can I get my butterflies to mate?

ANSWER: Dr. Jaret Daniels demonstrated this procedure to us. We took these photos while hand-pairing Monarchs at our farm. Please look at our Hand Pairing page.


My chrysalis fell down, what do I do with it?
How do I reattach my cocoon?
How do I re-attach my butterfly pupa which fell?

ANSWER: There are several methods. We show two methods with photos at Pinning or Gluing a Chrysalis.
One method is to use a straight pin and pin through the silk on the chrysalis if it is still attached.
The other method is to use a glue gun and glue your chrysalis.


What should I plant to attract butterflies?
What should I put in my butterfly garden?
How should I plant a butterfly garden?

ANSWER: The most important ingredient in a butterfly garden is host plants. A host plant (larval food plant) is the plant a butterfly or moth caterpillar eats. Butterfly caterpillar's diet is so specific that they can usually eat only one species or one family of plants. For example, if all the milkweed in the world died, all Monarchs would die. To attract Monarchs, plant milkweed. If all the passionvine in the world died, all Gulf Fritillaries, Zebra Longwings, and several other butterfly species would also die. To attract Gulf Fritillaries and Zebra Longwings, plant passionvine. A good butterfly garden is a butterfly habitat. It includes everything a butterfly needs except the area to which it migrates if migration or emigration is part of its life. Nectar plants should be added between host plants. To choose nectar plants for your garden, visit a local nursery. Watch the butterflies. They will nectar from flowers which are naturally attractive to them. If you choose nectar plants from a list supplied by a nursery or other source, use caution. Not all colorful flowers are nectar plants.


What kills butterflies?
What eats butterflies?
What eats Monarchs?
What took my caterpillar?
What eats caterpillars?
Do wasps eat butterflies?
Do wasps eat caterpillars?
What eats caterpillars?
What eats butterflies?
What eats chrysalises?
What eats cocoons?
Do lizards eat butterflies?
Do lizards eat caterpillars?

ANSWER: All sorts of critters kill butterflies from egg through adult. From microscopic Tricogramma Wasps to large birds, from cats to lizards, from wasps to robber flies, there are so many different animals that kill butterflies and moths that it would be nearly impossible to put them all down on paper. Let's also not forget car windshields and trains, diseases and weather, non-living items also kill butterflies.
Take a look at these pages to see some of these in action!
href="http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/trichogramma.php">Trichogramma Wasps
href="http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/chalcid.php">Chalcid Wasps
href="http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/disease.php">Disease
href="http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/wasppupa.php">Wasp and chrysalis
href="http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/tachinidfly.php">Tachinid fly
href="http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/images/lizardskippertwo6.jpg" class="highslide" onclick="return hs.expand(this)">Lizards


Where in Florida is your butterfly farm?
What are your farm hours?

ANSWER: Farm hours and more bits of information are at Contact Us.
href="http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/http://maps.yahoo.com/maps_result?addr=12876+Southwest+County+Road+231&csz=brooker+fl+32622&country=us&new=1&name=&qty=" class="highslide" onclick="return hs.expand(this)"">Yahoo Map We are located 30 minutes northeast of Gainesville, Florida.


Where can I buy milkweed?
Where can I purchase milkweed?
Where can I buy host plants?
Where can I purchase host plants?
How do I order eggs?
How do I purchase eggs?
How do I order caterpillars larvae?
How do I order chrysalises pupae?
How do I order butterflies?

ANSWER: Shady Oak Butterfly Farm and Nursery


What is the difference between a moth and butterfly?

ANSWER: There are several differences but the differences which are most commonly noticed are simple. Moths are primarily night creatures while butterflies are primarily day creatures. Moth's antannae are often feathered while butterfly's antannae are often shaped like a matchstick or cotton swab. Most moths rest with their wings outstretched like a jet airplane. Most butterflies rest with their wings folded over their backs.


How can I get rid of ants in my garden?

ANSWER: We often ask, "Can we get rid of ants in our gardens?" We spread ant bait in home made traps. These traps allow ants in but keep water out. We discovered that if we spread ant killer under host plants, irrigation and rain will dissolve the chemical and wash it over the roots. The roots draw up the chemical which will change the taste of the plants. When a female butterfly lands on a leaf (they taste with their feet) they will often lift off and not lay eggs.


How can I get rid of deer in my garden?

ANSWER: It is easy to scare deer temporarily from a garden but a permanent answer to this question may not be available. We found the best results with Irish Spring soap. Yes, bars of soap. We place the soap by the plants the deer prefer for lunch. For several weeks to several months, the plants which hadn't had a chance to grow for five months grew with appreciation. Deer returned after a couple of months. The best results, we suspect, will come from a mixture of methods. This year we will change our methods every week or so. From motion detector lights for a week to motion-activated sockets with a radio turned loud, from hair from an animal grooming shop to human hair from a barber shop, deer prefer to avoid certain items and smells. But they do soon become accostomed to almost anything and a change is needed before they again invade the garden.


Which butterflies eat artificial diet?

ANSWER: Painted Lady butterflies are often raised on artificial diet. Other species are raised on artificial diet (ad) in some circumstances or at some facilities, but not very often. Many times other species will not develop properly on ad unless it is specifically developed for that species. Some species, such as Buckeyes, will grow and become adults on Painted Lady Stonefly artificial diet but they will be smaller than normal and a few generations later they may become sterile. Great Southern White butterflies, Buckeye butterflies, and Gulf Fritillary butterflies will pupate and emerge on Stonefly artificial diet. It is not recommended that these butterflies be used for breeding stock for the rearing facility. Some exhibits raise Buckeyes or other species on artificial diet which was specifically designed for that particular species.


How can I teach about the lifecycle of a butterfly?

ANSWER: The most effective method to teach the lifecycle of a butterfly or moth is to actually bring in or purchase eggs or caterpillars. Watching metamorphosis in first person is an extremely effective method to teach about butterflies! With or without caterpillars, a Powerpoint presentation is also effective. If you need a simple and short Powerpoint presentation for your class, we will be glad to send you a cd with a presentation for a nominal fee. Shady Oak Butterfly Farm uses photos such as you see on our website to create presentations for groups from kindergarden through adult, gardeners to church groups, and nursing home to retirement facilities.


Does the caterpillar lay eggs?

ANSWER: No, the adult winged butterfly lays eggs on or near her host plant.


How do you ship eggs?
How do you ship caterpillars?
How do you ship larvae?
How do you ship pupae?
How do you ship chrysalises?
How do you ship cocoons?

ANSWER: We carefully package each stage of a butterfly or moth's lifecycle. In the hottest summer months and cold winter months, they are shipped in foam containers for heat/cold protection. Eggs are shipped, in most cases, on leaves removed from the host plant. They are placed in a plastic container to prevent dehydration. Caterpillars / larvae are shipped in either plastic containers or cardboard boxes, depending upon the size or instar of the caterpillar. Enough host plant in included to feed the caterpillar during shipment. Chrysalises / pupae are shipped either wrapped in paper towels, tissue, or foam packaging and placed in cardboard boxes for shipment. Packaging of chrysalises which have a sharp cremaster must be carefully planned. A cremaster of a Monarch chrysalis can punture and kill another Monarch chrysalis. Cocoons are shipped simply packaged in a cardboard box inside a cardboard box.


How can you kill aphids on milkweed?
How can you control aphids on milkweed?
What can I do about aphids on milkweed?
How can you kill bugs on milkweed?
How can you control bugs on milkweed?
What can I do about bugs on milkweed?

ANSWER: Monarch caterpillars are resistant to Malathion to a certain degree. Remove the caterpillars from your milkweed and spray the plant. Cover the plant for an hour (to keep butterflies off the plant) while the malathion does it's work. Uncover the milkweed and rinse well, preferably with a water sprinker on for an hour or so. Replace the caterpillars and they will safely continue to eat. If spider mites are on your milkweed, cut the plant to a few inches height and place a water sprinker on the plant base for fifteen minutes several times a day. Spider mites tend to leave wet plants. The cuttings should be placed in a plastic bag and sealed tightly. Place the plastic bag in a dumpster or garbage container (following the rules of your town or county) for disposal.


How can I start raising butterflies?
How can I start a butterfly farm?
Where do I learn to become a butterfly breeder?
What does it take to be a butterfly farmer?

ANSWER: First, if you are searching for a method to make money easily, look elsewhere! Butterfly farming is not a high-profit business. Butterfly farms range in size from a coffee table to several acres. Start small to experience the type of work involved. A large farm requires many long hot hours doing tedious work. Bleaching rearing containers is a hot, stinking job. Raising butterflies is a very satisifying and enjoyable job most of the time, however. Shady Oak Butterfly Farm offers Butterfly Farming Seminars and Butterfly Breeders Internships. These programs last from one day to one week. It takes a great deal of dedication, energy, time, determination, and stubborness to become a farmer and stick with the job. From plant to butterfly diseases, from customers who do not always pay on time (or pay at all) to freezing cold work days or temperatures over 100 degrees, butterfly farm owners and employees must be determined to succeed.


Is parsley from the grocery store safe for my caterpillars or larvae?

ANSWER: Maybe and maybe not. Plants purchased at nurseries or grocery stores may be treated with chemicals or insecticides which may stay in the system of the plant for up to eight weeks. Plants, such as parsley, are often grown and certified 'organic'. But a plant that is 'Certified Organic' could have been treated with bt (bacillus thumbergenisis) to kill 'worms', which are often butterfly caterpillars. Bt cannot harm a human but is fatal to caterpillars. Visit your local plant nurseries and ask the owners/employees about how they treat thier plants. Remember, however, that many nurseries purchase their plants. They will tell you, rightly, that they do NOT treat thier plants with insecticide. The nursery which delivered the plants two weeks ago may have used a systemic miticide or other chemical/disease which will be fatal for caterpillars for weeks. Establish a good relationship with a nursery which has, in stock, plants with caterpillars chowing away. These nurseries probably recognize that these caterpillars are butterflies and their plants are enhanced by 'worms'.


What is a good science fair butterfly project?

ANSWER: Science fair projects are fascinating to us. If you are doing a project which involves butterflies or moths, please share your findings with us. Perhaps we can learn from you.
Suggested projects:
Which species of milkweed is preferred by Monarch or Queen caterpillars?
Which species of passionvine (substitute host plant and species of your choice) is most desired by Gulf Fritillaries?
Do caterpillars eat more in all light, all dark, or a mixture of the two?
Do caterpillars grow larger when fed the same hostplant if they are grown in all dark, all light, or a mixture of the two?
Which is the best sterilizing agent for Monarch eggs infected with Oe spores?


Can I raise several butterfly species in the same container or cage?

ANSWER: Absolutely! Many species can be reared in the same rearing container. Some Sulphur butterfly caterpillars, such as the Cloudless Sulphur, will often kill and/or eat each other whether in a container or in a garden. When closely reared in a container, the cannibalism rate may be higher than in a garden.


How long in advance do I need to order?

ANSWER: We often ship eggs, caterpillars / larvae, chrysalises / pupae, and adult butterflies the same day the order is placed. In spring and summer we are often sold out if an order is not placed at least a few days in advance. We raise an average of three thousand butterflies per week, spring through fall, and are able to fill last minute orders in most cases.


Do you ship to the UK?

ANSWER: No, we do not ship outside the US except to Canadian customers who have Canadian permits to receive butterflies from our farm. If you are looking for a butterfly source in another country, we will try to locate one for you. If you know of a farm outside the mainland US which is not listed on our 'Butterfly Release Companies' page, please contact us with a link to their website.