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Hand Pairing Monarch Butterflies, Swallowtail Butterflies,
and Other Butterfly Species.

We are often asked about handpairing: "How do you hand pair butterflies?"

Male butterflies should be three days old before hand pairing. Females may be freshly emerged when hand-pairing.

Hand pairing is more successful in bright light and a warm room.

Gently apply pressure to the male's abdomen to open his claspers if he does not seem interested in pairing. Some suggest rubbing the abdomens of the butterflies together before actually bringing them together to pair.

Be careful, butterflies will tangle thier legs and it may be difficult to separate them to reposition for pairing. To separate butterflies who have grabbed each others legs, simply move your finger between their legs to gently and slowly move them apart. Some species will lose legs if you pull hard to separate them with tangled legs.

Some species are difficult if not impossible to tell which is the male and which is the female. Red Admirals, American Painted Ladies, and Painted Ladies are three such species.

Female Monarch Butterfly Abdomen

Male Monarch Butterfly Abdomen

Click on photo to enlarge and see arrow S
indicating area to pair the male's claspers.

Move the male and female together.

Place the male's claspers around the female at the point
indicated by the arrow in the enlarged photo.
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Click on photo to enlarge and see arrows
and indentification of male/female.

Monarch male claspers open in preparation for pairing.

When the male is actually pairing, his claspers will grasp
the female's abdomen. You will be able to see him working his claspers
tighter around the sides of her abdomen at the points indicated by arrows in some of the photos above.

In some instances, butterfly breeders need to keep records of which male paired with which female. To do so, simply write on the underwing of each butterfly with a fine-tip magic marker.