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Rearing Papilio rutulus
'Hot box' method - the Secret is revealed!

My 'hot box' is about 22 inches high. It is constructed from aluminum window screen frames, dacron chiffon fabric from BioQuip (instead of window screen) on the top and sides, Plexiglas panels on the doors, and PCV sheet on the bottom. It's all put together with sheet metal screws. It was a real pain to make this box but it sure did pay off.

I placed the live female rutulus in the cage along with potted willow and a potted Pentas for nectar. About 18 inches above the cage I hung an infrared floodlight with a reflector (GE-Infrared Heat Reflector, 120 V, 250 Watts). I must have found the secret combination because I could always get the female rutulus to lay about 50 eggs in a three-day period! I think the combination of the very hot lamp and the white dacron fabric to scatter the light was the key to success. Not to mention the live host plant touching the top of the cage. I don't think host plant cuttings would have worked because they would have wilted very quickly under the heat lamp. It was about 85 degrees F in there.

The infrared lamp is the kind farmers use to warm pens of baby chicks. The rays from this lamp really excited the butterflies and made them oviposit, but there was a danger that it could burn them up too. That's why I could not put the lamp too close to the cage. To prevent the butterflies from dehydrating I supplied them with a water source and shade so they could drink and cool off when they needed to. For shade I placed some folded paper towels in one corner on top and then a piece of styrofoam on top of the towels. On top of that I placed a plastic container of water. I punched a very small hole in the bottom of the container so the water would slowly drip out and flow to the paper towels underneath. The butterflies could thus have a drink whenever they wanted without me being there. The cage is not watertight on the bottom - I just let the excess water drain out onto some newspaper padding.

This dacron cage also worked outdoors in the summer for my female Papilio bairdii. Click here to see a photo of the bairdii setup in this cage. You will see how the Dacron fabric creates a nice surround-lighting effect, which I think helped stimulate the butterflies to oviposit. The rutulus, however, would not oviposit so well in this cage outdoors - they preferred the very hot lamp shining on them. This hot box method also worked extremely well for Papilio zelicaon.

Well, now. I have just revealed the secret of getting Papilio ova in laboratory conditions. Why did I reveal this to you? Because you are a valued reader of InsectNet.com. Now go out there and do the right thing!

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