Welcome to this section created to provide informations on Lepidoptera. TTB is dedicated to Lepidoptera breeding, focusing on Saturniidae and Sphingidae families. This section wants to provide a mixture of insect care informations and basic material related to insect biology. This section is still incomplete, many small articles are on-going!
Arguments will be categorized and discussed per topics. Initially, informations will be divided according to the animal stage (e.g. egg, larvae, pupae, adult for holometabolous insects Wiki on Holometabolism) since the breeding conditions change dramatically depending on it. Other articles will be dedicated to specific subjects as diapause, how to ship insects safely, basic rules for ecological safety and many more.
Innsect show an incredible variation is forms and colors; actually they are the largest part of the animal kingdom in terms of number of species. For these reasons there is no unique way to Breed! Every species has its own necessities since it has been evolved in a different ecological context.
Insect are animals that apply the r-strategy (rate) in the struggle for survival (check Wiki r/K for more info on this subject). In poor words this means that they prefer to produce a very numerous offspring without investing energy in their care; this is in contrast, for example, with mammalian strategy. In a natural populations, fertilized females produce a large number of eggs, out of those eggs a very small percentage will reach adulthood. In artificial broods this trend is inverted and breeders, in optimal condition, are able to maximize the survival rate. Generally, a breeder will not be able to keep breeding all the offspring of his broods.
If we consider the succes in breeding, a very important variable is breeder's setup, there is no way to completely standardize breeding conditions without a full-equipped laboratory. Althought a breeder follows very precise rules, he won't be able to control every variable at his place. Causes of unexpected problems, in those contexts, are very difficult to precisely determine. The quality of the air changes from place to place as many parameters that influence the health of the broods. More delicate species will suffer compared to others. But do not worry, with some rules and a little bit of experience it will reveal easy to breed them.
By the way...Back To Breeding infos...
1) When to breed?
Always! Although breeding in winter could be harder and many host plants are not available in this season, it is possible to keep on breeding all year round.
2) Where to breed
The setup of an insect brood is generally the inside or the outside of the breeder's private home. Outdoor breeding is possible and is recommended with species that are very sensitive to ventilation or species that are naturally present in breeder's area. This approach depends on the geographic area in which the breeder lives. In some cases, or seasons, the indoor breeding could be the only option. The setup will be described in details in the corresponding sections, according to the stage of the animal. Insects can complete their life-cycle (that is the actual purpose of every breeder) in a relative small amount of space, for example a stock composed of 20 S. ricini (Lepidoptera, Saturniidae) can be grown to full size in a 30x50cm cage (TTB will always refer to scales using the international metric system), although more than one cage is recommended for adult care.
3) Enviromental variables
This topic will be further discussed in other sections, this is a quick overview.
When approaching a new species the initial data that is available is the origin. The origin tells a lot on how to optimize the conditions, according to the original habitat. Invisible things are also part of the habitat and can't be controlled (Bacteria for example), for this reason the outcome of reproducing the original habitat can be negative. The optimal condition is the setup that works in the place where is settled, indipendently of what is reported in other context.
- Temperature(T) is a key variable: for the species that TTB generally offers, standard room temperature (RT) is sufficient to achieve good results. For RT here we refer to the normal temperature present in warmed houses, with no additional warming for the insects (generally beetween 18°C and 22°C). Specifically warm up Lepidoptera species is possible, but could present side-effects as drying the enviroment. Temperature shifts can induce metabolic changes in insects, like stimulating the onset and the offset of diapause. It is very important to know how is the natural life-cycle of the species we breed; always check where the species came from and how is the temperature there, in order to understand how to deal with breeding (internet provides all the data easily), go to the Useful websites sections for more info.
-Humidity: here it will refer to "Relative Humidity(RH)" expressed as a percentage. As for temperature, the normal indoor conditions are accepted by many species. Winter is generally the driest season, in particular indoor because of warming. It is possible to spray caterpillars with water or to place wet paper inside the breeding boxes to increase humidity. Sadly, this could lead to side effects as the proliferation of many pathogens. For this reason is better to provide to the animals dry fresh leaves to eat and spray them sometimes, to increase humidity. According to our experience not spying the caterpillars at all results in a good percentage of succes (with Attacus sp., Acherontia sp., Antheraea sp. and many more).
4) Clean enviroment and areation
To preserve a clean enviroment is basic rule for Lepidoptera breeding. Butterflies and moths can be considered very sensitive to a dirty enviroment. By replacing the food and eliminating the stools often, sometimes more than once per day, the correct equilibrium can be manteined. Provide a well ventilated enviroment is very simple; plastic boxes can be modified using fine net mesh to cover them, ensuring the proper aeration. In most cases it is possible to leave the box opened, caterpillars will stay on the host plant untill there is enough food for them. Although some people report that is possible to breed caterpillars in closed plastic boxes, opening them only once per day, in our experience this leads to drammatic losses. Keep this two as the core rules of breeding.
Very important: insects breeding, Lepidoptera in particular, is not a big deal in terms of money and space; but pay attention to the time you are willing to dedicate them! Few time is needed but, as they suffer stress much more than other animals, be sure that you can have a constant eye on them to ensure that things are going properly. This is fun!