Raising American Lady butterflies

American lady laying an egg on pussytoes ©Janet AllenAmerican lady laying an egg on pussytoes

This American lady butterfly is laying an egg on pussytoes (Antennaria), one of its host plants. The other host plant for American ladies that we grow is pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea).

Both of these host plants have a whitish hairy coating. See what they do with this leaf (below).

American lady caterpillar protected in a little structure ©Janet AllenAmerican lady caterpillar protected in a little structure

This American lady caterpillar is protected in a little structure it creates using the whitish fuzz of its host plant leaves, in this case pearly everlasting.

I find it's easiest to pot up pearly everlasting plants for food when I raise these butterflies inside. Pussytoes is hard to pot up in sufficient quantities.

American lady caterpillar ©Janet AllenAmerican lady caterpillar

Here's what one instar (larval stage) of the American lady caterpillar looks like.

American lady caterpillar creating an enclosure(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
American lady caterpillar creating an enclosure for itself

This caterpillar is creating an enclosure for itself in the corner of the aquarium with silky strands.

American lady caterpillar(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
A later instar of the American lady caterpillar

This is probably the last instar (stage) of the caterpillar before it becomes a pupa. It's eating its host plant leaf, in this case, pearly everlasting.

Lady hanging in a j ©Janet AllenAmerican lady hanging in a "j"

These two American lady caterpillars are hanging in a "j" just like monarch caterpillars. They'll soon be pupating.

American lady butterfly emerging(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
American lady butterfly emerging … on our pillow

Oops! I was raising them in an aquarium, but I didn't have a lid on it. Why would I need to? Obviously everything they needed—their host plant leaves—was right there in the aquarium.

I didn't yet know that when they're getting ready to pupate, they (and other caterpillars) become very restless and travel quite far from their host plant to pupate.

This makes sense. Predators would be looking for host plants to find such tasty morsels.

This caterpillar and a few others escaped from the aquarium, and I found them attached to bookcases, our gas heating stove, and other places. Fortunately, they weren't anywhere where it was a problem to leave them, so they all emerged successfully. But I learned that I need to keep a grated lid on the top!

American lady emerging ©Janet AllenAmerican lady caterpillar

This American lady butterfly has just emerged.

American lady ©Janet AllenAmerican lady

This is an American lady with its wings closed. They always look like stained glass windows to me.

American lady ©Janet AllenAmerican lady

Here's an American lady with its wings open. It's hard to believe that it's the same butterfly seen with its wings closed.