Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Friday, October 16, 2009

Metalmark Mania

Long-time readers know that I've been blunting my sword on attempts to breed the endangered Swamp Metalmark in the lab for quite some time now. We're trying again, though I have no idea how it will work. We were very successful in getting eggs this season. Our 3 females yielded over 325 eggs. That's more than twice as many as we have ever gotten before. We reared them through the end of the summer, and experienced a fair bit of attrition. Sadly, that's nothing new.

Larvae usually grow to about 5 mm in length before they begin hibernation. A few weeks back, we began transferring them outdoors, to potted host plants that we had enclosed in cages. In the picture above, you can see two variations on this method that we are trying. Some of the larvae are on plants are in a sunken tub, others on plants in a pot that's in a mesh bag. At this point, about all we can do is sprinkle some Parmesan before the altar of the FSM and hope for the best.

When we were transferring the larvae outside, we missed a few. Eleven larvae went on to pupate. That's OK. Last year we got a bunch of adults and failed to get any mating. Even playing Barry White didn't help. We got a moderate amount of egg laying, but all of the eggs were infertile. This year, we will use this opportunity to try a couple of other tricks to achieve mating in captivity. No, we won't use scented candles, but we are going to use a more ventilated cage and increase airflow to stir the pheromones up a bit better. We'll also cage the males alone for a few days before we introduce females to the cage.

Today the first adult emerged. It's a male. This isn't surprising, males usually emerge a bit before the females. Alright mister, you know what's expected of you.

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At 22:09, Blogger Ur-spo said...

Barry White?
You monster.

At 22:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lack of pheromone wafting might be one reason they're not mating. How about courtship dances - maybe they need some room to fly?

Hey, I know I'm a beetle hack - I'm trying to think outside the mesh-covered enclosure.

At 07:26, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

That butterfly doesn't know how lucky he is, lol...

At 22:13, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Doug, does atrician mean they die? I hope all goes well this time around. Parmesan? What's that for? They don't eat pasta with their plants, do they? Is it perfume for them? Do they eat it? or does it cause something else they need to grow? Does it keep them warm? Parmesan?

BTW, TR and I would have loved to have you with us!

At 06:14, Anonymous Pablo said...

I admire your drive.

At 15:03, Blogger rodger said...

maybe a little Metalmark porn would help. You have all those mating photos after all.

At 22:21, Blogger Ur-spo said...

put out a new post now !


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