Breeding Graphium agamemnon and other Graphium species.

One of the most difficult problems in breeding this attractive species, is obtaining the foodplants - Custard Apple (Annona species).

If you are lucky enough, you may find a medium-sized shrub at a specialist grower or garden centre, or your local Butterfly House may have a clearout - otherwise it is a case of planning well ahead and growing plants yourself from seed.  Seed is very easy to obtain, either from reputable seed suppliers or from fruits bought from your local supermarket. Just leave the fruit to shrivel and dry out before removing the seeds for best results.  The bad news is that you've got to be really keen to grow the plants - Custard Apple takes years to grow outside the tropics! Seeds take anything from 3 weeks to 3 months to germinate (even when fresh) and the seedling tree will often grow to no more than 20 cm high and then stay at that size for a year before putting on more growth. Soil conditions? -  Well, I have seen various Annona species growing on sand in West Africa, and we grow it in the tropical house on a magnesian limestone based soil, so I would suggest that any well-drained soil that is not acidic will suffice. Seeds grow at the same rate in standard compost, sand or vermiculite.

One can assume that it will take two years growth on 10-20 seedlings to get enough material for rearing just a dozen or so larvae (assuming you can over-winter the small trees - don't over-water in the winter and lots of bright sunlight in the growing season is a must). There is certainly a need for an artificial diet here, as eggs are easy to obtain - but somehow, the thought of artificial diet takes all the fun out of the process!

Once you have your small trees - (or little plants as may be the case) it's time to buy pupae. Graphium agamemnon is easy to obtain and in-expensive - prices very from about £1.25 - £1.75 from the importers such as Stratford,or London Pupae. Graphium sarpedon is usually a little more expensive. Both species need lots of room to fly - so the bigger the greenhouse the better! A 30ft polytunnel is ideal. The butterflies will fly in bright sunshine and feed on Lantana & Pentas and pair rather easily, although even in a tropical house, they have a habit of flying towards the windows. Once paired, the female lays easily on even the smallest Annona plant - I often find 50 eggs on a 25cm potted plant, when there are 5 quite large (2m) shrubs in the flight area (26m x 21m).  Larvae feed steadily at 25-30C, but like Papilio spp. can be prone to virus problems. The larval stage takes about 50 days and if well fed, produces a pupae of about 40-45mm in length [see picture bottom right]. The butterfly will emerge in 20-30 days at 25C and 2 or 3 generations can be produced in captivity in Europe, although it is very difficult to breed the species between October and April (Winter).


Seeds can be easily obtained.

[above]  Pupae of the "Tailed Jay"