This is the beautiful butterfly that came out of Big Brother’s chrysalis. As a caterpillar he caused no troubles and proceeded from eating like crazy to forming a J and then a chrysalis just as expected. He was the first one that I saw on some roadside Milkweed on my bike ride that proved the Monarchs are still here. I am very sorry to report that last night he died. Nature is not always perfect, but he made it to the last stage.
The little buddy came out on Sunday. His chrysalis was so perfectly formed and he had been such a laid back caterpillar that I was busy fretting over the newly less perfectly chrysalized baby. Not a dot of black in or on big brother until the chrysalis very beautifully turned clear about 24 hours before he came out.
From a jade jewel to this:
But he fell instead of clinging to his chrysalis to dry his wings out after “birth.” I had to help him off his back and put him on the lid to dangle and straighten out which he eventually did.
He was not the best clinger because one of his 4 clinging legs didn’t have hooks to grasp with. He couldn’t hold his wings together behind him. He couldn’t fly and would sometimes fall. Long after a day of rest and getting to know his whole new body, he wouldn’t eat fruit or even unfurl his proboscis. I have read on the internet that these problems are most often associated with a protozoan pest that affects Monarch and Queen butterflies. It is called OE, for Ophryocystis elektroscirrha. This creeper is often spread from parent to child (egg) and is not debilitating at low levels. It gets into the caterpillar’s skin and breeds inside the chrysalis. In larger quantities this causes a lot of the problems my butterfly had, including an oversized abdomen, inability to cling to chrysalis, and inability to fly.
My friend spent some time outside to see if that would inspire a snack and a journey to Mexico, but it usually ended with him falling slowmo to the ground. Eventually my inner ICU nurse got the better of me and I decided that the hydration status of my dude was not acceptable. With a toothpick I unfurled his proboscis and put the end on slices of grapes. This took some time, and for all his perfect looks this butterfly couldn’t even curl its tongue back into its mouth. So I was never sure if he was happy to be messed with in this fashion, but he did appear to maybe be eating.
I knew he was a boy because of those two black dots in the black veins on his hind(bottom)wings. This produces a scent that drives the ladies wild. Since I default many animals to male pronouns I feel a little bit redeemed. This picture shows that while his antennae were quite alert, his wings lacked some (or a lot of) tone.
I knew he was dead when I came home after 16 hours out and his perky little antennae were gently drooping down, the very tips laying on a slice of grape. It was pretty hard to look at. I managed all of four seconds.
That was last night. This morning the baby’s chrysalis is clear. I hope you will join me in wishing him a long, healthy, and sexy life. And remember that what happens in a fir tree in Central Mexico, stays in a fir tree in Central Mexico… at least until next spring.