One of my tenets when it comes to raising butterflies is that you never give up. There are times when we have a butter that is nonviable, but as long as they’re free of OE, I believe in giving them every possible chance to live a buttery life.
A few weeks ago, we had a late season caterpillar that decided to pupate way too early. She was barely a 4th instar and should have done one more molt and a lot more eating. However, she decided that she didn’t want to get left behind and I found her hanging in her tiny “J” on top of the tent. I told her to get down from there an go through the proper steps, but she ignored me entirely. Sure enough, the next morning, there was a tiny chrysalis. It was no bigger than a jelly belly! We had another one that had done the same thing, but it died in the chrysalis. So we kept an eye on it. It took longer than usual, but that’s not uncommon as the weather cools off. She stayed in her chrysalis for at least two weeks before I knew she was ready. When we got up in the morning, her chrysalis was clear and we could see her tiny wings. It was a couple of hours before she eclosed.
When she did, she was the tinies monarch I’ve ever seen, about half of the usual size. When she’d had time to expand her wings, we noted that the ones on her right side were smaller than the ones on her left and looked a bit frumpy. We tested her for OE and she was negative. We had another butter like this earlier in the season and it took him a couple of days, but he did learn to fly. We’ve had a lot of rain this week, so we kept her in overnight to make sure that she’d had plenty of time to harden her wings. The next morning was dreary, but dry, so I took her out. She nectared on the butterfly bush, which was a good sign, but she didn’t try to go anywhere. I left her in the flowers and came back in. In the afternoon, it started raining, so I brought her back to her tent and put some flowers in. I didn’t want her getting cold and wet. The next morning, we tried again. This time, she flew a circle over the flowers and landed back in the blossoms. She was getting stronger!
It started raining in the afternoon, so back in she came. This morning, I gave her some fresh flowers and hummingbird nectar for breakfast. When the sun came out, we put her back in the flower garden. She stayed for a lot of the afternoon, but when I went out at about 3:00, she had flown away!
I doubt that she’ll make it all the way to Mexico, but she’s shown a lot of determination thus far, so you never know. Here she is next to one of her tent mates!