Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Danielle Raises a Monarch Caterpillar

This year, we planted a number of Tropical Milkweed plants in the yard to provide food for Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars. We started seeing Monarchs in the yard during October.

On Oct 22, Danielle found this caterpillar on the plants and brought it, and some milkweed, into the house to keep it safe from birds.

A few days after she brought it in, it formed a chrysalis at the top of the terrarium. Over the two weeks it slowly developed, darkening, and eventually becoming transparent and releasing its butterfly today on Nov 5.

Things started to go wrong at this point. The butterfly broke out of the chrysalis on its own but was not able to hold on. Several times, Danielle picked it up and placed it carefully on a branch to hang while its wings formed and stiffened.

Though the wings did eventually fully "inflate," the butterfly kept losing its perch. Much to our distress, it did not survive long enough to fly away. Upon further reading, Danielle concluded that this outcome is consistent with parasitization by the protazoan Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE)

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