Posted in Conservation, Creatures, Oh noes!

Guardianship update: 23rd August 2018 #3

As I said in my last post (#2), all hell had broken loose for me at that moment.  I was a failure.  The not too distant memory of two daily releases of two butterflies per day sat in stark contrast with what I had before me.

As my eyes darted back and forth between lid and sick bay, that’s when I realized the malformed chrysalis was literally bleeding out bright green goo.  There was no saving it now.  My heart sank, and I admit tears sprang to my eyes.

How could I have let this happen?

I sat down on the floor, and soon gingerly picked up the lid, relieved to see the other two chrysalis seemed neither damaged nor their cremasters broken.  The chrysalis that had rolled away, though, had its cremaster broken clean off.  There was nothing to even try to attach string to.  Now what would I do?

To make matters worse, the one that broke off was the only one that had received a name, from my partner.  Remember Junior?  Yeah, it was that one that had rolled away.  If I killed this one, somehow it would be worse.  (This is why naming them is a BAD IDEA in case you don’t already know such things.)

Meet Junior.

Junior had formed a chrysalis properly and all, so why couldn’t I help Junior make it to eclose?  Again, I was awash in total feelings of failure towards Junior and the now poor bereft of life deformed chrysalis in the sick bay.  R.I.P., little one.  I wish I could have done better for you.

I know to some, reading my lamentations are as laughable as someone keening over an accidentally overfed goldfish.  I am keenly aware of the monarchs’ odds.  1 in 100 now make it from egg to adult, healthy or otherwise.  Monarchs in general have decreased in numbers by 80% just within the last two decades.  (Thank you Monsanto and your genetically engineered crop seeds that are herbicide resistant for the bulk of that since those same seeds gave you a reason to sell more Roundup.  There is also Mexican logging that didn’t help eitherClimate change is another for a variety of reasons.)  Their population continues to dwindle even further.  Some more recently claim they are down 95% in the last 20 years, though I haven’t had an easy time of finding data to back that number up.   Whether down by 80% or down by 95%, there are a host of reasons they are in consideration to be entered into the Endangered Species list by 2019.

All of the above is why Monarch Guardianship is a growing movement.  This is why this year I was happy to find information about becoming one myself and have been trying to do my best.  Obviously, I need to do better.

Getting back to dealing with the result of panicked thinking, though…

I can’t recall in what order the following happened, whether I next cleaned up the now mostly empty empty of goo shell and all that remained of the fallen malformed chrysalis was (the goo part had turned black–something I don’t know if that is linked to potential trouble it had, or just nature taking its course once a chrysalis smashes and leaks); or if I tried to figure out how I might tape the “cap” of the chrysalis to thread, but the tape wasn’t sticking to the chrysalis and glue seemed totally out of the question; or if I set the tank back up first once I had assessed what I had done by not putting the lid back on.  Some might have even happened after what I’m about to recall doing around that time or not too.

At some point in/around all that, I did go back to my computer to write my local monarch mentor, at which point I realized I failed to send my initial e-mail.  So instead I asked about what to do with a chrysalis with a broken cremaster (only I called it a stem because I hadn’t learned the word yet).  She wrote back that from what she knew, especially if the chrysalis was already hardened, they could develop just fine on their side.  So there was hope.  She remarked she felt the want to keep the top the top, which I wrote back to say I felt the same.  Yet this presented a problem, because if you try to prop it up, it slides.  If you were to, say, cut a hole in something to keep it upright, then the butterfly might not be able to eclose.

Image below is the view of the top of the chrysalis that I took much later that day.  They are really slick, and do not want to be propped up!  It just kept sliding downwards.

Epic fail. It's like landing on
When I realized there was no way to hang this, I felt like the worst monarch guardian ever.

Eventually I padded the paper towel with more folded paper towels on either side to help it stay at least a bit more “upright” than not, while allowing space at the bottom for the monarch to eclose out as it would normally.  Considering I knew Junior was closer to eclosing than not, I wasn’t worried about any sort of breach birth, if such a thing even exists for monarchs.

Sorry for lousy image. Best I could do.
Tape, which is holding well.

For the other two chrysalises that were on milkweed veins, I cut portions of the stems they are on and taped them to the side of the tank instead of the mesh top.  As you can see here.

Had I somehow thought to finish the keeper cleanup before I secured the malformed one to the mesh, I would have done this to the lid instead.  This is why I said in my opener to the first post of this series that we might have lost all six.  What really saved the three on the lid was the fact that the lid flipped over when it fell.  Had it fallen straight down, they might not have fared so well, even in their hardened state.  I suspect Junior’s cremaster broke because that chrysalis was almost right up against the lid lip edge, and could have bounced hard against it, rather than the two in the middle of the softer mesh.

I think I covered the aftermath of all hell breaking loose in full.   If something is missing, or you have questions, feel free to comment.

Next up is how the five survivors are faring now.


Care to share thoughts on this?