Posted in Conservation, Creatures, Oh noes!

Guardianship update: 23rd August 2018 #4

At last we reach the final installment of the sad day update.  Continuing on from the last post, how are the five?  One, I recently started posting about in another update, so here’s the rest of Junior’s story.

Yes, Junior was the next to eclose.  Fortunately, I had loads of warning, and lots of time to hover over the chrysalis.  This is what it looked like nestled in the paper towels still in the tank.

Snug as a bug...
I know the chrysalis looks black! It’s not, it’s the lighting.

As you may recall, it’s very important for newly eclosed butterflies to be able to hang their wings down so they can pump the fluid in their bellies into their wings, and then dry their wings.  Failure to do so results in a butterfly that cannot fly.  Some folks still keep such butterflies and take care of them like pets, but that was never my intention.

So as soon as I woke up and saw how dark the chrysalis had gone, I knew it would drive me crazy to keep popping up every five minutes to check on Junior.  So I came up with a plan B.  I very, very carefully took Junior into our office and put the paper towel in easy sight on my desk.

Watching a chrysalis waiting for it to eclose is like paint drying.

This image may seem familiar (I posted it on the 21st update) which I later took after Junior had been sunning in my office window and it was much more evident that the chrysalis was not a bad sort of black at all.  You can clearly see the orange of the wings in this image.

What I also did was take the stick all the caterpillars had shunned to chrysalis off of (and now I know why: the bark is too rough!  They can tear their chitin on it.  Another lesson learned.)  Because of my hand cramps from holding wing drying butterflies perched on a finger the first day any were ready to be set free, I had tried the stick the next day to see if they would perch there instead.  The trend so far had been, boys like to perch for a while.  Then they take off in a flash.  Girls like like to fly as soon as they think they can and get high up.  Eventually they will leave that higher perch and make their way in the world.  So far, this trend has proven true, but I don’t have enough data to think this is as gender specific as it seems.

Not too long after I took the above image, I somehow by sheer miracle with my lousy camera captured the following shot when I glanced down to see Junior emerging.  When folks write on their sites that if you are waiting for one to eclose, go to the bathroom, come back and it’s already out?  They’re not kidding.  This happened in between what couldn’t have been longer than a five minute break from watching over Junior.

You have no idea how thrilled to pieces I was.
Broken cremester and all.

I immediately put out a finger for Junior to grab on, then gently guided both Junior and still connected chrysalis to the stick, where although Junior hooked right on, one of Junior’s legs were still inside the chrysalis.  A few moments later and….

Still puffy looking, but hooray!
Yes, I did text my partner at this point to tell him Junior had eclosed. He called right back.

By the time my partner got home from work, we waited a bit more to hit that no less than two hour safety window, then debated if we should wait since it was getting close to dinnertime, and maybe Junior might be better off in the keeper for the eve after the wings were dry?  By then we were nearing the dead safe three hours mark.

He really did not want to get off the stick.

Given the forecast for rain the next morning, we thought not to wait.  So when the window was definitely safe, out we went.  It was very breezy, and Junior did not want to get off the stick.  Not for love or money.  We propped up the stick against one of the porch supports and sat on the swing for a while.  My partner laid out on the swing and put his head in my lap and we had one of those quiet moments, waiting.

After a short while, we confirmed Junior was a boy.  “If Junior had been a she,” my partner said, “she’d still be Junior.”  Junior still did not want to get off the stick.  I sort of understood why, with the wind.  We again debated taking him back indoors, but both realized that was not wise.  So we walked around to the back, and put his stick on the side porch, and went in to make dinner.  We could see him out the side kitchen window.  He was still there when we ate dinner.  Then he wasn’t.

Forever junior.
Took him long enough to confirm!

After dinner, I peeked out the window, Junior was gone.  BUT….remember that Ginger cat I complain about a lot?  It was sitting in our driveway, and I had a really bad feeling.

Our beebath was low on water since we did have sun that day, so I took it around to fill it from our rain barrel.  When I walked back, that’s when I saw a monarch butterfly under our car.  I could no longer see the Ginger.  They two might not have been related at all.

However, it was male.  It was wobbly when I encouraged it onto my finger.  This one, though, whether from a fall or a cat attack, was just enough damaged it was hard not to notice.  I wanted to cry all over again.  I vowed to call Animal Control even though I know if it is chipped and gets taken back by its owner, the owner will just let the Ginger outdoors again.  So frustrating!

I took the most likely Junior butterfly, and walked back to our milkweed patch and found a spot that wasn’t too high, and wasn’t too low to transfer him to.  He had a hard time, I had to help him back up once.  Then I took a deep breath, and walked inside.

I didn’t tell my partner right away, but I did tell him.  He was mad as all get out.  He’s never liked that cat, whether it was Junior or not, and I felt a bit bad telling him because it is possible whatever happened to that butterfly might not have been the Ginger’s fault.

We also had an incident with the incubator this week.  Two eggs…vanished.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.  Could be they were infected, could be they got eaten by other eggs hatching close to them (yes, this can happen.) I cleaned out the incubator, and the 3 cats in there are fine as far as I can tell.

And to be honest, between the two incidents so close together, I said at the time, “That’s enough for this year!”  I have leveled off looking for eggs, I admit.  I’m still reeling a bit from last Saturday.

Today, Junior was still in the patch, but a different place.  When I saw him there a third time after the rains were done, I had to see if he could fly or not.  He could.  He flitted all about the lawn, despite the small chunk out of his lower left wing.  Although I know no matter what I do, he will likely die before winter because those this far north do not go dormant for the winter, I do hope he still manages to find a mate, and maybe I will find those eggs in a few weeks, and when I release those butterflies, they will be heading south in September to begin the migration anew.

Now, as to the other four chrysalis?  Still hanging out in the keeper, still not going dark just yet though we can see details emerging through their chrysalis. Tomorrow, though, is another day.

Care to share thoughts on this?