Tuesday, August 26, 2008

RIP Monarch Larva--8/?/08-8/26/08

Last night my wife found a monarch caterpillar in the "J" position, already with green showing beneath its skin, hanging from the vinyl siding near our back door. She cheated--I was hoping she'd found one in some dense vegetation when she called from the other side of the garden, not one clearly visable against taupe siding.

This morning I checked on our friend--not an exaggeration--and it was leaking green droplets and appeared to be bleeding and bruised near the top, perhaps punctured by something. Perhaps it just wasn't a healthy larva. It was still responsive at 8am, plump and curling up to my touch, but as of 11:30 is emaciated and no longer alive.

I suppose it is good to become attached to a caterpillar; if we didn't feel for the natural world at any level we'd have no hope to feel for--or to heal--each other, or the greater (and even smaller) lives and places we experience. Still, it surprises me that I am sad, that I'm going on and on about this. Monarchs lay hundreds of eggs and only a small percentage hatch. Only a percentage make it to full size larva. Only a percentage become butterflies. Only a percentage make it to Mexico.

But speaking in mathematical terms is simply an attempt to rationalize and numb my emotions, and this is, in a way, cheating myself. A monarch larva has died, for whatever reason, and I feel a deep loss.

8 comments:

GardenJoy4Me said...

I understand how you feel about this little guy not making it. I had "Curly Joe" a black swallowtail caterpillar make his home on my curly parsley (hence his name) .. I was so excited with the thought of being witness to the whole process of actually seeing a butterfly emerge .. but it was not to be .. he left .. hubby was the first to notice he was gone .. I felt such a let down.
So .. yes .. I understand your feelings with this ..
Joy

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

It is sad when they don't make it. So sorry.

Amanda B. said...

so gross, yet so sad all at the same time. I am deeply sorry for your loss!

Layanee said...

No one gets out alive! It would be nice if it could have morphed and enjoyed the 'flight of the butterfly'. I don't have any of these caterpillars although I do see monarchs around. Where are they hiding? You are lucky to have so many.

ourfriendben said...

Oh, no!!! So sorry, Benjamin! I remember when Elvis the monarch caterpillar eluded the chickens and pupated on the roof of the Pullet Palace here a couple of years ago. I was so excited, and watched his progress breathlessly. He emerged triumphant, but I'd have felt just as you do if something had gone wrong. I'm convinced he still returns to Hawk's Haven each year. After all, Elvis lives!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Joy--Oh, but I'm sure he only left to go and pupate! Maybe you did see him, just 2 weeks later and a s a butterfly.
AD/KM--I actually feel comforted after doing some research on how many things happen to them, and how many don't make it. There are some nasty flys and wasps that love to lay eggs in them, which emerge in the monarch chrysalis stage killing the butterfly in waiting. Yikes.
AB--Gross indeed, but tis the way of things.
Layanee--I'm telling you, living in Nebraska has it all! Monarchs, wind, heat, wind, monarchs, wind, bison, corn, wind....
OFB--I'm surprised the chickens didn't get to him! I'm sure he's still around--landscapes resonate with all natural spirits for centuries even if we aren't in tune enough to perceive them. That's why I feel overwhelmed in nature so often, I think.

Anonymous said...

Discovered your story while searching for an answer to my disappearing chrysalis' that were still in the jade green stage yesterday(no transparency/not ready to emerge)...completely GONE today?! I may have an answer to your problem, though - Wheel Bug. I either have to destroy them, when discovered, or allow them to essentially lobotomize most of my Monarch and Swallowtail caterpillars. In spite of our loss' we probably still have many unknown victories. Sure hope so!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Anon--I've started looking for wheel bugs, but nothing yet. That's so strange--chryslides just vanishing. Makes me concerned for my 2.5.