Green Life, Black Death

Over the past week, I have seen lots of changes. I spotted another caterpillar out front. The two outdoor caterpillars seemed vivacious. I feel that they were more lively than their indoor friends. It makes me wonder if I am doing a disservice to the indoor caterpillars. Although the indoor caterpillars have their needs met, I can’t help but to wonder if they would have a better quality of life out in the elements.

Although caterpillars are not known to be social, the two by the front walkway spend a lot of time in close proximity.

But, after a while, I lost track of one of the outdoor caterpillars. It may have formed a chrysalis in a well hidden place, or it may have become a tasty snack for a hungry bird. There is no way to know.

But, the other caterpillar surprised me. It chose to form its chrysalis right on the side of a concrete urn.

The first outdoor chrysalis has remained untouched beneath its spot on the Hellstrip. It has been in this state since August 28th. We should see a butterfly soon!

Chrysalis on Milkweed

Indoors, all three caterpillars became chrysalids. Two of them decided to use milkweed leaves. Although this is not an issue for the outdoor chrysalis, I am going to have to move these ones. The milkweed in the enclosure is a cut plant. It is withering. When it comes time for the butterflies to eclose, they will need room to dry their wings.

As I was relocating the two chrysalids, I noticed that one of them had a coppery hue, and appeared to be leaking. I fear that this one acquired an infection called “Black Death“.

Black Death

I brought the infected caterpillar outdoors and attached it to a branch. I am not hopeful of its survival, but I want to give it a chance. I hope that the two other indoor chrysalids escape infection.

This has not been a good year for Monarchs. Last year, we had 11 successful Monarch releases. This year, we have had only one! I am currently keeping my eye on 4 seemingly healthy chrysalids – two outdoors and two indoors. This year’s experiences have made me question the value of captive rearing. While they are safe from predation, they may face more of a risk of infection or disease.

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