Mutated Monarch

Anthony Cynor acynor at
Fri Sep 3 10:09:37 EDT 1999

There is little that can be done.  The problem may be inherited or
environmental.  The possibilities are many and a explanation unlikely.  From
what you describe I would expect a sub lethal dose of insecticide of some
type. See what the others do and hope for the best.


EE wrote:

> I've been raising Eastern Black Swallowtails in southern Ontario (to
> educate myself) for the past few years. I haven't had any problems with
> them.
> This year I got some Monarch eggs from the vacant lot and raised them in
> a small meshed enclosure. Out of the 20+ eggs collected, I ended up with
> 10 surviving caterpillars. They all pupated successfully (or so I
> thought). Very exciting to raise the generation that will migrate!
> The first of 10 emerged this morning. It's definitely mutated. The
> proboscis looks like a bifurcated corkscrew, and won't/can't uncoil, so
> the butterfly can't feed. A feathery bit near it's mouthpart is stuck in
> an upward postion on one side. Also, it was unable to pump fluid into
> its wings, which look like scrunched up dry curly translucent paper. By
> this afternoon, antennae drooping, it was clear that it was dying and
> wouldn't make it. I have stills of the mutated Monarch dumped down from
> Hi-8 that I can email to anyone who'd like to have a look.
> Never having raised Monarch before, I don't know what's normal for them.
> For instance, I thought that this particular caterpillar might have a
> problem, as when it was resting it got really loose and kind of lolled
> around on the milkweed leaf. Is this normal for Monarchs? Swallowtails
> don't loll when they're resting. I know what kind of behavior to expect
> from them. Also, in their final instar as caterpillars, the Monarchs
> went through a period of striking the leaves they were feeding on with
> their heads in a kind of percussive action almost like communication.
> Does anyone know what that behavior is all about?
> I've noticed  a few ants bearing aphids, which I've carefully picked off
> the Monarch chrysalides, and some very small flies that keep crawling on
> the jade jewels that I can't get at. Could these be a contributing
> factor? Or are they a 'normal' part of the process?
> I've heard that butterflies are prone to viruses .... If this is a virus
> can it be transmitted to the neighbouring Swallowtails pillars or
> chyrsalides?
> Any ideas on what went wrong? Is there anything I can do for the remaing
> chrysalides, other than wait and see? (probably not, huh)
> I'd really appreciate any input as I don't want this to happen again.
> Also, I'd be willing to mail my mutated Monarch to any entolmologist who
> can use it.
> Thanks,
> EE

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