Mutated Monarch Part 2

EE great at
Thu Sep 30 04:30:39 EDT 1999

Thanks to those of you who responded to my previous post about the
deformed Monarch, or sport, in southern Ontario.

I only raise eggs from the 'hood, and release all emergents. Just a
nature nut!

The Monarch eggs were collected around Aug. 8th from a vacant field
across the train tracks from a golf course. They were kept in a newly
built small outdoor enclosure that consisted of a frame made from wooden
1x1's covered with screening material. They were fed on milkweed from
the field. All of these caterpillars exhibited lolling behavior, some of
them seemed to have the hiccups, and most, in the later instars, were
into head banging (no we weren't playing any heavy metal music!). They
all pupated between Aug. 17-29.

A 10th caterpillar  was from an egg that came in on some milkweed around
Aug. 25th and pupated last, around Sept. 4th or 5th on the can that had
held the milkweed (in floral foam to keep it fresh). It grew amazingly
fast, ripping through the instars like nobody's business.

The next of the original 9 tried to emerge on Sept. 15th. The lid of the
chrysalis popped open. The abdomen sticking out was green in colour.
Instead of emerging, the butterfly wiggled a bit, but died within a few
hours. I was curious about it, so I removed it from the enclosure and
cut the pupal case open. It looked more or less normal, except for the
fact that it had extremely tiny wings (not much bigger than a
housefly's). All the other chyrsalids hanging from the top of the
enclosure had gone two tone green and green/black, and some of them were
dripping colourless fluid. I'm pretty sure they won't be emerging.

On September 17th, the 10th caterpillar, the last to pupate, emerged. It
was a male with normal looking wings. This is my first time with
Monarchs, so I don't know if the rest of the anatomy was completely
normal or not. After 4 hours, he flapped off ... not incredibly
vigorously ... but he did fly off.

I've learned that most golf courses around here spray fungicides and
imidacloprid (Merit). It's my understanding that the railway corridor is
not sprayed. I should also add that the first half of August was
extremely windy here , with winds gusting from just about every
direction ... so anything could have drifted into the yard (we're
organic). Could the persistant pesticide or fungicide used to keep the
greens mold free have caused the problem? Could it have been pesticides
from the lawn chem truck which was also around one afternoon spraying a
lawn a half a block away? It didn't smell like diazinon, but it did
smell like pesticide.

Any thoughts on what went wrong with the Monarchs?

I was heartened to see the 6-12 Monarchs a day, all day, that came to
nectar on wildflower slope in August. I haven't seen one for a few days
- I imagine they've all left by now.

I also had Eastern Black Swallowtails on the go. The eggs were laid on
fennel, dill and parsley in the herb bed. I transferred them to curly
leaf parsley growing in pots and into an outdoor enclosure, this one
made of a metal wire frame covered in cloth mesh. I've reused this
enclosure for several years, and simply clean the metal and mesh with
bleach solution after the spring emergents flutter away. When the
pillars were ready to pupate I moved them to brand new individual wooden
meshed bug boxes (the kind they sell for kids to kill bugs in:-)). The
first of the EBS to pupate emerged a perfectly beautiful female specimen
on Aug. 15th. The other 3 continued to pupate. It surprised me that she
emerged this seasons, because in my experience so far, any that pupate
after the first of August diapause.

I had a second batch of 5 eggs layed on the herbs really late in the
season, on August 12th. One died in the first instar. Judging by the
caterpillars' colouration and final size, they seemed to be from 3
different females. One grew to be huge, but exhibited the head banging
behavior, and died just as it should have been pupating. (I think this
is the one that's sibling died in the first instar.) I found it hanging
upside down from a parsley stalk. The other 3 EBS caterpillars pupated
successfully (I hope) within the first 10 days of September. I won't
know what's up with the 7 EBS chrysalides till next May. The first batch
were pupating around the time that the Monarch eggs arrived, but the
second batch were exposed to the same conditions as the Monarchs.

Hope they're more successful than the Monarchs were.


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