Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Almost Thanksgiving and I'm still messin' with Monarchs!

Well, I'm down to one, and I'm just pampering the dickens outta her.  Facebook and Google Plus peeps already know I'm talking about the one crippled butterfly I've been keeping, and that's Peggy Sue.  She came out of her chrysalis very much overdue and she was suspected of being infected with OE (a protozoan parasite) when it came to pass that her legs didn't work, she couldn't grab onto the shell and expand her wings. Good thing she didn't fall far, and the advice was to euthanize her.  That is to say, put her in the freezer.  As soon as I laid her on the cold surface, she fought back--this was no ordinary disease-weakened insect, no sir.  I couldn't do it; as I've already said to those I related this story to, the life she lives is the one she fought for, so she earned it.

She emerged on October 18, so now on November 22, she's outlived a standard monarch butterfly's average life span (about a month in the wild).  However, I've observed here, and stated before the Enid City Commission, that ALL monarchs that were born in Enid after mid-August are the ones that migrate to Mexico and winter over...so...Peggy Sue is one of those and in terms of the winter months, she's just started her wintering-over session.

I've checked with the veteran "monarch moms" about wintering over a monarch that didn't make it to Mexico, and only one person tried it and it didn't work.  I then set about the business of making Peggy Sue's environment as comfortable as I could until she voluntarily gives up her own ghost.  That meant buying up local nursery clearance in terms of flowers and picking the ones in the yard until I couldn't pick them anymore. I set her up with a nectar feeder, too. That brings us up to just a few days ago, in the middle of November, when Peggy Sue exhibited an enormous appetite and actually got quite porky. The nurseries sold their last fall flowers and were getting ready to stock Christmas trees. Oh my, what to do, what to do?

I looked into what type of tree that monarchs in Mexico roosted on--that turned out to be a fir--and then I researched what sort of firs grow in Oklahoma. Native firs, nada...but there are Christmas Tree farms!  Not around Enid, though.  But then I remembered that in a monarch sanctuary in California, they preferred eucalyptus trees, so maybe monarchs weren't so exactingly picky. Working on that theory, I obtained a sprig of Arbor Vitae, put it in with Peggy's flower assortment, to see what would happen. The verdict is in--she hopped over to the Arbor Vitae, not the flowers. Suspicion confirmed: Peggy wasn't going to go into hibernation mode because she wasn't in what she thought was the right place to do that in. So now I've got her a wee Christmas Tree, and I finished decorating it just today. She's an old lady now but she's still my sweetie-pie butterfly.

BoxingDay UPDATE: My dear Peggy Sue passed away one day before her 10th week birthday.  In the days that passed since her eclosure, she managed to become a member of the family and is now mourned as such.




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