Monday, November 8, 2010

Fritillary Euthanasia

Injured Gulf Fritillary on Pentas
Injured Gulf Fritillary
Proboscis partially uncurled
  The silver flash from the folded wings of the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) is usually a welcome sight, but there was something odd about this one clinging to my Pentas.  His behavior was wrong: he lingered too long and he didn’t startle as I passed.  The next morning, I found him on the same plant, dangling precariously from the magenta blossoms.  This did not bode well.  Was he dead?  Was he too cold to be active yet?  At the same moment, another Gulf Fritillary hurried through the garden, spreading his pumpkin-orange wings as he paused to sip from the cosmos. Obviously, the air was warm enough for flight.  I gently inserted my finger beneath the little guy and he clung to it readily.  He was not dead yet, but was unable to move his head or completely retract his proboscis.  The proboscis is the delicate, coiled tube structure with which the butterfly sips nectar and water.  This fellow repeatedly unfurled his proboscis and attempted to retract it.  His head was oddly bent to the left.  Maybe he had been injured by a predator in the garden, such as the praying mantis or a spider.  Perhaps a bird or a green anole snapped at him.  He could have been struck by an automobile.

Whatever the cause, he was too hurt to feed or fly.  It could take days for him to perish from dehydration.  I don’t want a doomed creature to suffer.  I’ve been taught that the least traumatic way to kill an exothermic animal, like a butterfly, is it to place it in the freezer.  I will leave him there overnight.  Unfortunate, it is.

The cosmos blossom is a familiar, comfortable support.


MB Arnold said...

Oh Sally. Such a sad story. You handled it well!

Milkweed Patch said...

Hello MB. Thank you. Yes, such a poor little thing. ~~~Sally