Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Monarch


OK, I have a moral dilemma here & with no Buddah nearby, I'm 'venting' to you (if you don't mind). My yard fostered several Monarch butterflies this past summer - from caterpillars on milkweed to chrysalis' to Monarch; it was great. As I was doing winter prep on the flower beds (I live in a cold part of Massachusetts), I found a viable chrysalis.  I brought it inside & called a nearby Butterfly atrium (please forgive me if I use incorrect terminology).  They said they weren't interested in taking it, but that I could hatch it & that it'd live for about 2-3 weeks.  They advised me to keep it in a box.  I felt badly about confining it to a BOX, so I put it in my stepdaughter's bedroom, since she isn't here much.  The Monarch has been living AT LEAST 2 weeks & once it began to fly, I felt horrible watching it bump into the walls & flutter desperately when it got to the windowsills (like it KNEW that was the way to outdoors where it belonged). I brought it what flowering plants I had & set shallow dishes of water & one with nectar, with a sponge in them - can't say that the butterfly knows where they are & goes to them during the day, but it is still living.... I've been getting it to walk onto my finger at least once a day, whereupon I take it to the sponges; at one point in the beginning, it was eating / drinking nectar in droplets off my finger. ANYWAY, now it has a broken front leg, so it's even more heartbreaking to watch it struggle. I really feel that I never should have started this venture & I should've let the chrysalis freeze.  I mean, the butterfly isn't probably going to lay eggs & procreate in the bedroom (nor was that my goal), so what was the point? I don't know what I was thinking - I clearly didn't think this through. Got any words of wisdom that'll help me feel better about this? I thought my stepdaughter would enjoy it, but all she does is complain about the 'stupid butterfly hogging her room'. (And I wonder why we don't bond)  :)

Hi, Lisa:

Wow, I sure wish I had some wisdom here, but I think your intentions were honorable, and if *you* enjoyed the butterfly, maybe that is all that was supposed to happen.

There are good reasons why butterfly houses don't accept "donations."  They are bound by extremely strict federal regulations (USDA and USDF&W), so that precludes them from potentially contaminating their "bubble."

Well, you can lead a horse to water, but....I'm sorry your stepdaughter didn't get the hint, or take interest in this exercise.  That is *her* loss.  It probably has nothing to do with you, but that it is just not where her interests lie at this particular time.

If you want to humanely euthanize the insect, simply fold its wings over its back, slide it into an envelope, and place it in the freezer for a couple days.

"Forgive yourself" is the best advice I can give, I think.  You are welcome to "vent" to me, I am certainly empathetic, but I want you to keep doing things like this.  Too few people care at all about the natural world, so to hear this story gives me hope that maybe the tide is turning.

Take care, friend me on Facebook if you want (Eric R. Eaton), and enjoy the holidays :-)



Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Eric R. Eaton


I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.


Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for AllExperts.com, 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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