It has been a very rough year for butterflies. Probably half of them have died in very weird and gross ways. One of them was in its j and then a string dropped out of its head and a little maggot was discovered. I think it was infected by a tachinid fly. Another one was making its chrysalis and stopped half way. Some have very weird chrysalises. One seemed stuck in its chrysalis and could not emerge properly. More than normal die in their chrysalises. The caterpillars are dying too.
So we are researching what could be wrong. They might have OE, ophryocystis eleckroscirrha. Some signs of it is a caterpillar’s antennas might be deformed. Their bodies may look dirty, like the colors ran together. If butterflies form, they may have mishaped wings, they may stick in their chrysalises and their chrysalises might have “dirty spots in them”.
I am testing my butterflies before releasing them. The first thing I do is check their abdomens to see if their lines are faint, hard to see or messy looking. Then I take a piece of clear tape and touch it to the abdomen of the butterfly. Then I am sticking it to an index card and cutting it out before sticking it to a glass slide. I look at it under a microscope, looking for little dots that are not the scales.
I read to bleach the eggs to get rid of the OE “germs” since baby caterpillars are infected by eating the egg if it is contaminated. After raising and letting them go, we will need to bleach clean the containers and let them sit in the sun before putting new caterpillars in.
I have discovered two butterflies that appear to be sick. I am going to keep them as pets instead of releasing them. The other eight I tested all appear to be healthy and I can release them tonight!
Here are the links I am using to learn from: