Every spring Carolina ships thousands of boxes of butterfly larvae all over the country. Most of those larvae become butterflies with no issues, but every once in a while, we get comments like this one:

“I order my painted lady butterfly larvae every year from Carolina as part of my 2nd grade teaching curriculum. The shipping instructions are always followed well, the container is well packaged, I receive 6 larvae, and 5–6 become butterflies (one sometimes has an imperfect ‘Nemo wing’ and cannot fly, but that is a good nature lesson for children as well).”
Lisa H.
Peoria, AZ

In addition, sometimes we hear from customers who have heard of OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) in monarch butterflies, and they are concerned that our butterflies may be carrying parasites. OE is a parasitic protist that causes wing deformity in monarch butterflies. Unlike monarchs, painted ladies cannot be infected by OE. In painted ladies, the three most common causes of crumpled wings are developmental issues.

The first is damage to the chrysalis during development. If the chrysalis falls from its attachment, it can be damaged, and this can cause deformity in the developing butterfly. Pin the cloth with the chrysalids onto the wall of the butterfly cage, high enough that the emerging butterflies have room to climb, but low enough that they will not be damaged if they fall. If they do fall, very gently prop them up on some crumpled paper at the bottom of the butterfly cage and set them near the wall of the cage. This gives they newly emerged butterflies something to climb on, and hopefully, they will be able to fully extend their wings.

The second is related to the first. When a butterfly first emerges from the chrysalis, its wings are soft. It must have room to pump its wings and fill them full of fluid for them to fully unfurl. If this does not occur in the first few hours after emergence, the wings will harden while still folded, and the butterfly will never be able to fly.

The third cause is low humidity. In climate-controlled spaces, the chrysalids may become dry. This can make it difficult for the butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis, leading to damage to the wing during emergence. Leave the chrysalises inside the food cup for 1 to 2 days until they darken before removing them and transferring them to the butterfly cage. If the humidity in your space is particularly low, gently mist the cage every second to third day. This is not necessary in most areas, and over-misting can be harmful and promote mold growth.

Students may feel sad when they see newly emerged butterflies struggling. This is normal and shows their natural empathy for other creatures, but this is also an opportunity to show them that just because the butterflies are handicapped, it doesn’t mean that they can’t live a full life. If they are provided with climbing material, accessible food, and shelter, these butterwalkers will climb, eat, and do all the things that other butterflies do other than fly.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Sign up for free resources delivered to your inbox!

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More