A Twisted Transition from Egg to Butterfly: Mothra

Bridget Mulroy

Mothra living her best life.Bridget Mulroy

On June 14th, I was lucky enough to watch a Black Swallowtail butterfly lay eggs all over my garden (NY Metro Area.) I hadn’t seen this since two years before, in 2020, so I was excited to see it happening again.

The mother butterfly laying eggs.Bridget Mulroy

In the summer of 2020, I watched the entire process – from egg to butterfly – in my garden, not in a butterfly box.

A Black Swallowtail butterfly egg.Bridget Mulroy

So, seeing it this year made me feel confident about the same process happening again in my garden! Oh, was I wrong…

About two days after I had witnessed the egg-laying process, a storm came, and I was sure the eggs were all blown – or washed – away. Ironically, that was the last storm for about a month, so when I didn’t see caterpillars, I was positive this year would be caterpillar-less.

When I found the caterpillars in my garden, I was ecstatic. I found them on the 4th of July and figured it was a sign. Whatever little water I had given them before the official drought had been called was apparently enough to make them want to try living in my garden.

Find the caterpillars (there are 2.)Bridget Mulroy

So a week went by with them munching away on my carrot tops. Carrots, parsley, celery, and marigolds – from my experience – are all ideal Black Swallowtail host plants. I began to notice the caterpillars getting chunky – “thick” as I remember describing it – and started to wonder when the day would come that they made their cocoons.

A Black Swallowtail caterpillar nearly ready to make a cocoon.Bridget Mulroy

It’s important to know that out of all the egg deposits I saw the mother butterfly make on the day I saw her lay the eggs, only two caterpillars made it to potential cocoon-readiness. (I am NO butterfly expert and my terminology is merely my own.)

So one day, July 12, after checking every day – multiple times a day – I noticed both caterpillars were gone. 

I tried remaining hopeful. In 2020, I had about 20 Black Swallowtail caterpillars and only one of them made it to becoming a butterfly. The others were taken by birds of prey and other predatory animals.

After about a week of inspecting my garden – like a lunatic – there was no sign of cocoons or caterpillars. That’s when I considered this year caterpillar-less.

Then, miraculously, or maybe not so miraculously – take it as you wish – on July 22, a butterfly with three and a half wings (butterflies are supposed to have four wings) was limping across the garden. Believe me when I tell you, my heart stopped. Something was wrong, and all I wanted to do was help it.

Immediately after I find Mothra.Bridget Mulroy

By the timeline, I say this is one of the caterpillars from the carrot patch. Since the bottom left wing never fully unfurled, I’d say there were factors leading up to why the one wing never formed in the cocoon. If I could guess, I’d say it was either heat-related since they formed during a drought, or the cocoon was made near something that retained heat.

Her wing did not form properly.Bridget Mulroy

Either way, the poor creature needed some TLC.

Knowing butterflies are pollinators, I wasn’t shocked to learn that their diet was similar to that of hummingbirds. If you’ve read any of my manymanyMANY articles on hummingbirds, you’d know it was the trusty 4:1 Domino sugar recipe to the rescue.

She seems to enjoy the 'nectar.'Bridget Mulroy

Today, a day shy of 1 week since finding the (what I’m assuming from the timeline) freshly-emerged butterfly, she (based on my research of what a male vs. female Black Swallowtail butterfly looks like) seems to be pretty happy with her synthetic nectar diet.

She enjoys real nectar as well!Bridget Mulroy

I named her ‘Mothra,’ after the powerful butterfly character from the Godzilla movies.

Again, I am not a butterfly expert. I want to give this struggling butterfly the best life possible. 

If anyone reading this knows a better butterfly-rescue approach, drop a comment below!

Overall, she's happy!Bridget Mulroy

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Hi, I’m Bridget, I’m very good at making people think. You’ve encountered my work if you have read/watched News12. NewsBreak has awarded me on publications supported by you, so THANK YOU!

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