Living in Northern New Zealand, in a place of splendor, I was shocked and saddened to come home to find Monarch butterflies suffering from being stung by wasps. Some died. I picked up one who was barely alive and brought him inside. He hung, motionless. His wings were shriveled and a small hole was torn from the edge of his wing. It was perhaps 14 hours of this motionless behavior, so I was afraid that he, too, had died. When he was stung, he was still in the defenseless 'clinging while drip-drying' stage, where their wings straighten out from their 10-14 day stay in the chrysalis. (The chrysalis, also called the pupa, is well camouflaged a green color, as it has no other means of defense against predators.) He had just emerged from the chrysalis, but didn't yet know what it was like to be a butterfly and fly in the sky. Then, high and behold, to my great relief, he gracefully fluttered his wings, twice. Minutes later, he beautifully spread his wings again. I could easily identify him as a male because males have a black spot on the vein of each hind wing.
It was raining outside, so he was inside. When the rain stopped, he'd go out for some fresh air and flower-hopping. He'd step up onto my finger like a trained pet. He was handicapped and I was his wheelchair. He was teaching me that insects understand more than I thought! On day 3, life's duties called me away so I left him outside. I soon became anxious that I left him unattended, vulnerable to wasps. I hurried home to find him at the beginning of the grassy path to my door. I put my finger out in front of him, and he stepped on. We went Zinnia hopping and he had the time of his life; from pink, to yellow, to orange; which was his favorite. They were color coordinated. I felt truly honored to share these moments in the life of a butterfly. His tentacle sort of nose served as a straw. He precisely stuck it in each pinprick hole of each tiny flower in the center of Zinnia petals. He would dive in and out, then on to another, using this feeler that uncurled from his forehead. He had impeccable aim. He didn't want to leave the orange Zinnia, but I nudged him and escorted him over to a yellow Zinnia in its perfected state. When he drank, his wings quivered, ever so slightly, like they were being rejuvenated. I took him over to a Garland Daisy, and in no time at all he stepped back on to my finger. It seems he was not enthralled with this flower. He enjoyed the Coreopsis a bit more as a change from his usual favorite, the Zinnia. Apparently, the Monarchs use vision to find flowers, but once they land on a flower they use taste receptors on their feet to find nectar.
I had become a butterfly babysitter, putting him to sleep into his motionless, upright position. It amazed me; this immediate trust between a butterfly and a human.
Again, life's duties called me away. On day 4, two friends came during the day to tend to him. He had the pleasure of meeting two more vegan women; both very gentle like him. One of them was calling him 'Transformation'. The weather turned blustery and showery, once again, so we were bringing him in and out. On this day, he was more serious about drinking the elixir of life; flower nectar, which is about 20% sugar. Later, we went for a practice flying session. His wings were still quite curled up. Inside, he went right into his upright, sleep position. I would lie on my bed and think while looking at him. Every once in awhile, he would open and close his wings. I would recall what I was thinking when he extended his wings and interpreted it as a mystical message, thus came his name, Mystical.
It's now day 5 of befriending a butterfly. He can't go out yet, as the weather is too harsh for him. I woke him up and said good morning. He fluttered his wings and then went back to his still position. He didn't drink in the morning nor from flowers I brought him.
I was leaving for a week and he was a full-time job. What to do with him became of great concern. He was at his best today because the sun had finally shone upon his wings. I would lift him to the sunny blue sky and inspire him to fly by singing a little tune that went like this: 'What could be more fun than flying in the sun?' He'd start flapping his wings and begin flying. When he landed in the grass, I'd put my finger in front of him and his fragile, weightless, black legs stepped up unto my finger. He tried again. This time he flew over to the flower garden. On his very own, he flew from Zinnia to Zinnia! I was standing guard, shooing away wasps. It was our happiest moments together. He flew and landed right next to a bumblebee on a flower. The bee paid no attention to him, but I separated them. Another Monarch butterfly was soaring near. Various flying beings were competing for the flower nectar.
I introduced him to the guests who had arrived today as 'Mystical Transformation'; a combination of the two names given to him. Two young gentle people looked after him while I left for an hour. They seemed to have a mutual affection for each other. When I returned, I discovered that he had flown away, (while they were tending to another butterfly that was fatally stung by a wasp). My initial feeling was sadness because I didn't believe he could survive on his own. I looked around for him. Two other guests, who had witnessed his flying away with a breeze, showed me his path of flight. We searched the forest floor to no avail. Then we looked up, right where he supposedly flew. Out of our reach, was a butterfly resting on a softly swaying tree branch against a blue-sky. This butterfly wasn't the usual fluttery butterfly, which made us think it was my special friend. He was the picture of contentment. His wings were straight, though. Could it possibly have been Mystical Transformation? Could his wings have straightened out? Did he live up to his name? Was it a sad or an incredibly happy ending? I don't know for sure, but I hope that a creature with the incredible power to transform himself from a crawling caterpillar to a flying being, must also have the power to heal the wings he so magically created. What I do know for sure is that for five days I was in love with a butterfly, and so, hold the mysticism of his being in mine.
The habitats of Monarch butterflies are becoming threatened in both
hemispheres. We can plant Milkweed, the family of plants that they live on. Swan
plants, (in the Milkweed family), known to attract the Monarch in New Zealand,
also attracts wasps. You can protect the butterfly by making a safer environment
for them by: