A Monarch that won't fly?

We found our first Chrysalis and things were transforming well. Then after allowing the butterfly to dry her wings attempted to put her outside that following day. It was evening so we thought we would wait for the following day.

She has never been able to fly. She flutters her wings but it has been three days or more(her bottom wing is bit crinkled). We have set her outside on a tree and she ends up on the ground the next day. She is still alive but unable to fly.

I suppose there is nothing more we can do for her? My kids and i have grown attached to this butterfly. I know that sounds silly! :) Do you have any suggestions.

Karen says:
I am so sorry about your butterfly...

If it is a Monarch Butterfly it probably has a parasite problem called OE or Ophryocystis elektroscirrha. This parasite is spread from spores on the milkweed to pupa, then butterfly and egg. Monarchs that emerge with OE often have wings which are weak and aren't properly formed along with other problems and usually die.

If you had the chrysalis inside your house and used any container to hold it, make sure and sterilize with a 20% bleach solution, otherwise the spores could spread and infect any future monarchs that you raise.

Here is a link which tells about OE:

Ophryocystis elektroscirrha

I hope this helps.

Comments for A Monarch that won't fly?

Click here to add your own comments

A Monarch that won't fly?
by: Char

Since this was their first chrysalis maybe they didn't understand the proper way for Monarchs to dry their wings. Monarchs need to have something to hang from while their wings harden. If the chrysalis is left on the cage floor the emerging Monarch will benefit from a closely placed twig that it can crawl up and hang from. The cage floor also needs to be lined with paper towels to absorb any liquid that is expelled when the butterfly ecloses.

New butterfly has difficulty flying
by: colette

My butterfly emerged in my screened patio and the wings were just not right. I continually tried different remedies (sugar water, etc) to help him. Every day I would take him outside to see if he would fly away, but he just got weker. On the third day, I thought he was gone, but noticed a slight flutter. I put him outside on a milkweed plant and it was like a miracle, another Monarch flew to him, picked him up and laid him on the ground and they appeared to be mating for several minutes. Both monarchs flew away. I have a video of this beautiful act if you would like to view it. (cksauer718@aol.com or ckull@johnsonwalters.com) It was truly the most beautiful act of nature/God I have ever seen. Monarchs are so beautiful!

by: Monarch Queen

Its December now in southern CA and I've been raising and caring for butterflies since summer. I've had to deal with both OE and other parasites, but a monarch eclosed like SIX DAYS AGO and she's just hiding behind the bushes in my yard. It's definitely too cold to fly, and I don't know how she could possibly still be alive since it's gotten down to freezing two nights in a row, but she is. Should I bring her inside, or is it possible that she's gone into hibernation mode or something? I don't want to euthanize her, but I'm thinking that shes having a pretty horrible life out there all by herself. Please, I've been looking everywhere and can't find anything...

Karen says:
Yes, the monarchs can go into a a type of hibernation and remain very still when it gets cold. I would just wait and see what happens when the temperatures get warmer.

Butterfly that can't fly
by: Anonymous

I completely understand how somebody could get attached to a Monarch Butterfly. They ARE personable little creatures. I've had outbreaks occasionally of OE and it honestly breaks my heart to see some with all parts intact, and even perfect looking wings only to find the poor creature can't work her wings well enough to ever fly. OH and I know, they want to so badly, they flutter and flutter then nap then flutter again...for days. It's awful to witness.

This advice I'm about to share is NOT a professional's and I'd welcome any constructive responses if what I'm going to write poses any harm.....I've gotten able to tell which chrysalides might be infected with OE by the color or some other subtle abnormality so if I have doubts about any, I quarantine these from others I'm raising. Those that manage to walk around relatively well but can't fly I always, always feed. And then their time's spent riding on my shoulder. I take them everywhere with me on errands, doing yardwork and they don't jump off. It's as though they realize it's the safest spot to be if you can't fly. I've noticed that some of these OE 'babies' 'forget' to weave the two strands of their proboscis together so it can function as a drinking straw. But if in two parts,it prevents them from being able to eat. But they can be coaxed sometimes to weave this and then to eat.
First, get some room temp. juicy fruit or watermelon etc. ready. Then approach the butterfly very calmly and gently, very gently, you can use a dull lead pencil tip for instance, begin to carefully unroll their proboscis--- so they notice it. Some will weave then. And quickly hold them by their wings in the proper way, ... and place their front legs on a juicy fruit part so they can see and smell and they just might eat right away. I've had some that it takes many many trial runs before they finally eat so patience and devotion are required! Hope this helps.
I can't help but feel sad that probably the writer that described the butterfly that wouldn't fly may not have known to find out how to at least feed the poor thing. I figure they will have a short life anyway and very limited, we might as well do what we can to make them comfortable at least. I empathize with her.
Anyway, I keep my 'special needs' monarchs inside with me.away from all others. I was careful NOT to have them spread OE on surfaces but limited their places to my shoulder or the cage with some nectar flowers in it ...then cleaned all with bleach solution.
Anyway, I've 'worn' some of the sweet creatures and honestly, they could leave anytime they want but they don't. And I just try to lavish them with what they like except of course helping them fly. I DO pretend with them in my hand and they like it. Whoever knows that I'm NOT crazy when I talk this way knows Monarchs.

Thank you Karen!
by: Anonymous

Very informative!

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Butterfly Questions.