Butterfly Aging and Death  
Not every creature gets to live a long life. This page looks at aging butterflies, and a few of the butterfly endings I've observed.
This Gulf Fritillary Butterfly has lost lots of scales. Butterflies lose them with age, and it does not look like they are able to grow them back.

It's drinking nectar from the Firebush flower.

Old Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Nectaring On Firebush Flower
dead zebra heliconian caterpillar
These Zebra Heliconian Butterfly caterpillars have a medical problem, and it killed them. They seemed to melt; it was really gross! I'm still not sure if it was some germ or bacteria (update, probably bacteria; see my raising caterpillars page two), or if a predatory bug injected them with something to dissolve them so it could slurp them up. I didn't see any creepy bugs lingering nearby. If I see caterpillars like this again, I'll pay more attention and watch for a longer time to see if I can figure out what got them.
dead zebra heliconian caterpillar
dead zebra heliconian caterpillar
This Atala Butterfly never made it out of its chrysalis. I've seen a lot of Atala Butterflies stuck that way. Other butterflies get stuck too (I saw a stuck sulphur recently) but I don't notice it like I have with the Atala Butterflies because they hide their chrysalides better. The Atala chrysalides are lined up like Christmas ornaments on their host plant Coontie, so they're very easy to find.
The web speaks for itself. That's an Atala stuck in it. When I looked later in the day, the Atala was gone, and there was no blob in the web that looked like the Gasteracantha cancriformis spider wrapped it up for dinner, so it got away, fell out, or something else ate it.

Here's another Atala in a web. This one was very dead, but the Silver Argiope Spider never seemed interested in it.

atala butterfly stuck emerging from chrysalis
Atala Butterfly stuck in Crab Spider web
When I picked up the stick this (moth?) caterpillar was on, and dropped it in a container to raise and see what it became, all these maggot like squiggly worms crawled out of it, right through the skin - GROSS!!!

Within a few hours, they cocooned, and a week or so later a LOT of little flies came out. I have them dead in the container - I'll dump them out and take a picture soon. I wanted to make sure none got away to take out another caterpillar!

Atala Butterfly caught in a spider web
When I dumped them out for a picture, most of them stuck to the stick where the caterpillar was, but you can see a few still stuck to the caterpillar that haven't finished cocooning yet.
parasitic tachinid fly larvae exiting a moth caterpillar
parasitic tachinid fly caterpillar and cocoons, and larvae on moth caterpillar
This Gulf Fritillary Butterfly was in its J form ready to become a chrysalis. I noticed some gnats on it. I remembered reading about tachinid flies and parasitic wasps, so I captured it, flies and all, to see what emerged. I'm REALLY glad I used the duct tape, because about a hundred tiny flies came out of the chrysalis instead of a butterfly.
I finally dumped the bugs out to photograph them. Now that I've looked at the pictures and seen them magnified, I think they're parasitic wasps. You can see for yourself on this page where I've posted close-up pictures.
I saw this little beetle going after a dead Zebra Heliconian Butterfly Caterpillar. I glanced at it a bit later and it was still there. A couple of hours later, I went out for more pictures of it, but the beetle was gone, and all that was left of the caterpillar was the outer skin and spines on the leaf below.

If you can ID the beetle, let me know.

parasitic wasps lay eggs on gulf fritillary caterpillar
parasitic wasps lay eggs on gulf fritillary butterfly caterpillar
Have a look at a very different parasitic wasp that emerged from a Zebra Heliconian butterfly chrysalis.
beetle eating Zebra Heliconian butterfly caterpillar
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