Shirley the Wanderer Butterfly flew away this afternoon – on a day when it was supposed to rain heavily, but didn’t; and there was very little breeze, either, which is unusual, so it was surprisingly good weather for her release.
I couldn’t decide whether to let her go today or not. It’s supposed to be windy for the rest of the week – up to 45km/h on Wednesday – with showers, and I read online that rain is dangerous for butterflies.
But it seemed like she wanted to get back outside: whenever I gave her the opportunity to fly around the kitchen, she flew straight to the window. So I decided to let the other butterflies decide: if there were others flying around this morning, I would release Shirley today.
And there were others. Here’s the first one I saw, feeding on flowers:
You can tell he’s a male because of the two small areas of dark colour on his hind wings, as illustrated on a great site about Monarch Butterflies (which is what the Wanderers are called in North America), Journey North: Monarch Butterfly.
I took Shirley out to the hill where most of the appropriate weeds are, but even though she was out of the container and there were other butterflies whizzing past us now and then, she didn’t move, just sat on my hand and did nothing. I still wasn’t feeling confident about releasing her anyway, so I packed up and took her home again when a shower of rain headed our way:
I think she probably needed to warm up in the sun for a while before she could get going (somewhere I read that’s what they do), and there wasn’t any sun today.
But by the middle of the day, when there was still no breeze, and still no rain, I gave her a feed of sugar water and we headed out to the hill again. She sat on the edge of the container for at least five minutes while I walked around the hillside, looking for the greatest number of flowering weeds:
Here is A. the dog surrounded by weeds, but they don’t show up well against the grass:
And here’s one final shot of little Shirley:
I propped her two front feet onto the flowers, thinking it would encourage her to start feeding, or moving, but she didn’t seem interested. Then I spotted an ant running around on a flower, and tried to flick it away, thinking it might try to attack Shirley if there were any traces of her sugar-water feed left for it to find. And that’s when she flew away. I didn’t even see her fly up – I think I was still focusing on the damn ant and was too slow to react when she took off. I didn’t even see which direction she headed. I started watching a butterfly who I thought was her, and then realised it wasn’t, and by then it was too late to find out where she’d gone.
Now, in the middle of the night, it’s finally raining. I hope she’s okay out there.