The Tachinid Fly Disaster

by Phoebe Hochstetler | May 1, 2023 | 0 comments

monarch caterpillar
Photo © JjGouin/

I guess it started when a lady said she had a monarch caterpillar for us along with some milkweed to feed it. Although we didn’t know if it would turn out to be a he or she, my mom, a namer of things, named her Carrie Brook. If she turned out to be a he, we would call him Conrad.

Carrie looked somewhat different from other healthy monarch caterpillars—being longish and sort of thin, not shortish and plump like I would’ve guessed. It was the first time we got a caterpillar to watch it turn into a chrysalis. At least we thought we would watch it. My family watched Carrie closely, and my little brothers would just sit by her jar, watching and watching.

After a day, Carrie crawled to the top of her jar and just stayed there. I am really not sure if she ever hung or not. After a few days, we almost gave up, so we talked to my aunt who has raised/watched quite a few monarch caterpillars. She wondered if there was a small brown case in the bottom. Sure enough there was, so my aunt said, “It’s the tachinid fly’s egg.” My whole family was sad because we hadn’t known that anything could go wrong!

About a week later my mom asked the lady if she had any more caterpillars. The lady found one, so after church one Sunday, we went to her house to pick up a caterpillar and some more milkweed. We came home with two. My mom named the bigger one Bella and the smaller one Stella. And if they’d turn out to be he’s, they’d be Stan and Bob.

Stella looked a little like Carrie, not really like Bella. She also had a scar or a change of pattern on her back. My mom and the lady who gave them to us thought it was a scar from the tachinid fly laying its egg in Stella. But my dad thought it was a pattern change. I wasn’t sure.

About a day later, Stella and Bella both escaped because we didn’t put the netting tight enough on the jar. When we went to check on them, we didn’t see them until we looked on the wall, and there they were. After another day, we found out Stella’s fate—the tachinid fly.

As for Bella, she, surprisingly, turned into a chrysalis. We didn’t even get to watch her. But one sad evening we came home to see strings hanging from the chrysalis and a little brown case in the bottom of the jar. The next morning my brother and I smashed the brown case, and two grubs that had joined the case during the night. While we were smashing, another case popped out. So we smashed the chrysalis, too, and it was a good thing we did because another case popped out in the process!

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