Reflections on a Crippled Butterfly

Of my most recent batch of Monarch caterpillars, three flew away. One fell and crumpled her wings. She will never fly, but she sits on a stick in the butterfly habitat and flaps her ruined wings in the sunlight. I put some cheesecloth in a jar lid and keep it saturated with sugar water, which she drinks readily. Still, I wonder if I’m doing her a kindness or a cruelty in keeping her alive. Do butterflies feel joy when they soar on the breeze in the sun? Do they feel lonely or bored or depressed? Or do they just lead a zen-like existence, eat-fly-breathe until something, a predator or time, stops them? Is she content to crawl like a beetle, or does she despair for the sky? Many entomologists claim that insects have no emotions because they lack the physiological structures (central nervous system, amygdala) to feel them (but if emotion is just a chemical reaction…well, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms). And yet no one can explain how Monarchs fly from Mexico to Canada and back every year, when no individual butterfly lives long enough to complete the trip. Is this whole dilemma Eric Carle’s fault?