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July 2011

July 2011 -- Butterflies

Gallery

Columns

  • EMG News:
    News for July
  • Behind the Art:
    Butterfly Wings
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Melissa Findley

    Features

  • The Art of the Insect Wing

    Fiction

  • Poem: The Secret of Green Butterflies
  • Fiction: A Spot of Colour
  • Poem: The Butterfly
  • Fiction: Morpho sanguinalis


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  • Morpho sanguinalis
    by Julie Jansen

    The first recorded sighting of Morpho sanguinalis in the Northwest Territories occurred in 2020. Dr. Fitzmorris identified it as he gazed through a pair of binoculars in his Seattle backyard. The world-renowned entomologist knew the South American butterfly well.

    An unmistakable species, the Morpho was enormous, with brilliant azure wings that spanned twenty inches. Beauty was its only redeeming quality. Dr. Fitzmorris lost half his men to the insect during his last specimen collecting expedition to a remote corner of the Venezuelan jungle. The trip was a nightmare he would never forget. Morpho sanguinalis had a taste for human blood. With its mosquito-like proboscis a group of Morphos could drain the blood from an adult human in less than an hour.

    Dr. Fitzmorris set the binoculars down. He rubbed his eyes and hoped it was only a hallucination. The stunning butterfly floated above a tree. On the ground below, blood dribbled from a cut on Mrs. Fitzmorris's knee, injured while tending her garden. There soon appeared another Morpho, and then another, until twenty circled over his wife like hungry vultures.

    "Run!" he screamed. She raised her head, her face shaded by the wide brim of a sunhat. Morpho sanguinalis had arrived, and Mrs. Fitzmorris, along with the entire northwest population, was in trouble.

    Climate change led to many new insect species calling the region their home: fire ants, killer bees, Bot flies. While rainfall hadn't changed, within twenty years the area lost its winter chill and morphed into a hot, humid, tropical jungle. The climate was perfect for Morpho sanguinalis, but geographic barriers had kept them out. The butterfly couldn't have reached the area without human help.

    The butterflies fluttered closer to his wife. He screamed at her again, but she only shrugged her shoulders, oblivious to the imminent danger. When her gaze drifted to the house her expression turned angry. Their daughter, Marny, stood outside the door in a risque French maid's outfit with two large opened specimen boxes. Marny grinned as she watched the butterflies dance above her mother's head.

    The horrible truth flashed before Fitzmorris's eyes. Marny was a troubled teen. She'd fallen in with a group of young women known as the Gothic Lolitas. Fitzmorris spent half his paychecks on outfits that transformed her into a black-lipstick-wearing Little Bo Peep. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Lolitas worshipped the Morpho's vampiric tendencies.

    Marny traveled with Dr. Fitzmorris on the ill-fated trip to Venezuela. She wore those ridiculous outfits even in the jungle. Fitzmorris remembered her sewing the hem of her petticoats one night. He assumed she was only mending a tear. Instead she was stitching Morpho sanguinalis pupae into her skirt, where they would go undetected by customs agents at the airport. Homeland security knew how to sniff out bombs and drugs, but pupa stage insects slipped by scot-free.

    Even in the adult stage, few would suspect the high level of danger the butterfly posed. More common was that people would gawk at its beauty until the Morpho swooped down and bit them on the neck. Toxins in the butterfly's saliva had a rapid paralytic effect. The victim rendered immobile, allowed one or more Morphos to gorge themselves with blood. Dr. Fitzmorris and Marny witnessed it first hand in the Venezuelan jungle.

    Marny and Mrs. Fitzmorris argued often these days. The spats were getting more and more violent. They fought that morning because of the French Maid outfit Marny insisted on wearing to school. Mrs. Fitzmorris forbid Marny to leave the house until she changed. Marny refused. Rather than obey her mother, the unruly teen unleashed her prized Morphos. They were attracted to the blood flowing from the cut on her mother's knee.

    Mrs. Fitzmorris noticed several dark shadows moving about the ground. She glanced up and saw what looked like several birds. The underside of Morpho sanguinalis' wings was a dull brown, a trait that kept it well-camouflaged against the trunks of trees. When one of the butterflies swooped in closer, Mrs. Fitzmorris saw the brilliant blue wings.

    Mrs. Fitzmorris gasped. She gazed every day at a picture of a Morpho. Marny kept it as a screensaver. She remembered everything Dr. Fitzmorris told her about the vampire South American butterfly. The Morpho was repelled by garlic. Mrs. Fitzmorris grew a patch of garlic in her garden. Pollinating insects loved it. Mrs. Fitzmorris pulled a stalk from the ground, and squished the pungent bulb in her palm. She smeared the muddy garlic paste over her face and neck.

    The effect was immediate. The Morphos smelled it and flitted away. Mrs. Fitzmorris ran to the house and into the arms of her husband.

    Marny, on the other hand, was infuriated. Her plan backfired. Her mother was alive, and she had lost her prized pets. She ran into the garden with a butterfly net, but tripped over a sprinkler and scraped her knee. The butterflies smelled her blood before Marny even realized she was injured.

    Twenty she had released in all. Dr. Fitzmorris managed to capture eighteen. For research purposes he kept them alive in his laboratory at the university. Marny, spared death thanks to her father and forgiven by both parents for her misdeed, visited the butterflies regularly. Dr. Fitzmorris insisted she wear a lab coat over her ridiculous outfits.

    Currently it is not known whether there is a breeding population of Morpho sanguinalis in the Northwest Territories. An occasional sighting is reported, but no proof.

    If you suspect you have seen or have been a victim of Morpho sanguinalis, and have lived to tell the tale, report to your local emergency room immediately. Mandatory quarantine and a series of blood transfusions will be necessary.

    Julie Jansen resides in Olympia, Washington where she spends the dark, rainy days of winter huddled over her laptop writing creepy little stories. Her stories have appeared in Nature, The Harrow, and Black Petals Magazine.
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