I did not see Odius H. for three months. Then, one rather warm morning in June, my assistant announced him. She looked startled. I didn’t understand why until Odius H. walked in. At first I thought it was a joke. I gave my assistant a harsh look. She merely shrugged her shoulders and left.
In front of me was a large, dramatically beautiful butterfly. This could not be Odius H., of that I was confident. I was a creature of science. In my world there were no miracles. The butterfly began to speak of his fears about the tachinid fly. Then I realized this was, in fact, my former patient.
- Odius H. now had a shorter body. He lacked the many segments and spines he had as a caterpillar. His head was more defined, with a large pair of eyes and a pair of antennae. Instead of mandibles, he now had a proboscis, a tube-shaped feeding feature that formed a spiral under his mouth. The segments he once had in his mid-body section were fused together into a rounded shape. He referred to it as his thorax. Three pairs of walking legs were attached to the thorax. Behind it was the abdomen, which was shaped like a coffin and still had clearly marked segments.
- Most spectacularly, Odius H. now had wings on the back of the thorax. Where there had once been orangish spines, there were four beautifully scalloped wings. There was a pair of forewings, and a pair of hindwings. The span of the larger forewings was between 11.4 and 12.0 cm. The upper side of the wings, particularly the forewings, was a rich orange color in the central region nearest the body. Around the edges the color darkened to brown-black. The outer corner of each forewing had a distinctive, single white dot. The undersides of the wings were less showy. They were lighter in color and more patterned. The pattern looked remarkably like dead leaves. I blinked several times. The wings did not go away. Miracles, it seemed, did happen. I could only shake my head.
Habitat and Food
- With wings Odius H. was no longer dependent on his host plant, the Cecropia. He now flew along the top of the forest, the forest canopy. He told me he was an extremely fast and alert flier. When he wanted to rest, he would alight on tree trunks and fold his wings over his back, with the undersides showing. He did that to resemble dead leaves and protect himself. Around midday he would often return to the host plant. He would fly around it or perch on it. Females would also come by, and this often resulted in a few moments of "courtship," as he referred to it. We know what he meant.
- He came down to ground level only to feed. Even his eating habits had changed. No longer did he nibble on the undersides of Cecropia leaves. He now fed on fruits. Mostly they were rotting fruits, such as wild fig, jagua, níspero, jobo, and mango. He didn’t feed on flowers. Since he ate mostly fruits, he was now a frugivore. He admitted he sometimes fed on dung (animal droppings). He took the food in with the strawlike proboscis extending from his mouth. For that reason the food had to be in a more or less liquid form. Aided by his antennae, he seemed to be very good at finding food. He apparently located it by smell. This is how it worked: when he was hungry, he would do a sailing flight, crisscrossing the general food area. He would perch several times before actually zeroing in on food and feeding.
- The Historis odius population, Odius H reported, was destroyed. For every ten caterpillars that he knew, only one survived into the pupal stage. This is the intermediary stage between caterpillar and butterfly. I will explain it in greater detail in my notes in the Research section. He could count on his wings the number of Historis odius butterflies he knew to be alive. It was his impression—one could say his obsession—that he didn’t have long for this world.
- Obviously, Odius H.’s dreams of great beauty and flight were not impossible dreams after all (to my embarrassment, I must admit). He seemed quite happy with his appearance, particularly his wings, and with his ability to fly. He was a much more confident creature than he had been as a caterpillar.
- His fear dreams about the tachinid flies had not gone away. Added to that, he had an irrational fear of death. He was constantly looking around to make sure no flies were nearby. He admitted he never actually saw a fly kill a caterpillar or butterfly, but he stubbornly insisted they were the cause of the deaths. He wanted to know if I could destroy the flies. I could not. I still felt he was being paranoid. Yet I was no longer so confident. After all, I had been completely wrong about his first dream. I told him I would research the matter. I asked him to come back the following week.
He did not seem to feel better after this session. He did agree to come back.