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The Felix Files: Conclusion

My daughter's drawing of Felix in both his hornworm and moth forms.

**Please note this post is a little sad, which is why it took me a while to feel ready to write it.

Weeks passed with Felix in his pupae stage. Every now and then I checked to make sure he was still alive by watching for telltale wiggles. We also had to mist down his enclosure to make sure the soil didn't become too dry.

One night I went to check as always and to my surprise I saw that the end of the pupal case had popped off. Felix was hatching! I was so excited that I took a picture and posted it to an entomology group to ask if there was anything else I should be doing to make sure his hatch went as smoothly as possible. Unfortunately, my excitement soon plummeted. Someone in the entomology group commented that Felix was hatching backwards, and likely would not survive.

Was this how it would end? I couldn't believe we had followed Felix's whole journey only to have him die right at the end of his metamorphosis. It was just too sad. I asked the entomologists if there was anything at all I could do. They said we could remove the pupal casing ourselves, but that Felix would likely be severely deformed (hatching backwards indicates major problems) and would not make it.

Well, we had to try. If we didn't remove him from the case, he would die anyway. If we did it, he might still have a chance. My husband has some of the steadiest hands I know, so with the help of a scalpel, a dental scraper, and a tiny pair of scissors, he meticulously cut away the rest of the pupal case. I was amazed he was able to do it without damaging Felix.

Felix was out. He was alive. I marveled at how pretty his orange spots were. But it was clear something was wrong. He wasn't unfolding his wings. As we inspected more closely, we realized he had no movement at all in his wings or back legs. My heart broke. A moth who couldn't fly wasn't going to make it.

In the morning, Felix was still alive and still in the same condition, in spite of how I hoped his little moth body might work the way it was supposed to. We showed him to my daughter, who was very happy to see he had hatched, but also concerned because we had told her all along that we would have to say goodbye once Felix became a moth. We also explained that Felix's wings weren't working. She said, "He's kind of creepy and gross, but I love him anyway." Bless her. She also said he must have tried really hard to be orange since he knew it was her favorite color.

We took Felix to a covered planter in the garden to let nature take its course, thinking he would probably enjoy being outside for his last moments rather than stuck in a plastic container. 3 days passed, and Felix was still alive, just hanging out in the planter. He looked surprisingly spry in spite of the fact that half of his body didn't work, and was even crawling around with his good legs and hanging onto the plants. I was amazed he survived at all, and started giving him sugar water and fruit juice-- I certainly wasn't going to starve him!

After a little more than a week, Felix found his angel wings. The average lifespan for a hawk moth is only two weeks, so it's surprising he managed to live out half of his lifespan in spite of his challenges. That little creature taught us a lot in the short time we had him, and I'm honored we got to know him. Goodbye Felix. You were a cool little guy from beginning to end, and probably more loved than any insect has ever been.

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