Dawn Chorus, 2021
76 x 121 cm
Acrylic on canvas
Over the years of this process of parasitism, wasp genomes have invaded the butterfly DNA, altering it permanently. The symbiotic bracovirus has gradually evolved the monarch butterfly, granting resistance to baculovirus pathogens. The DNA structure of this butterfly will forever contain the genome of the wasp and its virus.
When young, monarch caterpillars feed off poisonous milkweed, slowly build an immunity to the toxins. This is a defence mechanism to deter predators, at the price of poisoning the caterpillar more and more as time goes on. When metamorphosis begins, these toxins are also digested and reformed along with the rest of the caterpillar, binding to these cells and becoming part of the now poisonous butterfly.