That first morning, I noticed a wheel bug moving. Relocating, so to speak, to better hunting grounds. It delicately walked from one stem to another, going across a bridge of leaves. Then, while I continued to watch, it settled into a spot on the underside of a leaf, in the shade. (Menacing music commences.)
I got distracted by other photo opportunities and soon left the area.
That evening as I walked by the plant, I noticed a hapless Delaware skipper caught in the wheel bug's embrace, kicking feebly as its life was literally sucked out of it.
When I checked tonight, the wheel bug (or another just like it) was still there, walking majestically around its plant kingdom. There were now 4 carcasses below the plant: the monarch, 2 Delaware skippers, and an orange sulfur. Who knows how many other remains are there, camoflaged against the brown of the mulch.
Who knew organic gardening could be so vicariously violent? It's a sobering reminder that life isn't always pretty, even the life of beautiful, "harmless" animals like the monarch butterfly.