Thursday, August 6, 2009

Monarch magic

For a long time (4-5 weeks) there was a single Monarch that every day circled about the Ring bed. It flitted from one patch of zinnias to another. Sometimes it would foray into the Arbor garden and visit the coneflowers, but for the most part it hung around (literally) back in the Ring. It had no friend and led a lonely, circular existence.

This past Saturday some friends and I returned from a trip to a local flea market. Neither of them had been here in a while and requested the 'grand tour'. (Twist my arm because you know I'm soooo shy about showing the flowers...LOL). Anyhoo Dave had brought his camera (way better than mine) and began snapping pics. Suddenly I realized that there was a SECOND monarch in the ring! Woohoo.

Dave snapped a pic as it flitted NOT around the zins, but on a patch of milkweed. We watched and were excited when we realized it was a SHE and she was laying eggs! Click on the pic and see the tiny egg to the left of her feet. We watched her for a while. Over the next couple of days more Monarchs came, mated, and visited my 3 varieties of milkweed. There are little eggs everywhere!

Then, they all seem to have vanished. Even 'solitary guy' hasn't been circling. How odd. Is this normal? (Update! He's back, circling again, and just as solitary.)

(Addendum 8/10: I've gone to Wikipedia and there is a very good overview of the Monarchs and their reproduction cycles.)

I've spotted quite a few types of butterflies this year. I think I saw most of them last year like the lovely Tiger Swallowtail. Sometimes I see 2 or 3 a day. They really like the coneflowers and will sip for 5-10 minutes on a single flower. They are also about the only ones to frequent my zonal geraniums.

This is the first year I've seen a Great Spangled Fritillary. At first glance I thought it was another Monarch, but quickly saw the difference in coloration. I've only seen this one, but it has been here for several weeks now. It's mostly on the zins. Today I just noticed that a patch of violets under one of my rhodys has been eaten to shreds. Yay! (Violets are host plants for them.)

And here is another new siting this year: a very tiny, unidentified skipper. It's only just bigger than a honeybee. I've seen several of them over the past week so perhaps I have a host plant somewhere in the gardens. I've seen it on the zins a lot. (Note: 8/30 This was identified as a Yellowpatch Skipper and since the initial siting there are now many dozens of these little guys.)

There are a few Clouded Sulfurs too. There are many of their hosts plants here: milkweed, coneflowers, butterfly bush, dandelion (oh yeah!).

I've also enjoyed seeing a couple of little blue Summer Azures and some Silver-spotted Skippers (pic to the right). And, before the phlox was cut back to force some rebloom, they attracted the attention of a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth.

Let's not forget the Eastern Black Swallowtails - they seem to come and go, here for a day or two then maybe back the next week. As if they don't want to wear out their welcome.

And it goes without saying, lots of the ubiquitous Cabbage Butterflies. You can always count on them! Actually I've really enjoyed them these past few years since I've given up growing host vegetables like cabbage and broccoli. LOL

And here's another mystery guest. A smoky colored butterfly a little larger than the Summer Azure. It appeared later in August. (Note: 8/30 - This butterfly was identified as a Common Sootywing. It returned mid-September.)

And here's another beauty: an American Painted Lady. It doesn't visit often, but when it does it stays all day and visits lots of zins.

I once saw a Question Mark resting on some fresh mulch this year, and last year I spied a Red Spotted Purple in the rhodys.

I have always had butterflies in my gardens, but since I've been installing many more bee forage plants in the beds, I'm seeing a lot more. And there has been a marked increase in moths, dragonflies and birds. Even interesting wasps this year (another post, I promise).

It's wonderful at the end of a gardening day to find a little time to sip a tall iced tea and just sit and watch the action and listen to the gardens hum.


  1. You guys are wonderful people! I never notice butterflies in my garden. Maybe I should learn to pay more attention to these little creatures.
    Great pictures as always, Kris.

  2. I hope you have a lot of butterflies in your garden, Xuan. And you most likely have entirely different types than we do in my area. Would love to see some pics of them on your beautiful flowers. :-D

  3. I've started noticing more butterflies this past week as well! I'll have to keep an eye out for eggs on the plants they're visiting most. Beautiful pics!

  4. Jeph, yeah I think the butterfly population as increased since mid-July. Either the warmth or the maturity of their host plants is making them more active/visible. I'm going to have to research and see when the Monarch eggs might hatch into cats...


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