Thread: Insects
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Old 2020-09-05, 23:38   #23
Dr Sardonicus
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Feb 2017

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Default Autumn is in the air...

The butterflies I am accustomed to see starting in late Spring were nearly absent locally this year until well into July. There was a steady dribble of some of the common smaller butterflies, but, apart from a few sightings early on, the larger butterfly species just weren't around.

There was one exception to this, however. Thanks to the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) I planted by my front steps last year, and which grew at least seven feet tall and spread by underground runners this year, I had many visits by Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). Female monarchs laid eggs on the leaves, and the caterpillars came out at dusk to feed. (There had been a few Monarch caterpillars last year, but last year there were only a couple of stalks, and they weren't very tall.) This year the Milkweed also bloomed, and Monarchs fed at the flowers, which are very fragrant.

The other large butterflies finally showed up starting around mid-July, and the Monarchs kept coming. And kept laying eggs. I saw female Monarchs landing on the Milkweed I'd transplanted to my back yard from "starts" that had spread too far in my front yard. Those plants won't bloom until next year, so I knew the butterflies weren't feeding.

As the summer wore on, the Monarchs began feeding more on my other flowers. And today (September 5) one of these, feeding on some Zinnias, caught my eye. First, I noticed it was a female, a bit more brown than orange in the range of color variations, and was a bit the worse for wear. Its wings were a bit frayed around the edges.

Then, I noticed a discolored spot on the outside of its L hind wing. Approaching slowly from behind allowed me to get a close look. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a round white plastic tag! The printing on it identified it as part of the Monarch Watch tagging program.

The fall migration of Monarch butterflies is underway!
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