Trav’lin Monarchs

As of this past weekend, migrating Monarchs are gone from my gardens.  We received our strongest cold front of the season and like other winged migrators, Monarchs hitch a ride on those strong winds heading southward. I did visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center over the weekend and saw busily nectaring Monarchs there–maybe those were some that left my garden a day or two before.  While the Monarchs’ migratory patterns and their winter habitat are seriously threatened, causing concern for the future of this North American species, I was gratified to host Monarchs in my gardens over the past few weeks. Every afternoon, there were several, …sipping and sharing with other pollinators.

The perennials in my gardens cooperated, supplying blooms galore for the Monarchs’ winter needs.  They especially enjoyed the blooms of the Frostweed, Verbesina virginica.

Any migration worth its mileage will have both males and females along for the adventure. How do you know whether it’s a boy Monarch or a girl Monarch?  The male Monarchs tend to have thinner wing veins than females, therefore are lighter in color. More easily observed though are the black spots on the hind wings which have pheromones which attract the ladies.  Can you see the black spot in this photo?

It’s located on  the underside of the hind wing, just above where the “B” for the label is.


In this photo with wings spread, the gentleman’s black spots are to the left of the label.

This Monarch, dining on nectar of the Gregg’s MistflowerConoclinium greggii, …is female.  As is the one below, sipping on a  Blue MistflowerConoclinium coelestinum.

There are no discernible spots on either, so they are female.  Read here and here for a couple of excellent tutorials on sexing Monarchs.

I wish good travels to the Monarchs out there and safe harbor in the mountains of Mexico. I’ll await your return in the spring, with blooms ready to help continue your remarkable life cycle.


14 thoughts on “Trav’lin Monarchs

  1. Well. It seems I recall quite a while back when you wrote here that one of the reasons you were keeping an eye on the wildlife was to improve your photographic skills. I’d say, Job Done! These photos are great. Speaking of seeing – I’m seeing more monarchs on this post than I did in my garden this year. There were typically a few going by overhead, but few takers for the blooms here. Yet. I take that as encouragement to keep swapping out plants, until I catch their (and other butterfly’s) attention!


    • Well, gosh, thank you! I’m working on that photography thing, sometimes I hit the sweet spot, sometimes not. I did splurge a buy myself a new camera, which helps primarily with distance shots (if I stay calm and don’t get too excited that I’m shooting something) and the macro shots. The macro is where I think I’ve made the most progress. I still need time to really study the manual, then practice with intention–that seems to be where I lack time.

      I’m sorry you didn’t have many monarchs through your gardens. After all my whining and gnashing-of-teeth, they relented and visited–not in droves, but enough to make me feel better. They were definitely interested in nectaring and the frostweed and mistflowers were at the top of their dining choices. Overall, though, I don’t have all that many butterflies and definitely not as many as once visited.


  2. Beautiful images. I really like the orange and black of the butterfly on the white frostweed. I am really interested in seeing the Monarch numbers this year. I saw so very few all year (spring and fall) and yet kept hearing reports from various places about a moderate improvement.


    • Thank you! Frostweed is really easy to grow–I can’t really take any credit for that. Milkweed isn’t so easy; don’t feel bad. It takes time from seed and the native to Central Texas is hard to germinate. I always purchase my tropical milkweed, in either 4 inch or gallon pots–whatever is available. Good luck!


  3. That’s so encouraging, Tina! I saw my last monarchs three weeks ago, and I was surprised to see them that late. There’s something sweet about comparing notes with others who garden for wildlife and track the progress of migrating species. It helps to show the big picture of how we’re all in this together. 🙂 Great captures!


    • I’ve seen more this fall than in several years. It is gratifying to know that your garden choices helped them in Wisconsin, mine are helping them as they pass through Texas and there were others in between. The purposeful and conscious planting of milkweed and other nectar wildflowers throughout their range will serve to keep this species from declining.

      I read last week that the first Monarchs crossed the border into Mexico for the last 500 miles of their trek. I did see one this morning, briefly, and understand that there are quite a few in South Austin gardens, but they’ll be gone soon. It’s been a gift to have so many this year.


  4. I had never even heard of a Monarch butterfly until I started blogging. What a privilege to have these magnificent butterflies in your garden. It is a treat to look at your lovely photos. Thank you.


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