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.


They’re Coming! It’s Coming!

Last week while winging my way home from Oregon, I read this article on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Facebook page. The article, from The Atlantic CityLab, by John Metcalfe, discusses a weird “cloud” moving southward into and through the mid-western states. Meteorologists realized that the “cloud” is actually swarms of migrating Monarchs. They’re coming! By the thousands and thousands, so it seems.  After the steep decline of the Monarch butterfly species in the past two decades, for this season at least, the numbers appear stronger than in recent years.  Not as strong as they should be, but better than they’ve been. I hope this might indicate that the population of this iconic and unofficially threatened North American butterfly, is on a rebound.  Considering the threats to their habitats and migration routes, time will tell whether this butterfly species will survive.

I’ve only seen a couple of Monarchs here in Austin, but am heartened by this news. Truly, truly heartened.  My garden is flush with blooms of all sorts, so I hope these lovely insects will stop by for a visit, a sip and a re-fuel as they make their way to Mexico.

I doubt this dude is waiting for Monarchs, but what could he be waiting for?

Maybe for Wildlife Wednesday and his chance to shine in the garden blogosphere? Wildlife Wednesday, which is this Wednesday, October 1, showcases the wild and wonderful critters in our gardens. On the first Wednesday of each month, garden bloggers are welcome to join with me in sharing photos and stories about wildlife in our gardens: the flighty, fluttery, creepy, and crawly who are essential to the purpose of a garden.

Be there or be square.  Wildlife Wednesday, this coming Wednesday, October 1.