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.