They Have Arrived

They’re back.  The Monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, are now wafting through Central Texas, orange and black wings gracefully flit against the Texas sun before alighting at blooming plants for nourishment, sustaining their long flight, continuing their annual life cycle.

Like so many of us, Monarchs face an uncertain future:  climate change, deforestation in Mexico, overuse of pesticides and herbicides in urban gardening and commercial farming in the United States are just some of the challenges to a viable population of these insects.

I am joyful at the first Monarch sighting in spring and then again, in autumn.  Currently, my garden offers a diversity of flowering plants–native and nonnative–in which the butterflies nectar from before they move southward toward their winter home.  In autumn, it’s all about providing blooming flowers for these hungry, hungry butterflies.

In spring, the availability of milkweed (Monarchs’ host plant) is paramount for the hungry, hungry caterpillars.

Female Monarch on Frostweed (Verbesina virginica)

This generation of adults are those last born in the northern parts of the United States and Canada and are now headed to Mexico.

Female Monarch on Plateau goldeneye (Viguiera dentata)

Once these remarkable insects arrive at their destination, they will gather in dramatic clusters by the millions, high up in the Oyamel fir forests of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. The unique situation offers cold temperatures and high humidity during the winter–the evolved perfect environment for Monarchs’ winter rest.

Male Monarch on Frostweed. The two black marks located on the hind wings, plus thinner black webbing indicate a male.

The adults who overwinter in Mexico are those who will return through Texas (the major migration pathway) next March, laying eggs on a variety of native milkweed plants.  That first (or is it the last?) generation begins the life cycle all over again: adults mate, females lay eggs, the adults then die.  Eggs hatch, caterpillars eat the milkweed, morph to the next generation, the flights resume.  The ancient rhythm continues in leap-frog fashion, northward through spring and into summer.

Female Monarch on Skyflower (Datura erecta)

At some point in August, six generations later, because of a change in light and through a magnetic pull that the Monarchs have responded to for eons, the last set of adults turn southward and begin their 2000 mile journey toward the Mexican mountain firs which await winged occupation.

Stopping briefly as they migrate to Mexico, Monarchs are enjoying a respite in my garden; the first of many arrived a couple of days ago.

I am an appreciative witness to this natural event.

I’m joining today with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.   Check out her beautiful Flutter and Hum for musings of various sorts.

 

Bedraggled

Hey man, we’ve all been there.

The cord  (also attached to the limb) spans the length from the tree to the roof of my house and is where the sunflower and peanut feeders hang.

This giggle-worthy scene played out beyond my less-than-pristine kitchen window last Sunday afternoon.  I took the photo from inside the house, understanding that if I ventured outdoors, Mr. Lazybones would skedaddle, which he did anyway, just after I took the shot.

I often see squirrels stretch themselves out, aligning their bodies vertically along branches, but this particular gymnastic straddling is a first that I’ve witnessed.  I guess this little dude likes doing things his own way.

Good for him.

Joining today with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.   Check out her beautiful Flutter and Hum for musings of various sorts.

 

Too Hot, Too Cool

Truthfully, I haven’t had the courage to follow too closely, but here in Austin, we’re at about 30 days of over 100º F for this summer, with most of those days occurring in August.  I’m ready to pull the plug on the August oven, but I’m having trouble finding the cord.

The garden is holding up well, even with afternoon heat which delivers a tired, wilted look–for both garden and gardener.   August in Texas is always hot, but thankfully it also ushers in the cool purpling of the American beautyberry, Callicarpa americana.

The diminutive pink beautyberry blooms of June are long gone and the replacement purple fruits will remain until birds eat or cold withers–which ever happens first.

Autumn is coming–eventually.  The cool of the purple must suffice and for now, that’s enough.

Joining today with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.   Check out her beautiful Flutter and Hum for musings of various sorts.