Northward Migrating Monarch Butterflies Arrive to Good Harbor Beach and to Our Garden!

While snapping a photo of the divinely scented honeysuckle embowering the outside shower…
Honeysuckle embowered shower enclosure Lonicera japonica 'Purpurea'

I spotted our first female Monarch butterfly of the season.

Monarch Butterfly Marsh MilkweedShe’s arrived a bit earlier than usual this year, or more accurately, the milkweeds in our garden are slightly behind in blossoming time-Marsh Milkweed won’t bloom for another half-week and Common Milkweed won’t flower for another two weeks (both milkweed patches are growing nearby the shower enclosure). However, she did not have nectaring in mind.

Monarch Butterfly Marsh MilkweedPausing at the emerging buds and foliage of the Marsh Milkweed, then to the Common Milkweed, then back to Marsh, and curling her abdomen to the underside, one by one she oviposited golden egg after golden egg.

Monarch Butterfly depositing egg on Marsh Milkweed

Monarch Butterfly depositing egg on Marsh Milkweed

Typically, she searches for the uppermost, freshly emerging foliage in which to deposit her eggs. Click the above photo to make it larger. The newly deposited egg, no larger than the size of a pinhead, is a visible pale yellow dot adjacent to her abdomen.

Monarch Butterfly Marsh MilkweedAfter ovipositing an egg on the Marsh Milkweed, she next deposited several on the Common.

Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Monarch Butterfly Eggs

Click the above photo. Five eggs are visible, two on the upper leaf of the plant to the left and three on the upper leaf of the plant to the right.

I never tire of watching butterflies, especially Monarchs, whether in our garden or further afield, and eagerly anticipate their arrival each year. Monarchs are particularly gratifying to observe and record because they are one of the larger butterflies that grace our region. Oftentimes when I am photographing a smaller butterfly such as a Summer Azure, with a mere one-inch wingspan, I don’t know what I have captured through the camera’s lens until returning to the computer to download and edit. Monarchs, with their big and bold wing patterning and approachableness (is that a word?) are a joy to photograph. Because of their extraordinary migration, I believe the Monarch butterflies are one of the natural wonders of the world. We are so blessed to live in a community that plays host to such great numbers. PLANT MILKWEED and you, too, will have Monarchs! I guarentee it!

ommon Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Good Harbor Beach GloucesterCommon Milkweed in full bloom at Good Harbor Beach this week.

ommon Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Good Harbor Beach Gloucester

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) found along the shoreline grows in sandy soil and is exposed daily to windy seaside conditions. In these rough and tumble conditions it typically grows two- to two and a half -feet tall. Conversely, where in our garden it grows in fertile, friable soil and lives in a sheltered corner protected from wind, Common Milkweed often grows six to seven feet tall.

Walking along the boardwalk I often catch the sweet honey-hay fragrance of the Common Milkweed when in full bloom. Marsh Milkweed has little to no fragrance. Several Monarchs were seen while photographing this patch of milkweed.

ommon Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Good Harbor Beach Gloucester

Torch Lily (Kniphofia uvaria)Blooming along the pathway leading to the outdoor shower is the magnificent hummingbird attractant Torch Lily (Kniphofia uvaria) and bee magnet Helenium, commonly called Sneezeweed or Dog Tooth Daisy.

Helenium Sneezeweed Dog Tooth Daisy Mexican marigolds Tagetes tenuifolia

The foliage of the diminutive Mexican marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia), commonly referred to by the Mexican people as “flowers of the dead,” bears a fabulous spicy citrus fragrance. Flowers and foliage are edible and add both a tangy color and taste. I grow it in a pot, keeping it sometimes near the shower and sometimes moving it to the dining area.

The female Monarch stayed the morning and I have not seen her since. Lucky us, though. I found fifteen eggs, without really trying too hard, and will now have lots of caterpillars and chyrsalids for upcoming butterfly programs!

End Note regarding Japanese honeysuckle: The variety discussed here is a purple-stemmed variant and I have seen it written as Lonicera japonica var. repens and Lonicera japonica ‘Purpurea.’ In our zone 6 garden, I have found it to be well-behaved, neither bearing fruit nor sending runners. I do not recommend planting in zones 7 and above.  Lonicera ‘Purpurea is highly attractive to all manner of bees. As richly scented as the species, the blossoming time of L. ‘Purpurea’ lasts well over six weeks, equating weeks of showering while enwrapped in the spellbinding sweet scent of honeysuckle.

Lonicera japonica var. repens or Lonicera japonica 'Purpurea'Lonicera japonica var. repens or Lonicera japonica ‘Purpurea’

2 thoughts on “Northward Migrating Monarch Butterflies Arrive to Good Harbor Beach and to Our Garden!

  1. kimsmithdesigns Post author

    Kim: Wonderful! (News & pix) I haven’t seen a single monarch (or other butterflies) in our yard yet this year, & we have zillions of “common” milkweeds IN BLOOM. Guess they’ll be here in a day or so. I thought they were LATE, & was secretly worried that those monster tornados down south had caught & demolished them! Such relief. And your egg pix are super…you must have a NEAT garden to be able to get such good shots. Ours is such a big jumble of milkweeds asters, goldenrod, queen ann’s lace, etc (the “weed” garden) that it’s difficult to get through when I’m looking for eggs or teeny caterpillars….

    Thanks for sending! Ann Gloucester

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  2. kimsmithdesigns Post author

    From Bruce: hi, I’d recommend care in planting common Milkweed. I planted some and it is really hard to get rid of – pretty invasive in my mind. Some near my driveway keeps trying to come up through the driveway (and succeeding!). I keep dousing it with vinegar, salt and hot sauce. We got monarchs last year which was nice, and I still have some other milkweeds in another section of yard, but people should take great care when planting it… my 2 cents 🙂 thanks, Bruce (hoping for more monarchs, but wanting milkweeds to behave!)

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