A stunning male Eastern Black Swallowtail spent the afternoon in our garden, mostly drinking nectar at the Butterfly Bushes, but also the Mexican Sunflowers.
Hooray for the warm butterfly days of August <3
Ventral, or under, wing view
With wonderfully exuberant pollinator friendly flower clusters atop 7 -12 foot tall stalks, what is not to love! Plant Joe-pye in a sunny location at the back of the border and enjoy the array of bees and butterflies that will flock to the nectar-rich blossoms.
More reasons to love Joe-pye is that it is low maintenance, attracts pollinators, is deer resistant, not flattened by rain, not bothered by diseases, blooms when Monarchs are on the wing, and is super easy to grow.
Coming in for a landing
Newly eclosed female in the petunia patchYou can tell she is a female Monarch because of her smokier and thicker wing venation. The male’s wing veins are narrower . The male also sports to black dots, or sacs, one on each hind wing. The sacs are filled with a pheromone, which the male sprinkles on the female during courtship. If she is receptive, the pair will mate. The pheromones are sometimes referred to by scientists as “love dust.”
In the above photo taken during the fall migration last year, you can easily see the difference. The female is on the left, the male on the right.
Dear Monarch Friends,
Last week the short film about Monarchs created for the Sawyer Free Library children’s program had lots of interest. The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch! finished its run at the SFLibrary and I thought I would love to share it with you and the youngest members of your family. Many, many thanks to Justine Vitale, Sawyer Free Library Department Supervisor, for encouraging me to create this short film for children!!
At about four minutes in, Charlotte demonstrates an uncomplicated and fun method of raising Monarchs caterpillars. She has been doing this with me since she was two, and you can see how simple it is to set up a terrarium.
The number of Monarchs in gardens, meadows and dunes over the past month has been nothing but extraordinary. Simply going no further than on our front porch and in my garden (not quite recovered from broken leg yet), I have photographed countless females depositing eggs along with many battles of male to male combat as they stake out their patch of wildflowers and milkweed while patrolling for females.
Battle Royale over the Joe-pye wildflower (Eupatorium). What makes this patch of Joe-Pye so attractive to the males is that is it located adjacent to a patch of Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate)
Over the past few days, the Monarchs have been settling down a bit, which happens every year toward the mid to end of August. I think the butterflies we have been seeing battling and depositing eggs may be the parents of the Methuselah Monarchs. This newly emerging batch of caterpillars may very well be the generation of Super Monarchs, the ones that journey to Mexico.
I am so hopeful for the future of this tiny marvel of nature. I hope The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch is easy for your youngsters to follow along and to understand, and also provides you with some tips on how we can all help the butterflies. Safe travels Monarchs!
My goodness, I don’t recall a July like this in forever. The females are depositing eggs on leaves, buds, and for the first time that I have ever observed, today depositing eggs on seedpods! Not sure if I captured that but will post if so.
Female Monarch depositing egg, left, drinking nectar, right
Please join me, along with the youngest members of your family. I have created a short film for Cape Ann young people for the Sawyer Free Library titled The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch – here is the link and more information: August 3rd – August 6th, Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 to 10:30. Children’s Services Summer Reading Program “Tails and Tales” presents Monarch Butterflies with Kim Smith! Kim created a short film and virtual presentation to share these beautiful creatures with children and families, and see how Gloucester is a part of their amazing migration journey! Register here and we will send you the link to enjoy this presentation throughout the week starting Tuesday August 3rd.
While sitting in my garden watching the female Monarchs bump into each other in their eagerness to deposit eggs, our resident Mama Ruby-throated Hummingbird stopped by for her (at least) three times daily sips of nectar from the native honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton.’ At this time of year she’s also drinking nectar from the Rose of Sharon, Mexican Sunflowers, Zinnias, Cardinal Climber, and several other species of honeysuckle.
I would love locate her nest, but it’s such a jungle of pollinator plants in my garden I know I’ll never find it. Ruby-throated hummingbirds nest are about the size of a walnut half and the egg, only as big as 8mm pearls.
The exquisite Greek Revival architecture of The Mary Prentiss Inn complements perfectly our lively pollinator paradise, bursting with blossoms and bees. We’ve layered the garden in an array of nectar-rich perennials and annuals that bloom from spring through fall and the garden has become mecca for neighborhood pollinators (including seed-seeking songbirds).
Plant for the pollinators and they will come!
Perfectly lovely prior to turning the old garden into a pollinator paradise, but everyone agreed, it was time for a change.