The 2016 Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project Page

NOTE: This page is posted with updates in chronological order, so for updated news, please scroll toward the bottom to locate the date of the entry you're looking for.

Here's a link to my site page on MLMP actual.

Migration monitoring map:

Monarch Butterfly Migration Map

Oddly enough, it's May 10 as of this postscript with the map and I haven't seen any monarchs in Enid yet. Hmmm.
Okay, May 12 UPDATE on sighting: Went to Dillingham Garden near Government Springs Park to see what their butterflies might look like and I didn't even see much by way of bees there, either, though many things were in bloom. Saw one Sulfur and one Cabbage....and Monarch, which I was hoping would stop to feed so I could take its picture, but it didn't stop at all.  About to give up entirely, a second Monarch followed the first, and disappeared in the same direction, also not bothering to stop for refreshments either.  Conclusion: what Monarchs come to Enid in the spring are just on their way to elsewhere.  I just know that they will tarry when fall migration kicks in.

My New Year's Resolution is getting off to a good start on my monarchs project right here on what's registered as MLMP Site 2519.  I'm supposed to monitor rainfall via a rain gauge, but since it's still freezy around here I haven't put it out and will rely on official rainfall reports until I can put my own gauge out again.

This year is going to be different because my gardening efforts include sprouting varieties of milkweed that are NOT the ubiquitous honeyvine, and with regard to the honeyvine, which didn't produce much seed last year, I'm going to be out and about gathering blooms from honeyvine found outside city limits and such to ensure proper cross-pollination on the ones I've got, as I'm certain they're pretty much inbred at this point.

I don't start any seeds indoors before Valentine's Day, though, because before then, the hours of daylight are still too short for sprouts to thrive in.  Valentine's Day is when I start my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, so I'll be starting my milkweeds indoors on that date as well.

But Valentine's is not far away at this point, as of this posting, and so preparations for seed starting have already commenced.  As is the case with starting asparagus from seed, starting milkweeds from seeds are best accomplished with deep containers because of the rooting habit, so I've commandeered a lot of discarded deep water bottles to turn 'em all into seeding pots.

What you see here are soil-filled converted water bottles with suitable drainage holes cut in the bottom, sitting inside of cleaned grocery cans, like what you buy beans or corn in (a couple are tuna cans, for the larger containers).  I thoroughly dampened the soil and put (you guessed it) discarded party beverage glasses (actually plastic) on top, inverted, over each water bottle to prevent rapid dry-out.  This is sitting on an unheated porch area, which gets as cold as it is outside all winter, and that's where I've stored the seed.  Come Valentine's Day, everything will be ready for putting the seeds in the soil, one per bottle, and then put them in a better temperature-controlled area with a nice south-facing window.  The milkweed seeds require cold over-wintering or they won't sprout at all.

So--I'm ready!!

Feb. 5 UPDATE:  I got an email from a monarch science blog I'm following, mentioning some debate among scientists as to whether or not there has been an actual decline in eastern monarch populations, as the declaration was made on the basis of the monarch decline in Mexico over winter.  That population has been definitely declining.  The blog advises to read the second link's article first, then read the blog's rebuttal afterward.  My own comment here is in regard to the article in the second link pointing out that its focus should perhaps be on the population in the progress of migrating, and that's where my back yard monitoring station becomes a critical piece of that research focus, as the monarch activity in Oklahoma is during migration season includes breeding as well as that mysterious disappearance of monarch males for me, and the disappearance of the female population observed in way stations.

What I'm going to do is bring my MLMP monitoring station up to scientific snuff to qualify as a Monarch Watch waystation, pointing out again that there are very few of these stations in Oklahoma, and most of them are in the Tulsa area.

Feb. 18 UPDATE: Didn't have much by way of Butterfly Weed seeds, so I bought a packet of Ferry Morse, and a packet of Burpee, to add to my stock, for cross pollination purposes.  Those were the first to arise already--it took them just a few days and I was expecting at least a week, possibly more, for germination.  The first ones up were Ferry Morse, but it didn't take much longer for the Burpees to come up.  I now have 6 successful germinations at this time, one of which is a wild seed gathered from New Mexico: it's a Narrowleaf Milkweed.

FM = Ferry Morse. B = Butterfly Weed
To get the seed to germinate successfully, I first created this planting into a germination chamber that looked like the following before I took the lid off:

Nothing really fancy--for depth, I repurposed a bottled-water bottle cut with ample drainage at the bottom, to be captured by the McDonald's cup down there; on the top is what was saved from last Christmas' open house events.  The bottled water was a freebie from an event, and so was the punch drinking glass. The only thing I paid for was the Ferry Morse seed packet and the McCafe beverage.

March 5 UPDATE: I definitely didn't have 100% germination on my wild seeds OR my commercial seeds, though my commercial seeds are definitely better at it.  Current survivor inventory: 5 Commons, 3 Ferry-Morse, 3 Burpee, 3 local Honeyvine, and 1 New Mexico Narrowleaf.  They average about an inch high, most with secondary & tertiary leaves set, and one Common Milkweed kind of gangly, leggy, because of its distance from the sunny window.  Had 6 casualties because of soil that was too damp, alas, but I'll begin another round of seeding before long.

Word of warning to the people starting seeds indoors: you absolutely MUST have a deep container to start plants in this early--the thriving seedlings over here may be just an inch high but their roots are already trying to exit the long water bottles I have them growing in. I'll post pictures of the kids as soon as I process 'em, so stay tuned.

Ah--here we go:

The containers that look empty actually have barely-emerging seedlings in them. You can get a visual idea of how deep the containers are with the box, but know also that the two largest containers were fashioned from coffee creamer containers; the rest are deep water bottles.  And yes--the roots of the largest ones have already outgrown the water bottles.
Here's a view of a just-emerged seedling in the box, right next to the leggy Common Milkweed seedling:

Honeyvine seedling just emerged.

March 21 Milkweed Seedling UPDATE: here's what some of the kids look like now.

Butterfly Weed seedling, Ferry-Morse
Honeyvine seedling--local
Narrowleaf  (actually, unidentified until it flowers) Milkweed seedling--Taos, New Mexico
Common Milkweed--from some Texas railroad track
Total number of various milkweed seedlings: 20.

Here's how to prepare a discarded water bottle for deployment as a milkweed container:

1) get a discarded water bottle and if you can't use the existing label to write the type of milkweed on it, just take the label off and, later, use masking tape as I've done in the previous picture, making sure to wrap it all the way around so that there's ample masking tape sticking to itself.  As you do your watering, that stuff can come off the bottle, so it's better if it sticks to itself as well as to the bottle.

The shaped water bottle can cause root difficulty, so if you can have a choice in the matter, choose bottles that are straight rather than pooked in like the one above:

These things have such thin walls that you can simply squish the top and use scissors to snip off the part where the lid screws onto.

When you're done with that step, make sure to trim the cut edge evenly to remove any tapered part. It'll just get in the way.

Next, you'll need to put drainage holes in the bottom. Not as easy as it looks because the plastic thickness at the bottom is a bit thicker than elsewhere on the bottle, but you can *maybe* still pinch a part of the bottom and still snip it, but that's not true of every water bottle.  This is what the bottom of this particular bottle looks like...

...and what I'll do is cut holes in every OTHER lobe of the base.  This bottle's base was a bit hard to pinch, though...

...and so it didn't accommodate scissors effectively, either.  But Plan B worked out just dandy...

...dikes.  Okay, call 'em "wire clippers" if you're queasy about the traditional nickname, but they've had that nickname for a long, long time--the same way that a tapered round file has always gone by the nickname "bastard".  Deal with it.

While the outer surface of the bottle is still clean and dry, apply the masking tape if you need to...

Fill with dirt, give the dirt a thorough soaking in room temperature water (never use water straight out of your faucet), drain well, and you're ready to put a seed in.  Don't even follow package directions to put 1/8" layer of soil on top of your seeds either--near-direct contact with sunlight is essential for successful germination, so just lay the seed down flat and push it in flush with your finger, pointy end in for that 1/8" depth, if you like; just leave the broad half exposed to sun...and yeah, that could also dry your seed out before it sprouts, too.  Well, that's why I also use the shallow clear plastic punch cups (no holes in 'em but propped up a bit to allow just a little air flow to discourage mold) to cover the bottles at first.

It's true that if the soil stays too damp for too long, mold will overtake the seed and kill it.  It is also true that if the seed germinates and the soil stays too damp for too long, the seedling will damp off, too (it'll die).  These seeds have natural timing chemistry that make germination occur at different times, too, so some will sprout in about a week and some will take longer, and some will take a lot longer.

To transplant your seedlings with a minimum of root shock, use a trowel to dig a hole that will snugly accommodate the shape of the water bottle, and you can dig the hole and use the water bottle to test for proper depth and width first.  Then with scissors, cut around the bottom so that the bottom falls off first.  Holding the bottomless bottle with seedling in the palm of your hand, cut top to bottom (or bottom to top, whatever).  Rotate the bottle 180 degrees and make another cut on the opposite side of your first cut.  Keep holding it all together as you insert it all into the hole you dug, and then carefully remove the plastic from the hole.  Water well and you're done.

March 31 UPDATE: Word just in via MLMP that the monarch monitoring season starts when the first milkweed emerges in the yard. There's one itsy bitsy problem with that in MY yard, though: one honeyvine emerged March 1 and no others have emerged since, to this date. The reason is the location of this particular vine: it's in a crack in the driveway, which accounts both for its early emergence AND the fact that it has survived 2 freezes so far.

In other news, I'm sure all monarch enthusiasts have heard the good news/bad news about Mexico: migratory monarch population increased, but then a freak winter storm produced high level of casualties.  Now this just in: non-migratory monarchs decimated by disease on tropical milkweeds. Those poor insects just can't catch a break this year, so my move into monarch ranching comes not a moment too soon. Looking forward to what I hope is a productive summer/fall of monarch raising.

Mini-UPDATE, milkweed research edition: I'm not likely to be correct on my identification of Narrowleaf Milkweed from NM because a map I looked at indicated that variety doesn't grow in NM at all.  A dead ringer {ahem} for what I've harvested that DOES grow in NM is the Horsetail Milkweed...and...the Poisonous Milkweed.  They're all poisonous to some degree or other, but that is the variety's name and I suspect it's because poisoned horses were an issue in NM with this particular variety.  For Oklahoma monarch programs, the USDA states that it's promoting the Zizotes Milkweed, the Spider Milkweed, and the Green Antelope Horn Milkweed.  The leaves of the first resemble that of the field Nightshade which sports small purple blossoms; the last two, unfortunately, resemble each other.  The only way to tell them apart is to see what the flowers look like; same is true for telling the Horsetail Milkweed from the Poisonous Milkweed.  So for now, I'll stop calling my harvested NM milkweed "Narrowleaf" and just call it, generically, "NM Milkweed" until I can sort out exactly what kind I've got.  When it blooms.

April 17 UPDATE, Honeyvine emergence edition: Yup, it finally happened with the soaking overnight rain, with 1.75 inches of rain in the gauge and counting--it's still drizzling.  I conducted a thorough examination of known Honeyvine patches and can confirm that it's the first, and only, Honeyvine to have emerged thusfar.  I expect that the rest aren't far behind; marked it with a flag.  Other butterflies have been flitting about as late, but mostly the Cabbage Butterfly, the occasional Painted Lady, and a black skipper.
Alrighty then! Taking full advantage of the extended rainy conditions to transplant the milkweed kids started in late February.  As of this addendum, there are now 14 milkweeds transplanted to yard: 5 Common, 4 Butterfly Weed, 3 New Mexico Whatchacallits, 2 Honeyvines. Not a moment too soon, either; the Commons were only about an inch and a half tall, but their roots were beginning to circle around the bottom of the container.  It wouldn't have been good if the roots got more knotted than that.  
April 18 UPDATE: more honeyvines have emerged for a total of 5 at this point. Total count of all milkweeds to date = 21. Here we go!

May 27 UPDATE long overdue, I know: People who have followed my weekly entries on the MLMP website know that I haven't been neglecting my monitoring duties. There just hasn't been much blog-wise to report, which would be in addition to my monitoring data collecting. People following my weekly data entries as well as notes on that data also know that there has been significant damage to vine milkweeds, which I logged.  I always found the damage without any obvious cause to the damage, and knowing that a couple of my neighbors get their lawns professionally sprayed, I chalked the damage up to herbicide drift...until today, because today I caught the actual culprit "red handed", as it were.  It's this infernal little fellow:

Milkweed Stem Weevil on one of my vines. They're almost everywhere.
I haven't been able to dig up an effective recipe to control these guys, so I'm gonna have to come up with my own concoction/methodology.  Nearly all of the milkweeds that have been attacked have recovered--there's that--but in terms of healthy milkweed, that thing's gotta GO. Some vines that were mere seedlings have suffered fatal damage, I'm afraid.

The "foreign" milkweeds that I've introduced by seeds gathered from Texas and New Mexico are doing just fine (so far) but those are the ones I'd worry about the most.  I started the seeds for those in February, so they're not itsy bitsy just-got-started seedlings, but though they're several months old at this point, they're still no higher than 3 inches.  I'll bet they're all busy building that deep, deep taproot they're famous for.  Nonetheless, I don't want this bug on 'em until I'm sure they're very very well and solidly established.  I'll be posting pics of them shortly.

I've also run a milkweed rescue operation of sorts. There's been honeyvine popping up in the alleyway and I can mark off only half of that per City ordinance definition of what easement I'm responsible for mowing.  Honeyvine beyond that mark I've dug up and transplanted with (so far, keeping my fingers crossed) 100% success so far.  Honeyvine has a long deep root, but it's hardly a taproot, and it appears that there was some sort of pavement over the surface of the alleyway in times past, such as would prohibit the penetration of a deep taproot anyway...and yet they grow there.  The "tap" part on a honeyvine looks more like heavy string, and if you make sure the transplant is shaded for a few days after the operation, and keep the soil just a bit moist for a while, it'll perk back up, no problem.  I'm thinking that transplanting other types of milkweed would be more problematic. (Late June note on transplanting: I just successfully transplanted 2 roadside milkweed seedlings, but the key word here is seedlings. Plants older than 1st season probably wouldn't have tolerated the root disturbance. One of the two suffered severe damage during the process, and it was the larger of the two. The smallest one didn't even wilt at all during the entire process).

So--stay tuned, pics will be posted shortly, but not of monarchs.  So far this year I've seen exactly 3 monarchs, 2 of which were at Government Springs area.  I dispatched a query about this to an OSU zoologist, who informed me that sightings have been sparse in their own monitoring patches in Stillwater.  What appears to be the case is that when we experience strong south winds in spring, what monarchs survive Mexico ride that wind all the way up to the northern tier...but it's also the case that not many monarchs survived the Mexico winter-over, thanks to that freak winter storm that struck their area down there.

But we up here have had freak weather too--it's been unusually cool for May to the point where even mosquitoes are sparse and only a handful of Junebugs have emerged (they're usually abundant by now).  Even mosquitoes are unusually sparse--today, and for the past few days, I've noticed a nighthawk flying during broad daylight, and they don't typically do that.  Their primary diet is mosquitoes. I've seen exactly ONE aphid on the milkweeds here, and that's unusual as well.

A Monarch Watch Tagging Kit was ordered, but it's not due to arrive until the first week of August, so I won't know what Monarch Watch number I was issued yet.

Here's a general idea of how I'm able to keep track of all the milkweeds, including keeping track of what week the plant emerged. The date on the ribbon indicates the week, not the exact date.  It's also true that monarchs avoid vines that successfully mature without setbacks--they prefer the tender shoots of because I'm not mowing them anymore and I have them staked, it doesn't mean I'm not judiciously pruning them as time passes.  I am, so that there will be fresh new regrowth along the length of what's left of the vine.  I pinch the tips off, and I'm thinking about doing an arrangement with them similar to espalier.  Yeah--you can indeed get creative with this plant. (Late June note on this topic: this methodology has been abandoned as of the first of June because these things were popping up everywhere, hand over fist, and a few had withered back down, apparently dying--they did re-emerge later, though--and I had committed this season to counting every single vine that emerged, for the MLMP report this season. Instead, each vine got a unique number and remained counted even if it appeared to have died back, simply because they're likely to re-emerge later. As of this note, there are 784 total milkweeds emerged, transplanted, seeded, what-have-you.)

Also setting up shop on the honeyvines: Mama Spider:

Next, a different milkweed--one that you saw earlier in this blog page in a water bottle, from a seed I started in late February, the seed from Taos NM specifically.  Something took a small bite out of one of its lower leaves, but it wasn't a caterpillar.  As you can see, it's getting along quite happily in its new location.

Here's a Butterfly Weed that came out of the water bottle planter and into the yard, quite as happily as did the others.  I did say earlier that I had over 20 seedlings started, but I have to say that a few died back after transplant and I thought it was because of what I suspected was herbicide drift from other yards.  I pulled the withered stems out of the ground,  which I should not have done because the other milkweeds similarly afflicted did indeed make a come-back after about a week of absence.  No worries, though--the seeds that I mentioned as duds (the ones that didn't sprout at all despite the best care), I dispersed along a row, treating them as if they were still viable, and lo and behold! one did miraculously resurrect from the presumed dead.

Milkweed seeds are on a widely varying timer to the point that they will germinate at a wide variety of different times throughout the growing year and may even decide to wait til the next year following before showing signs of, I'm already wise to that.  Now--all I need is for the rest of the monarchs to show up! 3 fast fly-bys don't cut it, ha.

June 4 UPDATE: The milkweed kids are starting to make growth spurts in terms of height.  Thusfar they've stayed about 3 inches high, but a few of them are now about 5 inches high--not most of them. Yet. I also hit the road toward Alva today, and was delighted to find one spot on the Enid outskirts where Antelope Horn Milkweed was growing nicely on an oil pumping area.  Those go to seed and die back as early as July, so I'm going to have to keep a close eye on that area.  Didn't see any others until I hit Alfalfa County, and that's where the Showy Milkweed showed up in abundance--and Butterfly Weed, too. Jackpot!!

Flawless specimen of Butterfly Weed on the Great Salt Plains Reserve
Flawless (and rather young) specimen of Showy Milkweed in the Great Salt Plains Reserve--and that's basically the problem. They're flawless, and not just because monarch larvae are absent. So are the aphids.
So, what's the deal with the aphids?  Monarchs are doubtless still making whoopee in the northern tier until their milkweeds die back and go dormant, thus getting forced further south from that point forward.  But where are the aphids?  The ants in my own yard are wondering about that, too, actually; the last time I surveyed my MLMP site, I saw a few ants on various milkweeds, but still no aphids in sight.  And so I did a spot check of the various Alfalfa County milkweeds I ran across--same story even for them: no monarchs, no aphids either.  Just one very puzzled flower fly:

Its a Showy Milkweed leaf he's occupying--Great Salt Plains Reserve milkweed, specifically.

I made several attempts online to identify this critter, and the closest I came to that was to identify what type of fly it is (flower fly) and that flower flies, generally speaking, produce larvae that feed on aphids. That would explain the fly's puzzlement.

One fact is clear: the absence of the aphids at this time of year is highly unusual. Hmmmm.

June 17 UPDATE: Still no monarchs, still no aphids yet, but I am now proud to announce that the Butterfly Weed seedlings I started in February are now putting on flower buds, and one is now actually blooming.

My baby is just beautiful, huh. Stature-wise, still a munchkin, but I'll wager that its newest roots are several times as long as the plant is high.  The potted Butterfly Weed I bought from OKC's TLC Nursery isn't even blooming yet, though that's covered with flower buds, too.

The colored flags you see in the pictures are the milkweed's ID number, and the flags are more or less color coded to cover 4 zones.  The 2-toned flags are Zone A (and the non-white color varies); Zones B, C, and D are solid colors in order of electronics color coding convention (B is red, C is orange, D is yellow).  After the number of milkweeds counted got above 400, ensuring that I wasn't counting the same weed twice was a challenge, so making the flags made more sense (and counting a whole lot easier).  In filing a weekly report to MLMP, I have the option of counting every milkweed or doing what they call a transect estimate.  The transect works well with Asclepias type milkweeds, no doubt, but Cynanchum Laeve doesn't stop emerging and the count is always different day to day, let alone week to week, so counting each as they continue to emerge is the only method that makes sense for this particular plant, even at this time of the year when all monarchs are still up north, in the main. (Late June note on this topic: as mentioned earlier, the count as of this note = 784 total milkweeds.)

Some gal named Peggy, in the St. Louis area, blogged that, by her observations, the monarchs actually prefer Cynanchum to Asclepia and she has a variety of Asclepias available in her yard.  Imagine that.

Here's another blog worth keeping up with: Make Way for Monarchs

June 29 UPDATE: Once upon a time, I was under the impression that a strange growth near a small patch of my Honeyvines was a disfigured Honeyvine, as it attracted aphids and otherwise seemed to exhibit Honeyvine growing habit.  But I did some online research on other members of the Cynanchum family and discovered a Mauritius variety of Cynanchum vine, a Cynanchum staubii, specifically, which fit the description of this mysterious vine to a tee.  This year, it seems to have multiplied, too, but I already pulled the vines that have emerged.  Next emergence, I won't do that and simply observe the thing and take pictures.  It's not supposed to be growing in N. America.

August 6 UPDATE: Still no sign of monarch migration to this area yet, but I've been given to understand, via Monarch Watch, that it typically begins mid-month, and it's in the first week of the month that Monarch Watch sends out its monarch tags to its participants...and I've not received mine yet.  Tulsa has announced a monarch event in celebration, and so has Blanchard. Enid? Nada.  There are a number of state parks that now have a lot more milkweeds than they used to have, and if you're interested in getting a jump on the migration regardless of when the monarch festivals are scheduled, then make a point of visiting Osage Hills State Park (and pick up a Passport while you're there, and a sticker to put in it that says you've visited that park) where there's an abundance of Antelopehorn Milkweed to watch monarchs on.

...and/or...Great Salt Plains Reserve, where somebody made a point of planting Showy Milkweed in abundance. I say that somebody made a point of planting those is because I've made repeated visits to this area over the years and this is the first time so many milkweeds were observed by me at this location, just along the Auto Tour area alone.  What grows most abundantly in Oklahoma is the Antelopehorn, and these are all Showy.

I've counted about 1,000 milkweeds in my location, nearly all of them Honeyvine, and thanks to the seeds I collected last year, germinated this year, I've learned a lot about the cultivation of the more typical milkweed, including what to do/what not to do when diebacks seem to occur, followed by a re-emergence, and so on. Just because a seed doesn't germinate when you demand it to, it doesn't mean that it's not a viable seed; just because the entirety of the greenery of a seedling appears to die all the way back to ground level, it doesn't mean that the root part is dead and won't produce new shoots even if you've waited over 2 months for it to produce. Milkweeds have some kind of a timer in their biology and it's different for each individual plant, so never give up.

Below is a picture of the remains of a Honeyvine I inadvertently pulled up during some (other) weed clearing I was doing; originally it was a couple feet long with only 3 or so root filaments attached to the bottom of the vine's stem.  I quickly coated it in rooting hormone, put it in a glass of water where it seemed happy for a few weeks...and then the leaves and stem began to shrivel and turn brown, and I gave up on it but was preserving the liquid, with the hormone in it, for the next accident should there be one.  No fresh water in the cup or anything. Two months later, I spotted new green shoots on what I presumed was a dead stem, so I trimmed the whole stem back to the point where you see in the pic, dipped it in fresh hormone, and gave it fresh water.  Amazing.

In the yard, many vines have "died" back in similar fashion, only to re-emerge months later.  This is what this vine does, and I've had experiences like that with the other types of milkweed seedlings I introduced to the yard earlier this year.  It's what they do: they're going dormant for inexplicable reasons and they're NOT actually dead.

Late August UPDATE: First monarch to arrive on the premises arrived on the 20th. Female, only one solitary butterfly. Although I now have a variety of milkweeds in the yard now, including quite a few Butterfly Weeds, what did she zoom in on? Honeyvine.  She arrived at 7:30 pm and looped around a hedgerow of Honeyvines and a nearby utility pole, giving the impression that she was ecstatic about what she found.  Flitted very fast in apparently joyous loops, just there.  And hard to catch an unblurred image, too.

She then located a rather high branch somewhere near the top of one of my pecan trees and turned in for the night. Next day, in the morning, nowhere to be found. Come 11:30, she was looking for brunch, at the same location she looped around the evening previous.  Can't blame her--that's some prime milkweed back there because it gets well-watered the most, so I'm pretty sure she was impressed with that patch.  Closer to the pecan trees, though, is a patch of Butterfly Weed, in full bloom, and just as well dice, she had her heart set on the Honeyvine by that utility pole, and that's that. Then she checked out a few other nearby vines, and took a fancy to this one, which is more typically the height of vines for egg laying.

Up toward noon, she disappeared entirely. Hours dragged on and I had come to conclude she wanted to check out elsewhere for better digs.  After all, only a few milkweeds got watered and the rest of the over-1,000 milkweeds that dot the MLMP 2519 monitoring site (it covers 4 lots) were pretty dried out, if not all-the-way died-back (dormant).  'Round about 3-ish pm, though, I got a surprise.

Yeah. if you squint, you can see a tell-tale dot on the rear wing of the butterfly on the left.  That's her husband!  What appears to have happened is that she left for the purpose of fetching him along to this spot, further evidenced by their duet of aerial acrobatics usually associated with a mating pair. Here we go, Monarch Motel (my pecan trees) is now officially open for business!

Sunday August 28 UPDATE: Prior to this entry I already posted a bit about this on the blog's front page, but over here is where I'll go into greater detail. Generally speaking, when monarch migration starts, we all know they go from north to yeah, the greatest amount of activity will be on the north side of this monitoring site.  But because they're also coming in from the northeast headed south, they're traveling east to west, activity is also greatest on the east side compared to the west side.  Intense in the northeast corner as the season begins and progresses. That's where the photos were taken, to date.

Her Royal Highness left a few souvenirs. This is the first.

....and this is the next. But this was 2 days ago. Today, 42 eggs were found plus one itsy bitsy teeny weeny 1st instar caterpillar.
The scrawny male that arrived somewhat after the happy couple did was captured and tagged, the first tagging of the season:

The butterflies completely ignored my Butterfly Weed up until Day 3 of the migration arrivals. They clearly really really really REALLY love that Honeyvine! Today, though, I discovered eggs on my Butterfly Weeds and New Mexico milkweeds a week into the season; I reported them to both the MLMP people and Journey North (South) folks.

This kid is the first born munchkin reported today:

Monday Aug 29 UPDATE: I discovered an older caterpillar, in 2nd instar stage...

The wee one in the pic prior to the above looked quite different after an overnight of stuffing face...

What a difference an overnight makes.

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