Late Friday afternoon I headed to see what might be happening along one of my favourite back roads. At first, very little. As I found the first patch of asters I was very pleased to see two monarch butterflies flitting around. I saw more nectaring in clumps of Joe Pye weed. One such patch had four monarchs vying for flowers.
In areas of milkweed I found a few caterpillars that looked to be in their last instar before pupating.
On one milkweed I even found three larvae. My composition has hidden one on the underside of lower left leaf just out of the frame.
This short video shows the way the larva moves.
This butterfly is nectaring on Joe Pye Weed.
In all I saw about a dozen larvae and brought four home to fatten them up and try to keep them safe. Weather and parasites are their worst enemies at this time of their development. I have lots of common milkweed in my garden and more not too far away.
About two weeks ago I brought home six caterpillars. They pupated soon after and three have emerged. Two just this morning and they are out drying off in a protected area before they fly off to nectar and produce the final generation before migration.
One of the things that I think helps the monarchs along my favourite road is that the milkweed plants are at several stages. There was an early summer cut and those plants have regrown. Some small plants are still producing small tender leaves that the larvae prefer while others already have milkweed pods. Something to keep in mind if you grow your own milkweed. Most of mine are now mature plants with tougher top leaves. Time to plant some Joe Pye Weed too.
I was thrilled to see at least ten adult monarch butterflies in my three hour 0 kmph drive. That is more than I have seen for the last few years combined. They move around more quickly than you might think possible so I have made a conservative count.
We can have hope!
I like the motion in this image although I could have posted many perfectly focused ones. All the images above were taken with a Canon 7D MK or MK II and a 500 f4 IS lens.
All images are the copyrighted property of Eleanor Kee Wellman, the photographer, and may not be used for any purpose with my written consent.