Monarchs, incoming

June 24, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

A couple of generations past the overwintering congregation in the Mexican highlands, the Monarch butterflies are back on the ridge and in the surrounding area—just in time, of course, for the opening of the Milkweed flowers. Those sweet-smelling blossoms provide fuel for the adult Monarchs and the continuation of their journey north, and the toxic, latex-filled leaves of the once ubiquitous Asclepias syriaca plants are the main food source for the incredibly colorful larvae. I took these pictures this afternoon at one of the best Milkweed "plantations" in creation: the carefully managed fields of the Preston Nature Preserve. After a lot of tick-temptation, a.k.a. combing through lots of Milkweed leaves for eggs and caterpillars, I only found one clear sign that the Monarchs had already been in the neighborhood. Sadly, this drab youngster, no doubt less than a week post-hatching, encountered some kind of insurmountable challenge—perhaps a disease, maybe a predator or parasite—and looks like it will be one of the approximately 90 percent of Monarch youngsters that don't make it to adulthood. This is normally the way of their world, but given the abnormal state of things these days and the huge population declines that A. syriaca has experienced in the past few decades, every loss, however natural, is magnified... and cause for sorrow.


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