I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man? ~Zhuangzi
When I first started my wildlife garden, it was to attract more wildlife into my garden and begin to create a habitat for wildlife. Of course the frogs and toads came right away once the pond went in. Bees and a couple of butterflies flew by as well. But by the second year there were many more butterflies and lots of insect activity not to mention deer, rabbits, skunks, and assorted birds nesting in trees and boxes.
But it was the butterflies that I was partial to seeing. I adore their floating motion around the garden. My eyes are trained to spot them even peripherally. And the movement of monarchs are especially identifiable once you see them. They remind me of falling leaves caught on the wind.
A couple of years ago during their migration South we had dozens of monarchs daily flitting and floating all over the asters in the meadow. Then last year with the drought we had a dozen or so. By mid summer this year we had one-ONE!!
Was it the cold spring coupled with the wet summer that kept them away? I had lots of milkweed (common milkweed, swamp milkweed and even butterfly weed), but the monarchs did not come. Or was it that I am the only habitat around that has any milkweed as I am surrounded by lawns, barberry and chemicals.
Whatever the reasons, I was very disheartened that my monarch sightings had significantly declined which was in line with the rest of the country. I had resigned myself to one monarch this year. But just when I thought there would be but one, the late summer early fall weather became quite beautiful. The wind was nowhere to be found, the sun shone all day with nary a cloud in the sky and the daytime temps were in the 70s.
I thought to myself, in years past this is the perfect weather and time of year when I usually see migrating monarchs….maybe, just maybe this year we might see a few. And then one late September evening my husband called to me, “Look and see who is visiting.” I turned and to my amazement he had a beautiful monarch carefully held between his fingers. He had found this lovely visitor in the front on a flower. I thought, “Wonderful now we have had two monarchs.” How nice.
The next morning I saw that familiar flitting motion in the early morning sunlight of the back garden. I promptly threw down the computer, grabbed my camera and Crocs and ran out the back door. Lo and behold there was a monarch on a small goldenrod volunteer. Wow! Maybe this is a sign of more to come…oh I hope so!!
Later that morning as I was surveying the garden there was another one…..quick more pictures. I literally can take 100 clicks in no time watching one monarch. When I turned to continue on there were 2 more, and they flew to the back gardens, and right to some tall phlox…then onto helianthus and asters. Some stayed hours and hours on the helianthus as they were fueling up for the trip. More and more were spotted as the days went by, and even another this weekend still loving the helianthus and asters.
I am so grateful for the abundance (I’ll take the dozen or so) of those who stopped by. And it gives me such gratification to know I supplied the plants that helped nourish them for their long journey. They found a way station in the desert of those lawns and their thirst was quenched.
Butterflies are the most amazing creatures to me. So light you can knock them over with your breath. Tattered and torn they push against the weather to mate and continue the species; their one mission in their short life. And their humble beginnings are also hair raising as they are food for many as a caterpillar. But I think it is their ability to float on air that has me mesmerized. And I often wish I could spend but a few hours flying and flitting amongst the flowers on a warm sunny day seeing what they see, feeling the air on my wings.
Here are some interesting facts and folklore about monarchs (butterflies):
- Monarch’s have sturdy wings so you can handle them as long as you are not too rough. That was good news as my husband loves to catch them, and he is always gentle. And they don’t lose many scales. As he can tell you, there is not much white powder (scales) on his hands when he handles them.
- Monarchs fly slower than many other butterflies at a whopping 5 to 12 times a second. If you have ever watched them, that is pretty accurate as I can get better pictures of monarchs as opposed to many other butterflies.
- According to the Blackfoot Indians, butterflies carry our dreams to us at night.
- Native American cultures consider the butterfly a symbol of the sacred and the unknown.
- Butterflies are a symbol of transformation.
- Since ancient times, the butterfly has been a symbol for the soul.
- In the small town in Mexico where the monarchs migrate around the holiday the Day of the Dead, the residents also see butterflies as the returned souls of their departed.
If you want to learn more interesting facts about monarchs, Journey North has a Q and A manned by a leading expert.
I am glad I have created my wildlife garden replete with a monarch paradise for me and for my monarch friends who drop by. I hope more folks will create an oasis for these beauties as they travel North and South each year.
Did you see many monarchs this year? Are you lucky enough to have them visiting with you right now?
***All pictures were taken within the last 3 weeks in my garden.
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