Welcoming Critters-Monarch Paradise

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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 DSCN2137peripherally.  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.

IMG_3860Whatever 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, IMG_3884grabbed 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.

DSCN2116Butterflies 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.

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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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Comments

  1. says

    Donna, as another fan of all butterflies and especially monarchs, I thoroughly enjoyed your post. I had a similar experience here in Kentucky. I saw ‘no’ monarchs until late August and was concerned I might not see any at all. However, in late August I finally saw my first one nectaring on Joe-Pye Weed and then began to see more. Some of them laid eggs and as a results I tagged monarchs for the first time. Thanks be for all who are planting milkweed and nectar plants to encourage these beautiful creatures. Thanks, too, for your interesting facts and folklore.
    Betty Hall recently posted..Butterfly playing cards – fun and educational

  2. says

    Donna, I’m so happy they’re showing up in other places, if not here (northern Minnesota). I counted two caterpillars in early summer on our milkweed, but saw no adults, either then or later in the summer. Usually there are monarchs all around our garden and meadow.

    I know their wintering place in Mexico keeps getting smaller and less healthy, and I am afraid for them. Throughout the summer, as I noticed many fewer butterflies of all species, I felt a deep sadness and foreboding.

    I was reminded of an article I read a few years ago in the New York Times magazine titled “Is There an Ecological Unconscious?” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/magazine/31ecopsych-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0), which discussed the sense of grief and loss people feel when their land as they know it is under assault.

    I hope the butterflies here are simply undergoing a population dip, which will spike back up. That is normal with animal populations. However, a part of me feels that a larger pattern is at work here, one that I find frightening and very sad.

    • says

      I also fear that the loss of habitat in Mexico and here in the US will create devastating effects on their numbers. I am hopeful that if we can provide more habitat here more may overwinter in the S which might help their numbers.

      I had no caterpillars which was disappointing but I may only be a way-station along the path N and S and that is fine too.

      I’ll check out the article. I do grieve when the critters are missing. We had but a handful of other native butterflies and loads of cabbage whites.
      Donna Donabella recently posted..Fallin’ Into Bloom Day

  3. says

    Yay Donna! You have Monarch visitors! I saw one flutter by just yesterday. Most of our flowers are gone and the hummingbirds have left. But there is still some Goldenrod and Aster blooming for the last few flutter bys, and Coral Honeysuckle for any hummingbirds. I wish our nurseries here would sell Asters in the fall instead of throw-away Mums!

    • says

      The butterflies are really loving the asters right now as the majority of goldenrod is done and some helianthus is left. I spied some honeysuckle blooms this weekend as well but the hummers left about the end of September. I agree, grow the asters. Glad you are having some visits. I think the monarchs are late coming South this year.
      Donna Donabella recently posted..Fallin’ Into Bloom Day

  4. says

    Wow, I am so happy for you, Donna! It’s wonderful to see Monarchs at any time, but to see them in your own garden on the plants you have grown for them is truly special~ In the past week I have seen one Monarch a day, each heading west to the beach in search of overwintering grounds, no doubt.
    kathy vilim recently posted..Mermaid Slips Back to the Sea~

  5. says

    Donna! Your post was wonderful! I love the words you paint with and I love your photographs! I too, had witnessed migration of Monarchs in years past that would cheer even the cheerless. This year I think my migration in central Virginia is done with a total of maybe 7 participating Monarchs. But those 7 make me happy, because like you, during the summer I saw only 1, lonely Monarch. We must keep our gardens going for them and keep our fingers crossed for next year!

  6. says

    The monarchs seem to be showing up late in Mississippi this year. Just started really seeing them in mid-October. Two years ago we had several monarch caterpillars feeding on the milkweed and butterfly weed, but this year, I didn’t find any (did see some swallowtail caterpillars in the herb garden though). I’m glad to see the monarchs and sulfur butterflies arriving this month.

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