A good day — a monarch butterfly is flitting around our garden! The first photo shows her perched on the leaves of our peach tree, with leaves gone golden for the fall.
It has been a couple of years since my naturalist husband George watched a monarch lay eggs on the milkweed in our backyard. We brought some of the eggs inside to raise in safety. Click here to see the photos I took of the whole process, from the tiny eggs, to the caterpillars, to the chrysalises, and finally to the butterflies which emerged (and which we released.)
Despite all of the milkweed George has planted to attract them, we've hardly seen any monarchs in the garden since that special year. So imagine my delight when I saw this one — she (George got close enough to identify her as female) was sunning on the angel's trumpet (brugmansia), and she also seemed to like the fennel plant and the dogwood tree, as well as the milkweed.
The second photo shows her on the dried seed pods of the fennel, which is one of the anise swallowtail butterfly's larval food sources. She spent quite a bit of time on the milkweed — the third photograph — and I'm hoping she left some eggs. I love this milkweed, it's Asclepias physocarpa. Bees like it too — can you see the honeybee a bit to the left of the butterfly?
Physocarpa is also known as “Family Jewels” because the seed pods look like ... well, the fourth photo shows one of the dried seed pods, see for yourself.
Next is a closeup photo of the butterfly on the milkweed; you can see her poor tattered wing. Did you know that one of the monarch butterfly's protective characteristics is to poison its predators? In the larval stage it eats milkweed leaves to incorporate the milkweed toxins into its body. Perhaps a bird realized after getting a bite that it didn't want to keep eating.