Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dead Monarch

These body parts were found in the garden this morning. Teeth marks might show along the inside edge of the lower wing. The life cycle of Monarch butterflies may have allowed this individual a natural death. He may have been dead before he was eaten. I recently saw a brightly colored newly hatched Monarch, but most of those seen are faded and tattered. Their days are nearly over.

The point of the pin marks the location of a scent gland. The wide section of the black line is a gland that only males have. As you might expect, the purpose of the gland is to attract females

We allow milkweed, the food plant of Monarch caterpillars, to grow freely here. The late June scent of milkweed flowers is one of my favorite fragrances. The flowers are popular with many different bees and butterflies. Walking near all of that wildlife is a thrill. With this much milkweed in flower there is enough for all who come but much of the time we see one butterfly chase others away from its chosen flower.

I keep this area mowed until well into July. That extends the milkweed flowering period both for me and the butterflies. Particular Monarch mothers may seek out tender young leaves as a prime location for their eggs. Butterflies have been seen clasping the side of milkweed leaves possibly laying eggs on the underside of the leaves. Soon we should see caterpillars.


Benjamin Vogt said...

Yeah, those wings look old and worn. So glad you don't treat milkweed as a weed! I was talking to a nursery employee the other day who suggested only A. tuberosa as a host plant (and knew little abou tmonarch populaton problems), but I have yet to see any cats on those ugly milkweeds. Instead, I have about 30 plants from various other species which fair much better. If I can get you to, why not check out an article I did on monarchs for a local newspaper:

Michelle Clay said...

That is a GLORIOUS patch of milkweed you've got!

Kathy said...

Fascinating! I did not know the location of the scent gland on the males. Beautiful milkweed meadow. They do smell so good. I grow swamp milkweed right in my (small) garden. This year I have seen many Monarchs - last year, not so much.