Saturday, September 25, 2021

Migration Food

Monarch butterflies and Milkweed plants have played an important role in our retirement lives focused on nature.  We allow the plants to grow mixed in with garden plants despite their deep extensive roots because food for the caterpillars is deemed to be an absolute necessity.  Many of the plants carry no leaves at this time of year and we interfere by mowing large areas of plants.  After July first we no longer mow and those plants still have the leaves necessary for butterfly production.  Butterflies have been numerous here this year but the ravages of age combined with hot days have limited our outdoor time.  We have yet to see a Milkweed leaf providing food for a growing caterpillars or a chrysalis containing a developing butterfly.  The process has continued without us and numerous new butterflies are feeding on our flowers.

Most of the time a feeding Monarch closes its wings above its body but this morning was different.  The overnight fog and dew had everything outside wet this morning.  The butterflies kept their wings flat and open while feeding to allow their wings to dry.  Great pictures seldom seen presented themselves.  If the approach was deemed too close, the butterfly simply flew away.


These two photos may be of the same male butterfly.  There is a black colored vein that connects the heavy black line at the edge of a wing with a similar line centered on the body.  The larger area of black on this line identifies this one as a male.  That feature is more clearly visible on the right wing in the first photo.

Butterflies were seen feeding on this native aster today but we have included this photo to accurately show the condition of our gardens this year.  We simply could not keep up and now the weeds are everywhere.  Their seed production continues uninterrupted so the problem will be more severe next year.  The pictured aster was moved into the garden recently and a wire cage has limited the deer feeding on this plant.  There is no growth beyond the top edge of the cage but we suspect that it would have grown much taller without the deer.  This one is late to open so the food it supplies will continue longer that the other flowers open now.  We wish that its name was known but for now we see it as Ed's Favorite.


Beth at PlantPostings said...

Beautiful. I had to actually plant milkweed here, starting many years ago, because there wasn't any when we moved in. Monarchs are such beautiful creatures, and it's sad to know that their numbers are dwindling. Great photos! I wonder if the aster is Sky Blue Aster (A. oolentangiense).

Becky said...

I think your ID is right. I used to be better with the names. Now that they are changing the Latin, I'm even more confused. Anyway the plant is covered with beautiful flowers and is buzzing with pollinators. I might have even seen a European honey bee there this afternoon. On closer inspection I noticed that the just open flowers have a yellow center and that color changes as they age. The bumblebees are still interested just the same!

Ed said...

We really appreciate both your regular interest and your identification of this plant. A US distribution map showed this as primarily a midwestern plant with the exception of its inroads across the L shaped lowland that defines NYS. The fact that the yellow pollen is present for only a short time creates the misinformation that the nonyellow plants are possibly a different plant.