For those of us who rear butterfly caterpillars, August marks the beginning of the Monarch migration south from its northern ranges.
We know that the numbers in the overwintering population this past season in Mexico dropped precipitously. We also know that successive seasons of long, cool, wet spring in some parts of the country and drought in others threaten the migratory population further. Statistically speaking, four in ten migratory Monarchs may return to the overwintering grounds in 2013*. The situation is dire.
From a conservation perspective, all we can do is watch and wait for them to appear in our yards and at our Waystations**.
Please share your observations of first sightings this season, if any, historic information on sightings in your area, and any other relevant information that may assist fellow DG butterfly gardeners to measure their expectations for fall migration.
I typically see my first in April and expect to see them return in mid to late August. So far this year I haven't seen any.
Thanks for any information you might provide.
~Amanda in Greensboro
2013 Monarch Migration
For those of us who rear butterfly caterpillars, August marks the beginning of the Monarch migration south from its northern ranges.
Historic? I can do Historic ...
These are excerpts from a book published in the 1950's compiled from the work of 3 lepidopterists in Colorado dating back into the 1930's and earlier.
The book is somewhat out-dated - not much was known about the larva and host plants for a lot of Butterflies, and the botanical names of some of the butterflies has changed. With Monarchs, a lot more has been learned about the migratory routes since then.
But there is a lot to be said for experience - for example, where the author says the number of Queens in Colorado relates directly to the weather in Texas.
That's interesting reading material. Thanks!
I guess by historic I was thinking more about the monarch phenology in your own backyard or region.
Okay, personal experience:
Pueblo West is high prairie and we have been in a drought for over 10 years - the same time period I have lived here. Our native milkweed is not lush or fast growing, but it does make some large stands. I have never seen caterpillars on it.
We get Monarchs migrating back in the fall. They really love our native rabbit bush - as do all insects in fall (Butterflies prefer it over the Butterfly bush!). Monarchs also come to Autumn Joy sedum in fall.
In the summer I have seen caterpillars in Canon City (more water & vegetation than here) and I have seen the adults in summer in the mountains - not as much milkweed up there, though.
Amanda I ordered a monarch seed kit from monarch watch - I haven't seen any monarchs in my yard in Atlanta but I think I'veseen fleeting glances. Hoping to to my part
When did you receive your kit and have you started a Waystation yet? Most flower gardeners have plenty of nectar plants, the milkweed' s the thing, isn't it.
I saw a Gulf Fritillary a few weeks ago. The orange flash made me think Monarch until it landed. The weather has made it a slow year even for common species of skippers and moths. We have fewer bees I think too.
I just got the kit in the mail last week. I've always loved butterflies and recently read Flight Behavior and have renewed determination. I was thinking of sowing the seeds this fall. I have some milkweed in containers as well that I plan to transplant into the earth. I would like to become a way station but would like to first get sufficient mlkweed going.
Let me know if you need more seeds. I have more than I can ever use! :)
I've had dozens of Swallowtails this summer - all varieties - but saw my first Monarch of 2013 today (mid-Ohio). We saw none going North in the Spring, and assume this Monarch is heading South. I have every variety of milkweed - about 30 plants. This Monarch spent a lot of time on the milkweed with orange/red flowers, visited the orange/red Lantana flowers - and then moved to - and stayed a long time on the physocarpus - which always has the most Monarch caterpillars of any of my milkweeds. Last year we had about 15 cats on the physocarpus plants.
My sedums are a couple of days from bloom. They are always a magnet for the Monarchs, so I'm hoping to see more of the migrators. It's been a gloomy worrisome summer without them. There is also a very noticeable decline in the number of honey bees this year. Lots of bumblebees in their place.
Due to odd weather here in the south my sedums are just about to bloom as well. The cool wet year has also delayed earlier blooming plants like my Ironweed which Eastern yellow tigertail and BST enjoy, but are usually turned to seed by the time Monarchs arrive mid-late August/September.
We have someone else in OH on the Daily butterfly pictures thread, but he's been awfully quiet as well with only folks in FL reporting Monarchs probably resident populations.
Hope to hear more from you soon.
Saw another Monarch today , That makes 2 for a week and half? and all year for sure ,
There may have been a third , but they are flighty here . Today I was standing still not to disturb them and one circled three properties and nearly decided to land on me ,, lol that's rare here , usually , see human?,, and ""poof"" they disappear ..
Oh good - it is not just me and flighty butterflies!
I haven't been able to figure out how everybody takes their pictures.
Local butterflies live by the motto "If you can see me, you are too close"
This is the first year I planted milkweed and also the first year I have not seen a monarch butterfly. We have not received rain in five weeks and that maybe why we have not seen any. I miss them fluttering around the yards.
I'm in coastal San Diego County in California and have begun to see a few Monarch butterflies just the last few weeks. I planted four milkweed bushes two months ago and just had caterpillars hatch about 1 1/2 week ago. They stripped my plants in a few days and were eating the stems. After calling all around I was able to find only one nursery with milkweed so got eight more plants. Of course they came with numerous eggs so I hope there will be enough food for all. As I was calling various nurseries they told me everyone is now looking for more plants but none of the vendors have any. The Monarchs are late for our area this year, which has had a mild summer, and it seems they are laying eggs all at once. Since I'm new at this perhaps this is the way it always works.
Annie let me know if you need milkweed! He k, I don't know if I could help.I have about 20 tropical MW of various sizes in my driveway, though I started them all at the same time. I was late to transplant them up to bigger containers so still growing. I decided today I would probably cut the flowers off the ones in the yard because of aphids. I don't grow them for the flowers after all!
Amanda thanks for the offer, but I doubt that they would make it to California. Mine have lots of aphids - on the flowers, stems, etc., but I don't figure that hurts the caterpillars, and I can't spray them off with water because I'm sure the eggs and babies would get sprayed away, too. I found it Interesting that the caterpillars ate the flowers, covers on seed pods, and had started on the stems before I got them more fresh plants.
Next year I plan on planting a few more varieties of milkweed, and starting much earlier. I collect succulents and that's my main focus, but this year I decided that the bees and butterflies needed help so started planting specifically for them, too. I'll have time during the winter to research types of milkweed and the best nectar plants for my area. Looking forward to a butterfly filled yard in a few weeks and more next year.
I saw another this Morning .. That makes three for this year . Oh.. well ..
I'm seeing a couple a day, but probably the same ones. I do have lots of caterpillars on my milkweed and about a dozen chrysalises
I'm amazed that I don't see people from California on this forum. Planting for butterflies is common here so I wonder why.
I saw my first Monarch in Pueblo West on August 30th. I went up to 9000 feet on Sept 1st. The milkweed is already turning yellow and losing its leaves at that elevation. I didn't see any butterflies of any type - or hummingbirds either. I assume everything had started moving downhill and south, but it was an overcast drizzly day, so I am not sure. Drizzle usually won't stop hummingbirds.
! Thanks for the report. Still none here but it's not time to panic...
No more sightings of monarch butterflies. Hummingbirds are very active in feeding.
Good morning to all Monarch enthusiasts. I haven't seen one monarch in the garden. But apparently they have visited. Yesterday was my first time larvae- sighting! I noticed tiny holes in my MW, and sure enough, there were newly hatched larvae. Currently I've a little more than a dozen of those tiny larvae in safety cages. Please wish me lucks on raising these little one. Hopefully they'll be matured and fly further South in time before winter.
edited for typo. Please pardon.
This message was edited Sep 9, 2013 8:24 AM
#5 Flew through the garden day before yesterday ,
No cats , this year ,
I'm finding more first instars (Monarch) on the MW. Ju, sorry there aren't any cats. there for you this year.
It goes that way some years , lots of little BF's as said though . I've seen lots of Monarchs some years and hardly any others , weather and nature doing 360 .. always has been ..
I was reading just now and happened to look up. An orange butterfly passed the window just then and I took off running in the same direction to see if I could catch sight of it. Almost broke my neck, or a toe at the very least. I thought it might have been a Monarch, but no sign of it. I saw a sulfur of some kind at the far end of the yard and wondered if it was just a sleepy orange.
None (Monarch) sighting in my garden. But I continue to find small 1-2nd instars in the garden (must be the same batch that I discovered over the weekend). These little one is a little bigger than when I saw the 1st one two days ago. The good news is I did see at least 4 orange butterflies while driving into town this afternoon. Those undoubtedly were Monarch for the other orange butterfly would be Gulf frits. and I haven't seen any evidence of G.F. in my region at all.
Female Monarch this morning in my driveway on some 15-20 different kinds of milkweed I planted in pots and lined up like a runway to the backyard/waystation. :)
I have only found 5 eggs so far and the fate of the world is on them.
She stayed for a few hours, nectaring mainly on the West Texas mistflower in the driveway.
Hope she found the MW in the backyard too.
I've been watching Monarch sightings on "journey north" webpage. Please add yours here:
One of my customers on my afternoon paper route has devoted the area around her mailbox to butterflies and has variour milkweed growing. too. This is where I usually see Monarchs. Not this year though. Spotted just one about a month ago and on Sat counted 16 cats!
By yesterday most of the plants of 'tropical Milkweed' had been eaten to the stems but the more common MW which is in decline already because of high heat and little moisture/rain showed little activity and no cats. Talking with the owner, we decided to relocate some cats to a common mw plant of their own. They seemed to take to the new to them mw by the time I left.
Will check progress today.
My concern is that they will run out of food shortly. I do know of a nature reserve area nearby with lots of mw and plenty of tussock moth cats but few Monarchs cats observed and no mbutterflies.
Should I relocate some of these cats there? (I can't pick fresh leaves from that reserve)
Do the 16 cats I can moniter daily need any protection from pedators or are the pretty safe now?
I can collect seeds if anyone is interested. Also have some seeds from a plant labeled 'Slender Milkweed'
Pics: only Monarch sighted, fat Gen 4 cat, Milkweed Tussock Moth cats
This message was edited Sep 17, 2013 9:58 AM
There are "numbers" but statistically speaking chances of survival unprotected outdoors are pretty slim. If you are interested in helping them along maybe you could collect them and try to raise them! There are a lot of native plant nurseries in your area. I'll bet we could come up with some MW foliage if you run out.
Let us know what you think. 16 cats is a lot of cats this year!
Thanks for the encouragement Amanda.
I'd say there are about 8 or 9 that will need more mw to feed on. Will know more this afternoon, All but 4 of the 16 are quite large already (inch and a half) so I'm thinking it won't be many more days til they form a chrysillis and then can be moved to nectar rich areas to fatten for their flight.
Have contacted a local DGer who has a good stand of mw but hasn't seen any cats or butterflies yet. Maybe she can home them. She also has nectar plants for when they emerge. The other stand of mw that I know of was trimmed by highway crews this year but usually isn't, so no source of leaves there.
If the milkweed they are eating isn't sprayed or cut down won't they be somewhat safe there? Or does that parasitic wasp lay eggs in them, too?
Do Monarch cats become chrysilises on the milkweed plants or do they seek other 'sticks?
Thanks for any help
Caterpillars are subject to predation by other bugs, birds, animals.
They are also threatened by several parasites and bacterial infections that we hope to reduce the risk of by maintaining them in isolation or groups and clean quarters.
If you aren't prepared to make the commitment but your local DGr can do it, I'd encourage you to try to recruit someone. I was scared the first year and made all these pleading calls all over town until someone told me to calm down, you can do it. :)
You could try to put netting over the plants where they are.
OR you could let nature take its course. It's just with the situation so dire for the Monarch this year more than ever they seem to need our help.
Monarch caterpillars most likely leave the MW plant when they are ready to pupate and have read before but can't recall now how far they are likely to travel to get to a "suitable" place. Some species roam quite a distance.
Sometimes when I wait to collect caterpillars they are reduced in numbers and I can never know if it's because they wandered off or were taken away. If they're still small and not ready to pupate, it's not likely they will leave the plant.
Milkweed has toxins that make Monarch cats and butterflies distasteful as a food source. I don't think that stops a bird or animal from trying them if they don't have prior experience with the species.
Don't take my word for it! Ask around. There are bunches of websites I could direct you to if you're interested. I don't know what else to say except let us know how it goes. :)
This image is from a sighting in my front yard today:
Great capture, Amanda and sound advices. I wished I could do more for these species. I'm contemplating nesting my outdoor MW plantings in small groups next year to "house" these caterpillars. Indeed their population is reduced, I didn't get to see any on their "Journey North" migration this spring, likewise, I didn't see any within my garden during their "Journey South" this year, other than that they've left me a handful of 1st instars. I did see them in flight around the area, but didn't bother to make stop for nectar in their flight.
Monarch Watch used to have a more detailed " how to" for planning and planting a Monarch Waystation. It does recommend a planting density of milkweed to provide protective cover from predators. It's also easier for the butterfly to hop from plant to plant if they are planted in groups. I grew extra this year and have been giving away plants and seeds. The tropical MW (A. curassavica) is easy to grow from seed and in my five seasons of rearing caterpillars, it is also the preferred larval host/food plant.
I was at a public garden on the other side of town. They had some volunteer milkweed & I noticed some what-do-you-call-it cat scat? So I looked under the leaves - bingo. I had trouble with the photo - my camera kept trying to focus on the background. Anyway, large cat on top left leaf, tiny cat on top right leaf. This is late here - we could have a frost any time from mid-Sept to early Nov. Anyway, this is only the second Monarch caterpillar I have seen in this area. I usually only see the adults as they head south - which the mother may have been doing.