Friday, June 25, 2010
Early Sunday morning we arrived to see three queens gently swooping up and down the milkweed laying eggs in the south meadow and the meadow near the parking lot. We watched as they found the smallest and freshest Asclepias subverticillata to lay their eggs. We walked through "Danaus crossing" and noticed a weathered, faded, shredded female monarch nectaring on Indian Hemp near the banks of the Little Colorado River. She was an easy catch in her feeble condition. We were a little in awe realizing she was likely the lady monarch who layed eggs that would be the foundation of the summer population at Wenima. We didn't know if we should even tag her, but we did (#325U) in case another female was around to tell them apart. We also tested her for O.e., a disease monarch and queen butterflies can get. After placing her back where we originally found her, she rested on the flower quite a while before flying away. (7:55 a.m., 70 degrees).
Wondering how far monarchs had moved into Arizona, we stopped at Silver Creek Fish Hatchery outside of Show Low on the way home where we saw monarchs last August. No monarchs this time. Goldenrods were about 2 feet tall with no flowers, Aslepias subverticillata about 18 inches tall with no buds yet and Aslepias Speciosia about 24 to 36 inches tall, some starting to bloom. Earilier on the way up we stopped at Sharpe Creek Campground near Christopher Creek where we found Asclepias asperula in bloom, but no signs of any larval activity or monarchs.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The winter of 2009 witnessed the lowest numbers of monarch butterflies in both Mexico and California. The Spring reports in the Eastern portion of the United States are very favorable. Monarchs found a rich breeding ground in Texas with abundant milkweed for egg-laying and nectar everywhere from frequent winter rains. In fact, monarchs seemed to hunker down in Texas for awhile, raising speculation of their dynamics as everyone watched the sightings soar on Journey North. Then when winds and temperatures were favorable, monarchs took off on the move leading to a record number of sightings in May all the way up to Canada. http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/spring2010/Caption052710_1.html But the question remained: Were there really more monarchs, or were more people aware of their dilemna and looking for them? Only time will tell. We'll hope for the best.
Weather affects monarchs. Not too hot, not too cold....sounds like the Three Bears, right? When temperatures are lower than normal or more rain than normal, the monarch life cycle takes longer. When it takes more days to grow as a larvae or pupae, the number of generations can be affected. Studies indicate that monarchs larvae and pupae only grow between 52.7 and 91.4 degrees. When it is above or below this threshold growth ceases and waits until the temperatures rise within these parameters to continue. Look at the weather maps for May and you can see that the East had warmer than usual temperatures, while most of the West was cooler. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100608_maystats.html
Lets all hope that as summer progresses more monarch and monarch larvae will be reported in the West and Southwest. No reports of monarchs yet in June in Arizona. Keep looking! By early July monarchs are usually moving into the state. Keep your eyes open!
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Where are the monarchs? As temperatures climb, monarch butterflies seek cooler climates. Monarchs have a hard time surviving above 104 degrees and 106 is lethal for most. Last weekend it reached 109 in Phoenix, so any monarchs that were around likely left as the heat climbed. We didn't see very many monarchs this Spring. While Spring numbers are usually low, this year there were only a few spotted here or there, even less than normal. Lets hope the breeding season increases their numbers during the summer. Preliminary reports are not encouraging in the West, though. More about that later.
The flowers on Desert Milkweed are lush and full this year from our abundant winter rains! They are a magnet for pollinators of all kinds and queen butterflies are drawn to their nectar as well as a host plant.
The queen butterfly is in the same family as the monarch butterfly. Queens are abundant right now around town! So take the time to enjoy these close relatives of the migrating monarchs that love our desert heat. You can find queens nectaring on flowers or Desert Milkweed - or laying eggs on milkweed, too.
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix
Rio Salado Restoration Habitat, Phoenix
Signal Butte Road and Southern, Mesa
ASU Polytech Campus, Mesa
Sycamore Creek near Sunflower
Thursday, June 3, 2010
While we were working, hikers and visitors to the restoration habitat stopped by to watch. A tour group from Israel was planning a riparian park in their home town using reclaimed water. They came by to see what a restoration area could look like and dream for the future. They were visiting both Phoenix and San Antonio searching for ideas. Everyone was thrilled by the wealth of wildlife in the area - birds of every kind, lizards, rabbits....and, of course, the monarch butterfly habitat!
Afterwards Ranger Rebecca thanked everyone for their efforts! During the summer months we'll likely see Queen butterflies laying eggs on the Desert and Narrowleaf milkweed until their cousins, the Monarch butterflies, return in the Fall.
Posted by Gail Morris at 5:10 PM