Sunday, June 13, 2010

Queen Butterflies Are Everywhere!

I was surprised to find a queen butterfly caterpillar in my milkweed patch this week. I was up early and thought I'd do my weekly check searching my milkweed plants for any activity. The little caterpillar was nibbling the flowers of Asclepias curassavica, Tropical Milkweed or Bloodflower. This part of the garden was still in the shade of a tall nearby tree and the larva was munching the flowers hungrily near the top. Morning is the best time to look for larvae since they tend to climb to the top of milkweeds until the warm sun encourages them to seek a cooler place lower in the plant and under leaves as the day progresses.

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

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