Thursday, September 9, 2010

Monarchs Arrive at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

Male Monarch at Desert Botanical Garden 9-2-10
Monarch butterflies arrived early at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix this year. Despite highs of 111, 109 and 108 degrees over several days, three monarchs rested in the refreshing and cooler tree canopy of the Herb Garden during the hottest time of the day, but occasionally coasted down to a flower. It was surprising to see them so early. I thought the high temperatures would keep them further north. But nighttime temperatures in the low 80's must offer enough relief.

Female Monarch at DBG
When I walked through the garden at first I didn't see any butterflies at all - not too surprising at 3 in
the afternoon with temps near 110. I stopped to look around, then took a step forward. Twenty queen butterflies swooshed into the air! I took another step, again another surge of queens shot up. I've heard of people encountering butterflies like this, but never experienced it myself. My presence obviously startled them, but just for a moment. Then suddenly I saw the familiar orange glide. I was surprised to see one monarch, then another, coast down from nearby trees.

My natural response was to call everyone I knew and ask them to check the large milkweed patches around town, but no other monarchs were found as of today. Last year Tatsuyo, who lives on South Mountain, was the first to see a monarch visiting her vast number of milkweed plants. Over the past week she has seen over 38 queen chrysalids, but no monarchs.  The cooler highs in the 90's and lows in the upper 60's may open the gate of opportunity inviting more monarchs into the greater Phoenix area.

Queen chrysalis on Giant Milkweed
 While monarchs are just entering the Phoenix area, the queen butterfly population is exploding! Everyone is talking about the huge numbers of queens visiting gardens, and milkweeds are brimming with their caterpillars. Just this morning I stepped out into my yard to look at the butterfly activity and when I looked back I found this male queen just emerging from his chrysalis - right under my sliding glass door! He stayed there a few hours before flying to a nearby bush. Sometimes a caterpillar will climb to a mighty peculiar place.

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