Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monarchs in the Phoenix area in late October

They're everywhere! Two weeks ago I wondered where the monarch butterflies were - then the floodgates opened. Finally in October day-time temperatures cooled and monarch sightings surged around the Phoenix area. Monarchs are continuing to visit milkweed thickets and nectar sights around town even as we approach the final week of October.

Even more interesting is the late surge of monarch egg-laying. I know of over 20 nearby larvae or pupae (so there are likely far more), most on Desert Milkweed, Asclepias subulata. Usually we see this activity in September. While a few females were laying eggs then, I haven't heard of any successful offspring. Our record high of 111 likely squashed a successful generation. But now in October we still see monarchs laying eggs with caterpillars and chrysalids around town. A fresh and new looking female laid eggs just two days ago in my yard.

While the monarch breeding activity is continuing in the Phoenix area, migrating monarchs are beginning to reach their overwintering grounds in Mexico and California. Journey North posted a news flash announcing the first arrivals in Mexico. Citizen-scientists and casual observers are reporting monarchs along the California coast. Robert Pacelli gave his permission to share this photo of monarchs gathering yesterday at Pacific Grove. Robert spearheaded an effort to create a restoration habitat after massive pruning crashed the number of overwintering monarchs last year. Early indications are very hopeful with monarchs once again returning in higher numbers. Efforts to save the monarchs make a difference.

Locally, monarch butterflies are beginning to return to a small sanctuary at the Rio Salado Restoration Habitat. Last Saturday and again yesterday we spotted monarchs nectaring on Desert Milkweed, Asclepias subulata, and resting in nearby trees. Monarchs that leave too late to reach the coast of California or Mexico have found a protective haven in this small oasis in the desert the last several years.

With all the local monarch excitement we don't want to lose the wonderful experience Bob and I had in Eagle Pass, Texas. Leslie Gilson, Bob and I joined Carol Cullar, Mary Kennedy monitoring the Eastern monarchs as they moved through Southern Texas into Mexico. We'll post more photos later, but just had to show a small glimpse into a monarch roost of 5,000 in Del Rio, north of the area.

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