Monday, November 7, 2011

Monarchs are Plentiful Around Town

Gracin & Noah 10-30-11
North winds usually open the gate for monarch butterflies and last week was no exception. Monarchs were the talk of the town as sightings of these delightful creatures surged. Nature lovers in Mesa, Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale and Wickenburg were reporting sightings and a few were still seeing females laying eggs. Our warm Fall temperatures likely triggered some monarchs to break their non-reproductive state typical of the migration into creating another generation. Chrissy netted a monarch to tag in Wickenburg then took this photo of her son, Noah, and neighbor, Gracin, cherishing their close encounter with their monarch before it flew on its way.

Photo by Debbie Blunt 10-28-11

Earlier Debbie Blunt spotted a monarch at the Wickenburg Community Hospital. A few days later she spotted another.


Last Thursday I found two monarch caterpillars devouring Desert Milkweed, Asclepias erosa, outside the Butterfly Pavilion at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Earlier in the morning a large queen caterpillar larvae joined them.

Again in my backyard I found a female laying eggs on Halloween. She was almost on the pool deck trying to find the perfect leaf she targeted on this milkweed.

If you have milkweed in your yard but you aren't sure if you have any monarch caterpillars, look for their "signs."  While you can't look for footprints like you can for animals, you can look for leaves that are chewed or slight skeletonizing of leaves. Usually small caterpillars are munching on the under side. Or look at the ground near your plants. In this photo you can see caterpillar droppings (poop) we eloquently call "frass." 

If you follow the frass up you can often find the "culprit" to enjoy.

I also received questions wondering about the survival of the monarchs in our fierce wind storm last Friday with gusts over 50 mph. I found two monarchs visiting the flowers in my yard on Saturday and Sunday and they looked pretty good. Others are saying the same. The cooler weather should put a lid on breeding around town and the developmental stages will also slow in response, too. Enjoy these last days of the monarch season.