Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Never Fear, the Monarchs Were Here!


In the past few weeks, I've been whining about the lack of Monarchs in the garden. The first one of the season that I spotted was way back in late May and its early arrival made me think there would more of them than usual this summer, but we've only seen two more since then. We have prepared a banquet of Asclepias plants of various sorts for their babies to munch on and heaven knows there's no shortage of nectar, so where are the butterflies?

Every day I do at least one walk-through of the garden, where I simply observe and enjoy whatever happens to be blooming and growing there. No weeding, no deadheading, just a nice relaxing stroll. Usually, my camera is hanging around my neck, because every time it isn't, you can be sure I've missed a photo op and I'm sent running back to the house to retrieve it.


Today I walked around behind the fence that runs on two sides of Max's Garden so I could get a better look at the blooming sunflowers. They are being shy this year by showing only their backsides to anyone who walks through the garden. I've planted sunflowers in the past and we always had blooms facing east, south, and west. This year, they all face east. All. Day. Long.

After I had a good look at the 'Apricot Twist' seeds that grew up to be something else (mislabeled seed packet??), I wanted to take a close look at the Swamp Milkweed (
Asclepias incarnata) that grows lush and full back in that same corner. Observation has taught me that the Monarchs love this plant the best of all and it usually plays host to several Monarch caterpillars at a time throughout the summer. My goal was to see if I could find any eggs on its leaves, which would be evidence that at least one Monarch had been here.

The first thing I saw was a gigantic wasp. I think it may have been longer than the Cicada Killers!


Great Golden Digger Wasp

All of a sudden, something caught my eye and there was no need to me to look for Monarch eggs. There was a full-grown Monarch caterpillar that was large enough to tell me that a chrysalis is in the offing. A quick scan of the rest of the plant showed another smaller one.


I still looked for eggs because I'd never seen one before (I'd never looked). It didn't take me long to find a few of them, each singly laid. Two on leaves and one on a stem.





















































So all is well in our Monarch Waystation. They've
been here, they are here, and they will be here.


16 comments:

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

What wonderful news! That's really exciting. I've been wanting to add asclepias of some variety in the garden for years. Maybe next year I'll actually remember. ;-)

Cindy

GardenJoy4Me said...

Kylee what amazing photos !
That giant wasp was incredible : )
I don't know what I am doing wrong with no butterfly tourists coming to visit my garden .. I have so many so called plant magnets it is ridiculous .. but still .. to no avail .. no monarchs ??

Janet said...

That is some careful observation Kylee!! So glad they are there in your garden.

Patsi 'Garden Endeavors' said...

Never thought to look for the Monarch caterpillar. Know I haven't seen but a few butterflies this year...so sad.

Those sun flowers are stunning.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

It's wonderful to have beautiful butterflies in the garden, isn't it Kylee? I saw a very rare one yesterday and felt really chuffed about it.

I like the caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly too as they are very pretty!

If you have to time, we serve a great menu on Bliss today and I've got a new dishwasher. ;-)

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

Such good news about the monarchs, Kylee! I have seen a couple but no signs of dining yet in my milkweed. Perhaps now that we're in our fourth nice day in a row...

Rose said...

This is great news, Kylee! I have been lamenting, too, that we seem to have a shortage of butterflies this year. I have seen a few Monarchs in other areas, but none in my garden. But it's not just the Monarchs that are in short supply this year; I'm hoping that they are just slow in arriving.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

That wasp is huge!
That's great you found signs of the Monarchs there. We don't get them here, so I enjoy reading about others having them visit their gardens. Even the caterpillars they start as are pretty.

Kris said...

Once again you've posted something that I've seen myself: all of my sunflowers are facing East (away from the house). I expected them to follow the sun, but this year all they want to do is greet the dawn. How odd...

Glad you've found some Monarch cats. I've had a resident Monarch for weeks, but no friend for it...so no eggs, etc.

T Opdycke said...

I've seen but one monarch this year. Last year we had a monarch caterpillar come indoors, crawl up the wall until I found a leaf and waited for it to crawl aboard. Back outside it went and I just have to believe it found it's way to the crysallis to become a butterfly.

Gardenista said...

Good for you for finding those beautiful little critters! I must admit I don't know enough about the monarchs to even know if I should look for them in my area! Nice photos.

Bren said...

Fabulous photos my dear!
Wonderful blog entry as always. :-)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

A wonderful find in the garden Kylee. I wonder if the sunflowers are growing this way because of all the rain we have had this summer?? Their faces always follow the sun.

MyMaracas said...

I'm happy to hear you are seeing Monarchs, especially the eggs and caterpillars. I've only seen them once this year, though we have lots of milkweed. After checking out your link to the Waystation site, I suspect we are lacking nectar sources. I'll add some of those next year. Thanks for that link.

Your garden is wonderful. I have never seen sunflowers like that! Gorgeous, although it is very curious that they are facing the wrong way.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful set of photos!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

YAY! And thanks for sharing the photos of the eggs, Kylee. I didn't know what they looked like, and now I think I need to go out and do some investigating on my asclepias... :)

Kris said...

I, too, have many new wasps this year. Not only the Great Golden Digger Wasp, but the Great Black Wasp. These intriguing creatures are only interested in one single type of plant new to the gardens this year: Monarda Punctata. They are just crazy for the nectar! But they don't seem to find any interest in any of the other monardas nor any other flowers.

It's so nice to find bloggers in the general area making note of similar insects, weather patterns, flowers, etc. Gotta love the internet. :-D

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