Friday, September 5, 2014


I read an article a few days ago that said that the monarch butterfly population has dropped 90% in the last 20 years! No wonder we hardly see any of them anymore. We used to see them come through in huge bunches every fall, and they would rest in the trees and look so beautiful. Here's a not-very-clear photo I took in September of 2003:

Since then the numbers have dwindled each year, and now it's almost rare to see a monarch flying around at all. I did see one a few days ago, and I followed it around with the camera, trying to get a good photo of it. It was not very cooperative, though, and I only got this one shot with its wings spread, and it was way up in a tree.

It kept flying from place to place. I kept following and snapping away.

That shot was kinda cool, but let's try it again with a little better light setting.

Maybe even zoom in a little closer.

Time for a different tree.

And yet another tree.

And another.

It finally flew too far for me to continue following.

I try to do my part every year to help the monarch population along (mainly because I think it's fun and interesting). I capture the caterpillars that I find on milkweed plants and keep them until they've eventually become butterflies, then I set them free.

Here's a little cage, made by Courtney's daddy's uncle many years ago. I use it to contain the caterpillars.

Last year Courtney and I searched a lot, but we didn't find a single caterpillar. This year we had better luck, and we found 5 in one day! Here they are, and as you can see, 2 of them have made their chrysalis(es?) already. It will be about 10 days before the first ones hatch.

I think they actually have a better survival rate in captivity like this than in the open. I have rarely ever seen a chrysalis on a milkweed plant. So I hope my little efforts are helping. Because of the terrible decline in population, "environmental groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the monarch butterfly as a threatened species."

I happened to see a couple more monarchs on Wednesday morning. I think this one was telling me that I needed to pick this muskmelon. :) (We've been eating them during the last week, and they are delicious!)

It's a good thing I had the zoom lens on the camera so I could get this shot from a distance. As soon as I moved closer, it took off. Butterflies must have amazing eyesight!


annie dee said...

The local Monarch Butterflies did their caterpillar things on my Scarlet Milkweed plant after they stripped it of leaves. The new butterflies flew off and the plant is full of leaves again ready for the next generation. I'd read a similar article that said because milkweed was considered 'unattractive' it was being cut down. No milkweed. No Monarchs. I'm happy to add milkweed in my yard! Beautiful photos. You have amazing patience.

Grandma G said...

I'd never heard of Scarlet Milkweed before. That's my "learn something new" for today! Googling it, I see it has much prettier flowers than what we have here.

Thanks! Patience... or maybe my addictive personality. ;)

LiEr said...

Argh! No warning! No warning! Suddenly there was a caterpillar photo! Eeeeeeeeeee! Although I shoulda guessed, really, given the subject matter of today's post.

LiEr said...

Okay, now that I've gotten over my fright, I love the stalk-the-monarch shots. They are such striking and beautiful butterflies, aren't they? No comment on the caterpillars, though.

Grandma G said...

Hey, that was a pretty subtle caterpillar picture! But sorry for the scare. ;) And thanks for the grin. I needed that.