Some days I head out the door with eyes as big as those of a fly and then I try to stand in one place and watch what might pass by.
Unfortunately, I’m not always as patient as a robberfly and soon find myself pacing in search of the next great sight.
Even when it turns out to be a Japanese Beetle munching on a leaf, I’m not totally disappointed. After all, it does have such an incredible sense of color and fashion.
But what I really hoped to see I suddenly became aware of as first one, then two, three, four and even more Monarchs fluttered in their butterfly way, seeming to glide for a bit and then make an almost apparent decision to land before a change of mind until at last . . . upon the Milkweed it did pause.
Curious thing. So did another Japanese Beetle. That led me to wonder: how will these two get along and negotiate the territory?
The Monarch poked its straw-like proboscis into the heavenly-scented flowers as it sought sweetness while the beetle continued to move toward it.
But the beetle was on a mission of its own and the two seemed to co-exist side by side.
In fact, they were practically oblivious of each other. Unlike when a Common Yellowthroat tried to land and the Monarch chased it away.
Finally the butterfly crossed over to another flower on the tall stem and left the beetle behind.
I moved on as well, in search of others to focus on like the female Ruby Meadowhawk Dragonfly. How can it be that it’s already Meadowhawk season, the late bloomers in my book of dragonflies?
And yet, the colors of summer today included not only the pinks of Steeplebush, but also the yellows of goldenrods beginning to blossom.
Mixed into those colors and because of their movement and then moments of pausing, the Monarchs kept tugging at the strings of my heart and pulling me back into the moment.
And in that real time moment, I had the pleasure of spying couples in their canoodling fashion, though they tended to be much more elusive than some insects. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought the female was dead as the male flew along with her dangling below until he landed on a stem of choice. From what I’ve read, their mating can take up to sixteen hours. Oh my.
As it turned out, I soon discovered that at least one mating had resulted in at least one caterpillar. I suspect there will be more soon, but this one will have a head start on munching its way through the Milkweed kingdom.
All the while that I stalked the Monarchs, a Common Yellowthroat did its own stalking, constantly announcing its location with chirps. And then I realized it had a caterpillar in its mouth as it moved among the stems of the Spreading Dogbane. Oh dear. Fortunately it wasn’t a Monarch caterpillar, but will it be only a matter of time?
A few more steps and I noticed a Katydid on a Milkweed leaf. Oh yikes. So many visitors who like to munch.
For the moment all bets are placed on only one Monarch caterpillar to continue the life cycle.
Blame it on the Monarchs for calling me back to the same spot I’ve been stalking for a few weeks and giving me the opportunity to notice them mating and the results of such actions and other insects as well.
Want to learn more? The Greater Lovell Land Trust will offer these two programs:
July 31, 7:00 pm, Monarchs at Risk with Don Bennett
Recent censuses show the smallest Monarch butterfly populations in Mexico and the west coast hibernacula in recorded history. Why is this happening? Is there anything we can do? Are drastic declines in the Monarch populations a sign of something more insidious? Come listen to Naturalist Don Bennett, PhD, and discover why this is such an important message for all of us.
Location: Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library, Route 5, Lovell
August 1, 9:30 am – noon: Monarchs in the field: Monarch butterflies need milkweed plants to survive — as caterpillars they only eat milkweed and Monarch moms lay their eggs on the milkweed plant. We’ll take a walk along a dirt road that abuts a farm field and river, where milkweed grows in abundance and search for Monarchs and other butterflies.
Location: Meet behind the Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library to carpool.
Degree of Difficulty: Easy