So here's this male monarch nectaring on a pink zinnia in a Vacaville pollinator garden.
The nectar is rich and he is as hungry as a migrant butterfly seeking flight fuel for the long journey ahead.
A painted lady, Vanessa cardui, apparently in an amorous mood, quickly approaches and touches down next to him.
Monarch: "Whoa! What's going on?"
Painted lady: "Oops! Wrong species, wrong gender. Sorry about that! I'm leaving!"
Monarch, spreading his wings and preparing to leave: "That makes two of us!"
A monarch on the move...
When you see a monarch foraging on a flower, have you ever seen them--or photographed them--taking flight?
It's not your iconic image of monarch, but a few twists and turns, jumble of colors and jagged lines, and the monarch takes flight.
Scenario: a male monarch nectaring on Sept. 4 on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola, in a Vacaville pollinator garden.
He decides it's time to depart--maybe because he's had his fill of nectar, or maybe because male longhorned bees are becoming increasingly territorial, or maybe just because....
Seen any monarchs lately?
A beautiful male glided into our Vacaville garden late yesterday and made himself at home on our Mexican sunflowers, Tithonia rotundifola.
He claimed the patch--"mine, all mine, all mine!"--until a honey bee buzzed by looking for nectar. When the bee edged too close for his comfort, Mr. Monarch relinquished his blossom and simply fluttered to another one.
Backlit against the setting sun, the monarch's iconic colors gleamed. It was a magical moment.
Mr. Monarch is on his way to an overwintering site, perhaps Pacific Grove. KSBW, a Salinas television station, announced that the first weekend count at the Monarch Sanctuary in Pacific Grove revealed that the monarchs are returning in "large numbers."
Large numbers? The tally on Friday, Oct. 21 totaled 3,823. "In 2021, only one butterfly was seen," the news story related. "In 2021, only one butterfly was seen. In 2020, zero butterflies entered the sanctuary during their entire annual migration. At the beginning of the year, the Xerces Society reported that 247,237 monarch butterflies were observed across the West which amounts to more than a 100-fold increase from 2020 which saw fewer than 2,000 monarchs."
Entomologist David James of Washington State University, who studies migratory monarchs (citizen scientists in the Pacific Northwest tag them) reported Oct. 15 on his Facebook page, "Monarch Butterflies in the Pacific Northwest," that "We now have our fifth long distance tagged Monarch recovery! Remarkably this one came from the same release as the previous one! So, two recoveries from a group of Monarchs reared and released by Gillian Gifford Short on September 28 in Ruch, Oregon. The first recovery (G6797) was found in Trinidad, CA about 100 miles SW from Ruch. The latest recovery (G6800) was found yesterday, October 14 in San Rafael, CA by Kelly...This individual did not fly coastward, instead flying almost due south for 295 miles. Still not done migrating, it likely has another 100 or so miles to go before it reaches a coastal overwintering site."
Dear Ms. Mantis,
We see you. You're trying to camouflage yourself, but we see you.
You're hanging out on a showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, trying to catch a butterfly or a bee.
So, will you try to nab a monarch? A Mama Monarch that's trying to lay her eggs on her host plant?
You know, the declining monarch population is on “life support,” as butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, says.
Ms. Mantis, we remember when one of your kin ambushed a monarch on our butterfly bush in September of 2015. Your kin ate the head, thorax and abdomen and discarded the wings. The wings fluttered to the ground. Yes, we know you have to eat, too. Everything in the garden eats.
But now that we have your attention, Ms. Mantis, would you kindly consider the following menu--à la carte, if you wish?
- Appetizing aphids
- Scrumptious stink bugs
- Magnificent milkweed bugs
- Crunchy cabbage white butterflies
- Luscious leaffooted bugs
Thank you, Ms. Mantis, for your kind attention to this culinary matter. If we may be of any future help in menu planning (it's important to consider the principles of adequacy, balance, calorie or energy control, nutrient density, moderation and variety), please let us know.
An American flag flies from its sky-high pole at our home year-around.
A U.S. Air Force veteran lives here, and the survivors of generations of veterans, starting with the American Revolution, live here.
On Memorial Day, Flag Day and Veterans' Day, we pause and pay tribute to all who served in our nation's wars.
I think of my great-grandfather, Samuel Davidson Laughlin, a Union color bearer in the Civil War who carried the American flag in several of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War: the Siege of Vicksburg, Battle of Lookout Mountain, and the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The 6'3" farm boy from Linn, Mo. towered over his fellow soldiers. Height, as well as strength and courage, determined who carried the flags. It was an honor accorded to only a few.
Sam Laughlin and his white-knuckle grip on the American flag portrayed a defining moment in history. He escaped the blood and bullets of the Civil War unscathed. His flag did not; a musket tore a hole in it.
What he saw on the battlefields, however, would torment him and his fellow soldiers for decades.
The horrors of war....
Back at camp, did they ever pause to see a little beauty reminding them of the existence of Mother Nature...such as a butterfly fluttering by? Not during the late fall or winter months! Perhaps they did at the Siege of Vicksburg (May 18-July 4, 1863)? Maybe a monarch to soothe the soul?
"Some of the most breathtaking sights are those created by Mother Nature. And during the next few weeks, we'll get to experience one of her most eye-catching works – the spring migration of the monarch butterfly. The vibrant insects pass right through Mississippi, creating a colorful show in the sky."--Only in Your State (Mississippi)
Flying high, flying free.