The main story this week is migration. A bunch of monarchs came into our area and then got penned in for a few days by all the rain and cold weather. They mostly huddled in the trees. Yesterday morning, Marilyn was up and out earlier than usual for a Sunday, and saw the butterflies waking up in the trees and starting to head south and west. A couple of hours later, she checked in the garden, and sure enough, there were a lot of them there, something like six at a time, mostly on the Mexican sunflowers:
That last one isn’t a monarch. It’s a tiny butterfly called a skipper. The funny thing is, it kept chasing monarchs away from the flowers it wanted — and they kept giving in. But migration isn’t the whole story just yet. Yesterday Marilyn found a monarch egg. Noooooooo … But if she calculates one month from today, she still feel mostly OK about its chances, and if she really gets into a bind, it is possible to ship a caterpillar or chrysalis further south, as long as the recipient has a special USDA permit — and Marilyn knows people who do.
Meanwhile, the four caterpillars Marilyn already had are doing well, and yesterday she added a black swallowtail. You might recall that their way of coping with cold weather, rather than migrating, is to remain in their chrysalis all winter. So, if all goes well, the caterpillar she found today will be a butterfly in May. Here’s her current crew (the swallowtail is the black and white one at the bottom — when they’re really young, they camouflage as bird poop):
Finally, because photos weren’t fully capturing what she saw, Marilyn also took this video:
Continue to watch for activity in the garden, especially in the mornings and evenings — there will probably be a few waves of butterflies migrating through (and then Marilyn’s stragglers, of course).