Monarch Butterfly at Phipps Conservatory

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Phipps Conservatory

Hard to believe that we’ve reached midsummer? We are solidly in the month of July ’13. NABA members are just now reporting that they’ve seen their first Danaus plexippus. This male Monarch was photographed in 2011 at Phipps Conservatory’s Outdoor Gardens in Pittsburgh. He is sipping nectar from Tall Verbena. This perennial is an excellent choice for your garden. Few of your flowers can produce nectar from June through November, as tall verbena does.

Sometimes familiarity does breed contempt. Sometimes we just forget how beautiful our Monarchs are. Look at this fellow, with his rich orange, darkest black markings set with stark white spots; those lemony orange submarginal spots; the splattered white spots adorning his head. Is he not a Hunk?

When we present a slide show before groups, the predictable question is “How do you know that he’s a male?” Look at his hindwings. Do you see the veins that are closest to his body?  See the  black scent patches at the center of those veins? The patches clinch the identification. Males have them, and females do not. They enable males during courtship.

This morning I photographed in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park, a 900+ acre city park. Hackberry Emperor Butterflies were flying, and there were dozens of them within 100.’ They were all males. Monarchs are aptly named because females far outnumber males, in my experience.

Note the historic Cathedral of Learning tower in the background. The University of Pittsburgh landmark frames the Monarch portrait.