Danaus Plexippus

Right side view of Monarch butterfly on Tithonia, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch Habitat I, Eatonton, GA

They will be here in my Georgia yard, soon, very soon. Back where I used to live, Pittsburgh, you’d see perhaps one Monarch or two in your home garden from May to July. That was exasperating Monarchmama, because those 7 foot tall and 8 foot tall Common milkweed plants were strong, bearing huge flowerheads, all for one or two Monarchs! Twenty or more milkweeds, despondent, waiting for Monarchs, but none come.

Here in Georgia, Virginia’s Butterflies & Blooms Briar Patch (as in Br’er Rabbit) Habitat usually has 3 to 4 Monarchs present on any day from April to October. Last November, there was that day when 5 Monarchs arrived in my own garden, together, and they nectared on the Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) for several hours, before they left, headed to Mexico.

They are show headliners, like Johnny Cash, Elvis, the Beatles, Diana Ross, Bing Crosby (my music stopped with the ’60’s). When they fly in, those poor Cloudless Sulphurs, Painted Ladies and Black Swallowtails are abandoned, for Look! a Monarch just flew in!! This male is happily on Tithonia, in that very same Briar Patch Habitat in Eatonton, Georgia.

So, I ask you, Why did G-d make the Monarch butterfly?

Jeff

Small Town Mystery?

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Pickerelweed blooms photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

This satisfying image brought me to thinking. Sure, I know that this Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge has been home to tens of thousands of butterflies, for as long as we can reckon. Yes, that puts these Pickerelweed blooms close, very close to butterflies like this Gulf Fritillary.

I have no doubt that these little blooms emit aromatic nano packets of sensory activating hydrocarbons. The Gulfs follow the ‘trail’ of those aroma bursts, some 100 feet or 400 feet, and reach this sizable flowerstalk, optimistic and hungry. All that reckons with my high school and college Chemistry understandings.

Tougher to grasp is this, my new garden. In February 2018 I started creating beds, where before there was mowed ground. From that mild later winter, to last month, those beds were planted with native Georgian plants, from Pussytoes to Hercules Club to Clethra to a slew of trees: BlackCherry, Hickory, Sassafras, Plums, Atlantic White Cedar, Hoptree and more. Sure, there were some setbacks, the most challenging the acknowledgment that there were most wet areas that retained below ground water for weeks. Ok, that forced some switharoos, but y’all had been there, had to do that.

The result? We were mobbed by butterflies. Gulf Fritillaries on the Passionflower. Cloudywings on the small Zinnias (non-native) and Starflower (?). Giant Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Buckeyes, Ladies, Zebra and Zebra Heliconians, many, many species of Skippers . . . Just mobbed. I loved it, I did. A lifelong dream that, butterflies from February to November.

Comes the mystery. There is not, to my knowledge, a garden like this in town (the County Courthouse is 2 blocks away, we are squarely in town) for at least 3/4 mile in any direction. I know why this Gulf here found this luxurious wetland Pickerelweed. I do not know how the hundreds (thousands) of butterflies found my garden, from such great distances?? Do you?

I’ve planted 2 Atlantic White Cedars. Will a very special Juniper Hairstreak ever know that their hostplant is here? I’m in the midst of a frustrating search for Sweet Leaf AKA Horse Sugar trees. Will the rare King’s Hairstreak, a big long shot, find those? How’d the Great Purple Hairstreak, my first ever seen, find my garden last summer???

Small town mystery?

Jeff