I rubbed my eyes and it was real!

Monarch butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

I went into my backyard today, and my right eye caught a glimpse of a large butterfly. I purposefully working the plants in the ‘shed bed.’ OMG! She was . . . a Monarch. April 1, 2019 and this big Monarch female was, and here again I was incredulous, she was examining my just budding out Asclepias.

I made a very slow, very robotic approach and she fled. I  saw her. She was not birdstruck, but she had lost many scales, and her orange was very dull.

I went to examine my other garden beds, and maybe 5 minutes later I went back to the shed bed. Just then she flew back to the shed bed, and began depositing eggs on my milkweed (Asclepias).

Minutes later she left.

Happily rocked, I smiled, for I had just met a female Monarch butterfly, who had flown all the way from Mexico to my yard in Eatonton, Georgia. A heroic Monarch, who rewarded me with her eggs, in my garden of all places. The eggs of a Joan of Arc, or Margaret Thatcher, or Golda Meier, or Christie Brinkley.

If she’d waited a bit more, I was tempted to practice my waining Spanish on her. But nope, she left, on April 1, believe it or not.

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