Queen of the blue mistflowers

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Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog, and so now we can compute just how long “a while” is.

Of course, this picture was taken several months earlier when I was fooling around with a different camera and lens, and trying to transfer learning between one of two systems (in alphabetical order: Canon and Nikon) without recourse to written instruction. This picture appeared on at least one Native Plant Society of Texas blog, and reappears in these pages because it is quicker and easier than processing some other photo.

Sad to say, the result shown here was probably more a matter of luck than transfer of skill. But it is skill in choosing native plants appropriate to the region that results in the Queen (Danaus gilippus) and Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies that have been seen recently. I did manage to get a shot of the Monarch, but haven’t gone after the Queens yet – it has been windy, and they rarely stay still for long. Why a Monarch is in my neck of the woods in mid-July seems to be one of those outliers to the norm mysteries for which the answer may never be known for sure.

And so it goes – Asclepias tuberosa and friends

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Asclepias tuberosaThis is the native milkweed that the Monarch butterflies use as a food source in both the larval and adult stages, though in the larval stage it consumes the leaves, and in the adult phase it consumes only the nectar, but may leave behind little eggs that hatch into caterpillars.

The nursery trade typically only has Asclepias curassavica, commonly known as Tropical milkweed, which can be distinguished from tuberosa by the colors of its flowers, which include both red and orange.Monarch butterfly

I was at a local demonstration garden near where I live, and observed a large number of plants that were definitely yellow, along with a few that were the red and orange  A. curassavica species. They even had a few Monarchs visiting, although the southbound butterflies have been few and far between so far this season.

Larva - Danaus plexippus (Monarch)

Larva – Danaus plexippus (Monarch)

This past Friday, October 3, 2014, I found four Monarch larvae on the milkweeds in my front yard. In the cool of Saturday morning, I located one still on the milkweeds and one on a nearby rock, slowly moving towards some groundcover under the oak tree. Later that afternoon, someone came by who has been actively nurturing the caterpillars, and we found just one, on a milkweed, that was transplanted to their yard a few miles north.

And so it goes. Imagine how many more Monarchs would be around if large chemical companies had to include some sort of environmental impact statement in their marketing, such as :

For a Few Dollars More – improves crop yield by selectively killing native plants that are essential to the survival of certain insect species, including the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

Extinction Is Forever – The life of an insect may span less than a year, but the extinction of a species may echo through the years. Who knows what pests you may unleash by using a pesticide to upset the natural balance of your local ecosystems? Who cares as long as we get a positive growth in this year’s balance on the bottom line? Let the next generation of scientists and economists figure out the true costs of our actions today.

“And so it goes.”  (I think Kurt Vonnegutt said that fisrt.)


Danaus plexippus – Monarch Butterfly

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Danaus plexippus - Monarch

Danaus plexippus – Monarch Butterfly

After posting photos of  Monarch mimic Viceroy Butterfly and the Queen Butterfly, it seems only appropriate to post the iconic Monarch Butterfly. if only to distinguish among them.

In Central Texas, both Monarchs and Queens can be found hovering over and feeding on Gregg Mistflower Conoclinium Greggii, shown here alongside the Monarch.  Of course, while Queen can be found here in the middle of July and August,  Monarchs tend to hang in Ohio and Canada until maybe September and October. This particular photo was taken in May a few years ago, probably a second generation new hatched, as Monarchs tend to clear out of Central Texas by May.

Around October, it would be helpful to be able to distinguish between the Monarch and the Queen. One thing is size – Monarchs tend to be larger.  With folded wings, the Monarch has a much lighter orange on its hindwing, while the Queen’s orange is much more saturated. On the upper wing,  the Monarch continues the “stained-glass” like pattern of black lines separating panels of orange, while the Queen has no lines. When the wings are opened, the Queen lacks any lines, with a solid orange, while the Monarch has the same pattern on both sides of its wings. And of course, the Viceroy has the horizontal line across the hindwing and is smaller than the monarch.

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