First monarch

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This monarch spent much of the morning checking out the milkweed plants in my garden and finally settled on this clump of orange butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). The white flowers are daisy fleabane (Erigoren), a native annual.

We used to see a lot of monarchs in our garden: in July, they’d come to lay eggs on the milkweed, and in September members of the next generation would stop to nectar on the asters and liatris as they migrated south. On a warm, still autumn day, we might see a dozen on a single plant. But in recent years their numbers have dwindled. I’ve seen perhaps one in the past two years.

This morning the monarch you see here spent at least an hour in the backyard looking for milkweed–both A. tuberosa and A. incarnata are in bloom. When monarchs look for milkweed, they hover over or barely touch each plant. If it’s not milkweed, they move on immediately; if it is, they seem to check it out carefully. lighting on different parts of the plant, sometimes nectaring if it’s in bloom. I think this individual finally decided to lay eggs. Take a look at the photo below: she curves her body beneath the plant as many butterflies do when they deposit eggs, although I’ve never seen a monarch do this in a flower cluster before. Usually they choose a leaf. But you can bet I’ll be checking this plant for pupae.

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