Monday, December 18, 2006

Butterfly Bump and Grind

The middle of December on a clear sunny cool morning and there was somethin' floppin' around on my driveway. An amorous couple of copulating Monarch Butterflies had crashed to the ground. They kept busy while I went inside and got the camera.

One had a constricting hold on the others wing and seemed to be in control of the situation. The dominant one opened and closed its wings several times while I hovered over them. When I was satisfied and stepped back, they lifted straight into the air. One Butterfly was flying, one was hanging still beneath with closed wings.

I have always wondered when did the Monarchs get here? What stops them from migrating to the Oyamel fir forests in central Mexico when the days get short and cool? Or once the job is done do they sail out in to the Pacific Ocean headed south east. Is there a trail of orange and black wings floating on the waves that points to Mexico?

We have several species of Milkweed for the catepillars to eat. One, Gomphocarpus physocarpus is allowed to self seed in my garden and there are plenty of flowers for the adults to fuel up on. They glide through my garden on a daily basis and add a sense of grace that does not come from me. They own it and are kind enough to share it with me.


chuck b. said...

Great pictures! Cool! I haven't seen monarchs in my garden, although I've got milkweed seed all ready to be sown...I guess milkweed seed is always all ready to be sown...anyhow, I'm going to sow it (Asclepias speciosa) in pots because in the ground milkweed comes up so late in the season, it will be too hard for me to keep track of.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Try and find some of the Gomphocarpus seed. It is essentially a weed and grows fast and quick. You would probably rather have catepillars eat that than your Asclepias while it is getting established and could move any you find on it to the Gomphocarpus.

Annie in Austin said...

The concept of Monarch butterflies in Hawaii is mind boggling. I've been lucky enough to see a few emerge from the chrysalis, but missed any mating that was going on in the garden. You're really using the new camera well!

I was wondering if it's been a long time since you first noticed Monarchs in there any possibility that rather than flying there, that at some point someone smuggled in a number of chrysalides, so the monarchs established themselves because of plants like the Gomphocarpus? They're really popular for hatch & release finales at wedding.

The distance seems so daunting for their presence to be a natural occurance!


Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Doing a little searching, I can find that Monarch Butterflies have been in Hawaii since the 1840's but it does not say how they got here.

The Crown Flower, Calotropis gigantea was a favorite of Queen Liliuokalani. Maybe she had them imported knowing a larval food source was available.