I guess I’m not the only one who loves the lantana in my backyard.
For the past couple of weeks, my backyard has been one of the layovers on the Monarch butterfly’s annual southward migration from Canada to Mexico.
What’s amazing about Monarchs is that they are the only butterfly that will migrate back northward in the spring.
Sadly, no one butterfly makes the entire round trip. It is during their migration that female monarchs deposit eggs for the next generation.
All of a sudden I have that little saying from third grade about the life cycle of a butterfly stuck in my head.
Last summer I spied these caterpillars, monarch larvae, all over my parsley plants.
(No such luck this year since my parsley gave out about August 1st.)
Anyway, after pigging out for a couple of weeks and storing up fat and nutrients, the larvae will (literally) hang it up and encase themselves inside of a protective exoskeleton where they will grow and develop into a butterfly. After a couple of weeks, the Monarch will emerge from the chrysalis (usually in the morning) and hang out for a while until their crinkled wings dry out a bit. Meanwhile their wings are filling out and with a few initial test flutters, the mature Monarchs fly off to feed on the nectar of flowers.
You better believe I’m planting lots of parsley and lantana next year!
And if all that isn’t cool enough, scientists have discovered that generations of Monarchs tend to return to the same overwinter locations. That somehow they inherit their flight path, and the researchers think that Monarchs use a combination of the sun’s position in the sky, circadian clocks based in their antennae, and possibly the earth’s magnetic field as a compass to direct their annual migration.
I just think they are beautiful. And I’ve been trying for a week to get some some photos of little winged wonders. Every afternoon I’d spy them fluttering around the lantana, so I would grab my camera and run out back the back door (the dogs barking and following along behind me) which only scared them away. Finally yesterday, I put the dogs inside and sat quietly in dirt. Lo and behold, the butterflies went on about their business and I was lucky enough to witness it.
And it made me very happy.
“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” Nathaniel Hawthorne
Lesson learned. Peace,