Butterfly migration season is starting to reach the High Plains of Texas. We’re on the western edge of the main migration route most years, because of our lack of watering sources. A few years, notably 2011 and 1995, it was so dry that we had two or three monarch butterflies at most. The rest stayed well to the east or west.
However, this year I’m starting to see monarchs and their associates, queens, viceroys, and fritillaries. The first true monarch butterfly appeared two weeks ago, fluttering around the crimson salvia. Then it moved on. I saw a few more on my way to work, and on Friday, one was pestering the butterfly bush near the driveway. I suspect the first part of the main wave will arrive late this week, following a powerhouse cold front that’s supposed to bring lots of rain and drop temperatures by, oh, thirty degrees.
I haven’t checked www.monarchwatch.org yet to see where the butterflies have been reported. That is the most up-to-date site, and I try to report in when I remember.
Map from http://www.monarchwatch.org, used under Fair Use, Creative Commons 3.0.
Redquarters has butterfly gardens, although we also have cardinals who have discovered that we have butterfly gardens. The swallowtails especially seem to be popular snacks with the cardinals, but we manage to get a few butterflies every year. Cabbage butterflies, alas, do well, as do sulfur butterflies, and moths. We do have milkweed, lots of milkweed, but no monarchs have thus far taken up the offer that I know of. So we have to wait for the migrations. Monarchs and hummingbirds* seem to mooch. They stop by, tank up, and then depart.
Monarchs overwinter in Mexico and California,although the last few years, the severe cold in Mexico has really hurt their numbers. Then the butterflies migrate north, following the Interior Flyway also used by birds, to reach their summer breeding grounds. Come October or so, when the first big cold-fronts power down from Canada, the monarchs start moving south again. These are the next generation, not the originals, for the most part.
Soon, the large orange and black visitors will pester the salvia, do their best to rip the butterfly bushes out of the ground, and flutter dramatically whenever I park or move the pick-up. Then they will continue on their way south. The geese and ducks will follow them, and goldfinches and junkos will move in for the winter. The seasons are changing, will we or nil we, just has they have for so long.
*We get hummingbirds until the neighbors’ trumpet vines bloom. Then the birds hang out there. The only year we had a resident hummingbird was when fence repairs took out the closest trumpet vines. Mother has been known to mutter darkly about trumpet vines, broad-leaf herbicides, and the dark of night. Thus far, we just plant more salvia and similar flowers.