Posts Tagged ‘monarch butterflies’

There is no end to the tale of the last Monarch chrysalis that hung from the siding of my house.

When unseasonably cold nights threatened, I insulated the chrysalis under a box against the house, cushioned by towels to keep out the cold.  Sheltered, it survived the wind and cold  intact.  Maturing, the chrysalis grew transparent, revealing the black and orange creature waiting within.

Warmth returned.  Days later, the Monarch was gone, chrysalis and all.  Did it blow away entirely on a warm autumn night?  Or did the butterfly finally fly on, leaving its aged former home to join restless leaves on their journey?

There is no end to the tale.

Not a bad thing.

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During our dreams we do not know we are dreaming.
– Master Zhuang, Chinese philosopher, 300 BC


Nighttime temperatures continue to fall, daytime temps are cooling.

Still the second Monarch chrysalis remains.  Green with golden zipper, it adheres to westward facing vinyl siding.  Unmoving, its inhabitant deep, even lost, in a transformational dream.

Compelled by its own nature to form its chrysalis, it may never emerge,  gone already into endless sleep.  So too, it may yet emerge against the odds,  to attempt a challenging migration.

If successful in breaking free of caterpillar form, and if it survives the battering journey south, it will join a multitude of its own.  Together, in company and concert, to experience a lifetime that was once only a cellular dream.

Something to that.



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Checking the tomato patch this morning, the darkened Monarch chrysalis was unchanged.

By noon, the same report.

By late afternoon, only an empty husk of a once bejeweled green chrysalis remained.

In the garden, astride a Verbena bonariensis, was a brilliant Monarch butterfly slowly fanning its wings.

By early evening, it was gone.

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Nights are cool, leaves are changing, autumn arrives this evening.

After a hard spring, it was a good summer.  With a focus on soil health,  the garden thrilled as never before.

Flowers blossomed, vegetables and children grew.  As a Monarch butterfly Waystation, our garden enjoyed the summer-long company of Monarchs and a bumper crop of their caterpillars.

Still gathering tomatoes, I unloaded another basket in my kitchen just now.  To my surprise, I found a darkening Monarch chrysalis attached to the side of a fully ripe tomato.  I carefully replaced the tomato in the garden.  Along the siding of the house, I spotted another chrysalis.  With luck, both butterflies will emerge soon to begin their southward migration.

Years ago, a late-blooming Monarch butterfly named Longshot was unable to take to the skies by the time it emerged. Here is hoping these two make it.

Flowers, butterflies and humans – they all have a better chance of emergence when the conditions are right.

I will keep you posted.

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It has been just about a year since Longshot, a late season Monarch butterfly I once knew.

Brought inside from freezing November cold, Longshot emerged from its chrysalis too late, with stiff wings.  Passing on amidst fine fresh cut flowers and greenery, Longshot had a view of a sky he or she never touched.

Buried under the milkweed in my garden, I have visited Longshot as the winter and my legal ordeal wore on.  Spring and summer came, with some luck the worst part of a high conflict custody matter is behind me.

Come autumn, the garden is again a riot of bursting seed pods, crimson grass, yellow leaves, azure and purple sage.  Color to rival summer in every way, hummingbirds only now trailing away.

The spell of autumn is different, tales of things that come to pass, like Longshot, or custody trials and the ill they weave, decaying in their time.

Though globally, monarch populations continue to decline,  more visited my garden this season than any year prior.

Here is to you Longshot, for the will to live in the toughest of times and the heart to come again in the spring, eternity is yours.

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The last butterfly is slowly bobbing up and down on the launch pad, wings drying in a slight breeze.

Of six caterpillars, five survived to attempt the southward trip to Mexico.  Locally, the days, nights, and flowers remain warm – initial conditions could not be better.

There is majesty to these butterflies.  They became what they were not, utterly unaware of the original destiny contained within their caterpillar skins.  Their  metaphor for human transformation is succinct.

But metaphor only.

Beautiful, compelling, inspiring.  While I may dream of being a butterfly, or perhaps they dream of being me – their transformative process is not ours.

Successful metamorphosis is complete, unforgiving, relentlessly onward – archetypal in Nature.

Although we work our lives for creativity, tread both earth and sky, and mature in liminal space – humans are forever cyclical.  Unlike the caterpillar, we ride the arrow of time both ways.

Evolution, revolution – forward, backward, dropping off pieces for the future and going back for more.

The butterflies have gone on. Autumn leaves are falling.  Inward, outward, down to start again.

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Mid-morning Friday on the loveliest autumnal day you ever saw, Mr. Saturday Night and a sibling emerged from stillness.

The bejeweled chrysalis that contained their transformation became crunchy, clear debris.  Organic artifact to changing times.

Home from school sick, my oldest and I marveled at the still-wet sheets of orange and black silken wings.  With such utterly different form, I could not help but wonder what those now-winged former caterpillars might be thinking, feeling – in their way.

When my youngest arrived home,  the jars were conveyed to the launch pad – a large Agastache plant in full bloom.  With a bigger body and wingspan than its cohort, Mr. Saturday Night fumbled a bit as they clung to flowers in the breeze.

Within minutes each butterfly flew up to a quaking aspen, it’s yellow mottled leaves of autumn offering perfect camouflage.  The two swayed gently up and down until dusk,  then disappeared into the garden.

As they moon rose and its siblings took to the sky, I brought the deteriorating chrysalis of Hunny Bear into the garden and nestled it under the milkweed plant upon which it was born, and once saw the sun, the moon,  maybe felt the breeze.

Butterfly number three emerged early yesterday morning, anxious to be off.  Born to run, there was no hanging around for him.  Crawling off my hand onto the launch pad, he was aloft and southbound in minutes.

This afternoon monarch butterflies, one, then two, gliding about my garden from time to time.  I have to smile.

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Yesterday my youngest went on a nature walk with his class around the wetland area surrounding the school campus.  While surveying a stand of milkweed, he was thrilled to locate  a monarch caterpillar noshing on a leaf and excitedly shared his find with the class.

We went back after school today to take a look at our newly found friend.  My son ran ahead of me on the boardwalk built to protect the environs, only to reappear seconds later downcast.  The milkweed stand, some two feet away from the boardwalk had been mowed, only shards of stems and ragged leaves remained — gone too was the young caterpillar.

This  mishap echoes the greater decimation of milkweed across the United States.  As the primary host plant of the monarch butterfly, milkweed  has come under attack from habitat development, herbicide use – and errant human aesthetics – of the kind that mowed the native habitat in our wetland.

We take so much, we give so little.  In my small garden I cultivate five different varieties of milkweed, provide cover, shade and water.  It does not touch the loss of one or  one million acres of lost milkweed – but at least it exists.  Do you want to keep breathing oxygen?  Plant a tree.  Want to see beauty on the wing?  Plant a milkweed.   Think global, act local, as they say.

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Monarch update.

Having passed a pleasant weekend in a sunny window, five chrysalis wait.

The sixth chrysalis, the last caterpillar to go, has turned almost black.  Although chrysalis darken  before emergence,  this change in colour is too soon.  It speaks of  process gone wrong and very likely a caterpillar not likely to make the leap.

His (or her) name was Hunny Bear, the youngest and smallest, and named so for the habit of oozling half-way out the air-holes of its jar.  Much like Mr. Winnie-the-Pooh, who became stuck one fine day in the Hundred Acre Woods, just astride Rabbit’s hole.

Cold nights prompt me to  cover zinnias in my garden, to ward off frost.   It is October now.  Given their instinct to migrate instead of mate, late summer monarchs live longer than those borne of spring.  If they survive, their life span stretches six months instead of six weeks.  Something to be said for moving on.

Today I saw a bright orange monarch trippling through.  Could not help but think of those waiting yet on the sill.   Only time will tell.

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Returning to our regularly scheduled programming…

According to Monarch Watch, overall monarch migration numbers east of the Rockies are down.  The autumn migration is underway with Mexico-bound monarchs just broaching drought-stricken territories in Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas – as the report put it, 1000 miles of hell – a nearly flowerless / nectar less and waterless expanse.

Our six intrepid adventurers remain chrysalis-bound as days grow shorter, nights colder, and nectar bearing flowers in my own garden begin to fade.  Emergence is expected within two to eight days.

Will these stalwart individuals survive their transformation?  Will  daytime temperatures and nectar supplies still support life when they do emerge?  Can they endure the journey south and navigate  inhospitable terrain to find their own kind?

…Wait, this sounds like life after divorce…

Stay tuned.

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