Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Royalty In The Garden!

Monarch Butterflies are the King and Queen of the butterfly world. They are the most recognized of all North American Butterflies. They are studied, they are observed and they are cherished. They are our garden royalty.

They are back. The first ones were spotted in my garden more then a month ago~
A hungry, hungry caterpillars.
It wasn't too long after, that I discovered hungry, hungry caterpillars. I had high hopes of capturing the pupating process, but, they toddled off to a secret place in the garden, away from prying eyes and, at least one, morphed into beautiful Monarch butterfly.(story here)

It's no wonder they are so highly regarded. They are astonishing creatures. They have an incredible journey from tiny little egg, to tiny little instar caterpillar, to a bigger caterpillar, that finally develops a chrysalis and then pupates into a gorgeous butterfly. In just a few weeks.

That is incredible, but, these creatures have an even bigger journey to take. They fly thousands of miles to Mexico each fall where they over winter. They live all winter long off stored fats~fats they gathered before the migration south began. Then early in the Spring, they begin their journey North toward home. Not one of those original butterflies will make it all the way back. Instead, they breed along the way and their offspring or their offspring's offspring~ travel home to start the process all over again. Go here to see their progress north.

Today, I'm celebrating this incredible butterfly's return to my garden....and, if I am really lucky, he found a mate and she'll lay another generation of eggs on the Asclepias incarnata that was planted just for them!

In the meantime, isn't it grand that the Asclepias tuberosa is blooming and they can nectar to their little butterfly hearts content.


PS. Do I need to say it! Okay, I will~If you want Monarch Butterfly and Monarch caterpillars (and all the other pollinators) to make a home in your garden, you must never, ever, ever, ever use pesticides.

This post is also part of a series on native pollinators in the garden~ Earlier posts and their links are listed below for your convenience.

Part I~Now Is The Time To Bee-gin Thinking About Bees ( here)
This Is The Place To Bee ( here)
If You Could Plant Only One Plant In Your Garden~Don't (here)

Must Bee The Season of The Witch (here)
Go Bare In Your Garden (here)
We can't All be pretty Pollinators (here)
Eye, Eye Skipper, Big Eyed Pollinators (here)
What's In Your Garden (here)
Carpenter Bees (here)
Got Wildflowers?(here)
It's Spring and A Gardener's Thoughts Are On Pollinators (here)
The Wildflower and The Bee (here)
A Few Good Reasons To Plant Milkweek (here)
Got Shade? You Can Have Pollinators (here)

Other bee posts you might want to read~
Count Yourself Lucky To Have Hoverflies (here)
Bumblebee Hotel (here)
Still Taking Care Of Bzzness (here)
My Sweet Embraceable You (here)

Bee clip art (here)

This post was written by Gail Eichelberger for my blog Clay and Limestone Copyright 2011.This work protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. Regal! Excellent images, too. I haven't seen a Monarch yet in our garden, but I know they're coming. Summer wouldn't be summer without them.

  2. I saw my first Monarch about a week ago, but I think it was just migrating through. I am hoping to have them take up residence soon! The milkweed isn't blooming yet, but it looks like there will be an abundance.

  3. Great pictures Gail! I saw a few this weekend but was without my camera.

  4. Beautiful pictures! I have seen lots of butterflies this year, but as of yet no monarchs. I'll keep looking!

  5. Gorgeous photos of such a beautiful butterfly! No sign yet of butterflies here in Washington state, but it is still pretty cold.

    Glad they've returned to your garden!

  6. We had some Monarchs here some months back....I even saw some very early cats on the milkweed...haven't seen them in a bit now...this post is encouraging though...I will gladly roll out the red carpet!

  7. Gail, those are super photos - how do you do it?? A month ago? Still waiting here in CT - point some of them up my direction :)

  8. Beautiful, beautiful photos, Gail! Have had milkweeds in bloom for ages but no royal visitors appeared here in hot, dry Texas. It's especially good to see yours.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  9. Gail, I'll add a further caution about pesticides. When buying Asclepias, make sure they come from a grower who doesn't use pesticides. Here in Houston, one of the biggest garden centers sells Butterfly Weed that has been treated (for your Houston area readers, it's the chain with red and yellow striped awnings).

  10. We used to get clouds of monarchs in our garden in August - but very very few the past three or four years. I don't know why, but we really miss them.

  11. Your captures are incredible, dear Gail! Simply breathtaking, as in a loud gasp. The Monarchs are regal, indeed. We spied a catt some time ago, and will be on the lookout for the butterflies. Our butterfly weed is a day or two away from opening.

  12. Your photos are just amazing Gail! Great info on their life cycle...it's been butterfly week here at the child care and the kids are all walking around saying "head, thorax, abdomen". Metamorphosis was a bit too hard for them.

  13. Great information. I did not know that males had distinctive markings. When they show up in my garden, I'll try to take a closer look.

  14. Hi Gail, These butterflies are certainly beautiful enough to be kings and queens.

  15. Gail, those photographs are simply fantastic! All hail the Monarch's return!

  16. Royalty often graces us with its appearance. What handsome bugs. You will have to watch to see if any that have been tagged come to your garden. I am always amazed to hear about them being found.

  17. It absolutely makes my mind reel when I think of these tiny delicate creatures migrating that long distance Gail. One of the marvels of nature for sure.
    You've certainly captured some stunning images. They haven't shown up in my Colorado garden yet but we've had so much cold, rainy weather ~ I don't blame them.

  18. Great photos! (and fabulous advice, too)

    I had to rush out this weekend and pick up more milkweed. I never seem to have enough and the Monarchs are here earlier than in previous years.

    My purple milkweed finally bloomed (took 4 years) and I really like it. Still haven't seen any cats on it, though.

  19. Gail,

    Right one my dear, you got it all correct. Yesterday Meg observed a new second grade teacher prospect and she taught about the Monarch. Most everything she said was wrong and the photo she showed was not a Monarch. She picked the wrong place to think about teaching as Meg's daughter and her boyfriend (me) are both experts on Monarchs.

  20. You always have the most amazing pictures of bugs, bees and butterflies. I am in awe!

  21. Beautiful photos Gail, especially the ones of the Monarch on the A. tuberosas. I just saw some blooming in our drainage field across the street. Pretty wild over there....won't venture in without DEET, long pants, and boots. For now, will admire them from afar.

  22. Indeed Royalty, Gail ... the top photo a prize winner! Have yet to see a Monarch in the garden this season but have tons of bees :)

  23. Wow... that's a beautiful butterfly!!!

  24. How beautiful Gail. I planted Butterfly weed just to draw them in. Lat year not a leaf was left on them. They were striped clean. Such gorgeous pictures.

  25. Royalty is right. What gorgeous photos, Gail. You must feel honored to have such regal visitors. Impressive for sure.

  26. That is too cool! I'm not sure what's more interesting, the caterpillar or the butterfly? I've planted some Asclepias speciosa and do hope I'll get some Monarchs myself...

  27. Yippee! I love your photos! I had lots of caterpillars, but haven't seen any for a week or so, and have not seen any monarch butterflies for quite awhile. I'm assuming they laid their eggs and flew north. I hope the chrysalises are still around, and we see the butterflies soon. Our milkweeds have buds now, but no blooms yet.

  28. Wow Gail - what fabulous photos!

    I used to see monarchs all the time. They seem to be pretty rare around here in recent years, unfortunately, while swallowtails, which I rarely saw a few years ago, have become so much more common.

  29. Fantastic captures Gail. Remarkably clear and very close up. I did not know that males had the black spots. I am glad to learn this. I hope to see them this year in my garden. The only one I did see last year got taken by a wren. And I bet the wren dropped it as soon as it realized it was not a tasty Viceroy. I was getting ready to snap a photo and poof, it was gone.

  30. Your photographs of the Monarch are incredible...so sharp! I had the monarch caterpillars earlier this spring and I think they are as beautiful as the butterflies they transform into.

  31. Lots of gorgeous pictures Gail. Monarchs have been fluttering about here for at least a month too. I never see them on the Butterfly Weed though ~ perhaps the bees never give them a chance!

  32. How absolutely wonderful to have them return..we won't see them for a while yet especially with all the cold weather...

  33. Wow, your Asclepias tuberosa is already in bloom? I'm not sure I've even seen the foliage of mine, but it's also fair to say my weeds are really tall...

  34. Absolutely stunning photography.

    How fortunate to have such beauty in your backyard.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  35. Stunning photos of the monarchs. They are wonderful butterflies. I love the way their flight is more gliding than fluttering.

    You probably know they are year round inhabitants here and they are much loved for gracing our garden.

  36. How DO you take such photos? Is it possible someone like me can learn to do something like this? That worm on the leaf took me away. I will be following your blog! Beautiful!!!

  37. just wanted to say hello. I was searching for some garden info. on the web, and I found a really good blog from florida. Then I saw another good one from Fl. and then I saw yours. All three look very good to me, and I am so glad I found them. Yours caught my eye bc I am from North AL, Huntsville--Born and raised. I have travelled some, but this is all I know as far as living.......:) I am new to gardening. I have had some potted plants before, but flowers are new to me personally. My parents have always had a vegetable garden, and flower gardens, too. And, I remember some roses. I helped them growing up--but looking back, only bc I "had" to. :) I used to ask them why we couldn't just go get all of our food from Kroger's like everyone else??? Our one neighbor had a garden, but I don't remember a lot of full gardening going on in my neighborhood--or maybe I just wasn't paying attention.......anyway, now I love and appreciate it all-just wish it wasn't all soooo much work--but, I guess everything in life is hard work. :) Harder outside of the Garden of Eden, but that's just what I have come to conclude. Are other parts of the world easier to work with????? I have heard the soil where I am is clay, mostly. Do other places really have it better?? Like I said, I am new to all this, and very unobservant through much of my life.....If other places do have it better, maybe I should have moved there??? :) Like Abraham re-locating??? :) My parents are from Selma, AL, and my dad worked for NASA, so I guess that is how I ended up where I am.......I'm starting to wonder if I would have "thrived" better somewhere else????? But, at my age, I guess I guess I need to learn to accept where I'm at--at least that is what I have been telling myself this past year--Bloom where I am planted. Also, I saw a picture about your mother; my grandmother was named Bernice. I don't know if she liked to garden or not, though?? :) Anyway, any tips for growing--AND ENJOYING--things in my area will be appreciated. I'm really new at this. Also, I think I read you are in Nashville. I have two friends who moved up there, and I have family in Oak Ridge and Murfreesboro. I have never been to OR, and if I went to Mb, it was when I was younger. Anyway, if you have any tips for me and this area, please let me know. I'm on Facebook. Robyn, Huntsville, AL I will enjoy looking at your blog. Thanks and have a Blessed Day!! :)


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson