To the untrained eye, our garden may look to be quite a jumbledy-jungle at this point in the summer. Some of the plants are bent over after 3.25" of rain. Yet, there is so much to be observed when one takes a closer look.
Have you found the Monarch? Well, there have been several each day for days now and they often seem to disappear in the vegetation. Another word for that vegetation is 'cover' and the plants serve as shelter while the butterflies rest in between nectaring forays with a myriad of bees, tiny wasps and other pollinators.
On August 16, another Painted Lady joined the Monarchs. It still preferred the Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) for its meal and it probed around the top of each flower.
The juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been very active throughout the garden, too. They slip in to drink from many flowering plants with a wary eye to the sky at times.
The garden provides cover for another very important activity, especially for the threatened Monarch butterflies, and that is mating. How does one tell a male from a female first of all? Take a look at this composite photo to see some of the differences. They are not always obvious to the naked eye.
There have been several males around but yesterday another female was in the garden early. She was strong and healthy looking, basking in the sun and warming up for the tasks ahead on the Coral Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). It was 10:15 a.m.
I made my way to the garden and took a few photos when I saw a skirmish between two butterflies on an Eastern Blazingstar (Liatris scariosa). Aha, not a skirmish, but the mating of two Monarchs! The male seemed to have difficulty grasping the female at first, pulling her off as they tumbled into the vegetation.
I had to move to the east side of the garden to find them again. The pair's efforts looked to be successful as they were joined and clinging to the Blazingstar.
They were there only seconds before the male propelled them up to the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). They stayed about a half a minute before moving higher up into the trees. The male is on the outside to power their flight, the female inside.
I continued to watch the hummingbirds chase each other and in less than a half an hour, the female Monarch returned to the garden and began to lay eggs on the Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). She worked low among the plants, finding shady places for the tiny tender pearls. Their precious progeny will be the ones to migrate to Mexico, overwinter there and start the new generation next spring.
I left the Monarch resting in the Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis). The butterfly still had a long day ahead with many more eggs to lay, it was just 11 a.m.