Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Monarch Layover

I was in Montreal, Canada just a week ago, where I was surprised to still see a monarch butterfly in the gardens at the Botanical Garden of Montreal. Seemed a little late to not have started on the fall migration.

Monarch butterfly sighting in Montreal, Canada October 5
It's been a long while since monarchs have visited our garden. The monarch butterflies that float through Georgia on their southward migration to the oyamel fir forests of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico come from many parts of North American including Canada, the East Coast and Midwest. It's hit or miss if we observe them in our garden. They fly at tree top level and some years I have disappointingly watched them just pass over our garden. We are most likely to have a gathering of monarchs after storms or when we experience wind patterns that blow from the north. 

two monarch butterflies on liatris
This year we're in luck with a weather system bringing not only monarch butterflies, but some much welcomed cooler temperatures and rain. This weekend as I was sitting on the patio enjoying my morning coffee, I saw a monarch fly overhead high in the sky. Out loud I encouraged it to stop and refuel on our native flowers that we plant especially for pollinators. I grabbed my camera and began to follow it through the garden, hoping it would stop at the sunflowers or asters that are blooming spectacularly despite our severe drought conditions.

Monarch butterfly on helianthus angustifolius
I was in luck as Mr. Monarch landed on the helianthus angustifolius. Basking in the morning sunshine and drinking some much needed nectar, I was able to grab a few shots. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a second monarch! 

Monarch butterfly and flower fly on helianthus angustifolius
Another male was fluttering around the stand of swamp sunflowers along with many native bees and pollinating flies. These two butterflies hung around the sunflowers for a time, but then fluttered to the front garden. I followed and as I rounded the corner to climb the stairs of the hill garden I was shocked to see more monarchs all over the liatris. A total of six.

three monarch butterflies on liatris blazing star
Fortunately, a few of their preferred nectar plants are still blooming in our garden including liatris, echinacea purpurea and asters (symphyotrichum georgianum, and aster oblongifolius). Seeing one monarch is exciting; seeing a mass of them is thrilling, especially since it's not an everyday occurrence. It's truly a special experience.

male monarch on echinacea purpurea
We are enjoying a change in the season and welcome fall finally. The monarch layover was icing on the cake. After a prolonged summer, I'm ready to get back to gardening and enjoy the autumn season.