The antelope horn milkweed (Asclepius asperula) is blooming here at Meadow Knoll, its fleshly, oddly-shaped flowers opening out to the sun. The glucose-rich blossoms are a source of nectar for adult Monarchs.The female (newly arrived from its winter in central Mexico) eats the leaves and deposits an egg; when it hatches into its larva form 3-5 days later, it happily discovers that breakfast, lunch, and dinner are waiting.
After a week or two of full-time leaf-munching, the larva spins itself into a chrysalis for an 8-14 day snooze, from which it emerges as an adult butterfly. When it finds a mate, the cycle begins again. (Details and photos here.)
The butterfly lives 2-8 weeks, so there can be several generations of Monarchs during the summer. The final generation flies back down to Mexico for the winter. This photo was taken in October, 2008, in our woods, when an incredibly beautiful flock of migrating Monarchs made an overnight rest stop on its southward journey.
Counts of the overwintering butterfly give us the bad news: this beautiful creature has declined by 80% in recent decades. The Monarch depends on the once-abundant milkweed, which itself is losing ground to mowing and weed-killers, agriculture, parking lots, and condominiums. There are many species of milkweed. If you learn what species is native to your area and grow it, you can support this lovely and imperiled butterfly.
Book report. The eighth book in the Darling Dahlias series, The Darling Dahlias and the Poinsettia Puzzle, is now available for preorder on Amazon and at your local bookstore. (Please tell your librarian!) The ebook will be available for preorder on August 15, and the book will be published in mid-October. And yes (thanks for asking) there will be an audiobook, too.
Puzzle continues--and resolves--most of the stories that were left open at the end of The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover. But of course, there will be a story or two to be resolved in Book 9, which will be along in late 2019. That's how a series works, don't you think?
Reading note. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.--Richard Bach