Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mid-September Morning

It is hard to believe September is half gone. Most mornings have been cool and some have been to the point of frost in outlying rural areas. The earth is still warm, the dew is heavy, and mist rises from the river early in the day.

My feet are soaked as I cross the lawn to pick raspberries for breakfast. The fall harvest of this fruit produces the biggest and sweetest berries.

The Monarch butterfly chrysalis is sixteen days old now. Wings are even more visible through the green shell but this group of three is slow to eclose. They need to start on their southern journey before it gets much colder.

Another butterfly drinks from moisture beads on a leaf. I seldom see an Eastern Comma and this one is reluctant to open its wings.

Finally it gives a salute to the morning sun before it flutters away.

Our local newspaper published this story on Monarch butterflies on September 13, 2008. The link is here, but as links quickly go dead, I will copy the text below.

Monarch butterflies
Everything you need to know to look like you know about...


Among the insect group known as lepidoptera is the monarch butterfly that this month embarks on an incredible 5,000-kilometre journey to wintering grounds in Mexico, sometimes flying more than a kilometre above the Earth.

Four life stages (metamorphosis): egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and finally butterfly.

Stage one: Butterflies sip flower nectar but caterpillars only eat milkweed. A female will search for a healthy milkweed plant on which it will lay one egg on one leaf, up to several hundred in an area.

Stage two: Caterpillars emerge from eggs in three to 12 days and undergo five stages of growth known as instars. Caterpillars have a tough exterior called an exoskeleton and as it grows, this exoskeleton splits, sheds and is consumed by the caterpillar. By the time the fifth moulting takes place, a chemical reaction within the caterpillar creates a lovely green skin with gold dots that hardens into a chrysalis.

Stage three: The chrysalis is the pupating stage, where the monarch transforms from caterpillar to butterfly. Attached to the bottom of a milkweed leaf, this stage lasts two weeks with the chrysalis eventually becoming transparent.

Stage four: The monarch emerges as a fully formed butterfly, though it must inflate its wings by pumping fluid which is aided by gravity given the butterfly is hanging upside down under the leaf.

Summer butterfly: The so-called summer butterflies live two to five weeks and do not migrate; rather their purpose is to mate and lay eggs, often several times during a lifespan. As the weather cools and the days shorten, a chemical reaction occurs triggering the last summer generation of caterpillars to emerge as migrating butterflies, with a life span of up to eight months and no interest in breeding.

Mexican holiday: Canada has two populations of monarchs: eastern and western, both with different migratory patterns. The eastern population, anything east of the Rocky Mountains, overwinters in fir trees in a remote area of Mexico, while remaining largely inactive. Researchers studying the population fly overhead, photographing small sections from which they estimate numbers based on density and distribution. Unfortunately, the monarchs' numbers are shrinking, from 20 hectares just a few years ago to last year's estimate of 4.6 hectares, due to diminishing habit, pesticides, herbicides and illegal logging in Mexico.

The milkweed run: Mexico lacks milkweed so in March or early April, monarchs leave for Texas where there is plentiful milkweed for egg laying. Several generations of monarchs will hatch, pupate, emerge then lay eggs as they re-colonize North America. eventually spreading into southern Canada.


  1. A bunch of good pics, especially the wings through the cocoon.

  2. Wow, Ruth, these pictures are fantastic! I've never seen a cocoon picture like that. We have a forecast for temps in the 90's today, so it mostly feels like summer, except for the nippiness in the air this morning....

  3. I got completely hung up by the picture and statement about picking raspberries for breakfast. How wonderful that must be. Definitely worth getting your feet wet. Then I went back and read about the butterflies. Great pictures.

  4. Those raspberries ... so fresh, so tantalizing ... oh to pop one in my mouth. We eventually want to plant some canes ... then maybe I can do as you do!

    Love the mist rising on the river ... the visible butterfly wings.

  5. The raspberries look delicious,and the mist on the river looks familiar, but most of interest to me was your mention of butterflies and the Monarch that I am eager to hear news of when it makes its debut. The news article you included holds fascinating information! Nature is so miraculous don't your think.

  6. I hope your Monarchs have time to make the journey. I just got an update from Journey North and the reports are that the roosts are smaller in number and is size. That may signal a problem for the monarch numbers this year...

  7. Anonymous9:00 pm GMT-4

    The mornings have certainly been cold, but they are promising us a warmer week. Maybe the warmth will help your little fellow cocoon along. Fantastic pics! I dislike raspberries but that picture is enough to make me want to try them just to see if my taste buds have changed.
    It's fasinating the journey of the monarch. Sadly not many make it, but that is the cirle of life.

  8. Morning mist - sure sign of the season.Today was 28, though.

  9. Beautiful photos, Ruth. And great info about the Monarch butterflies.

  10. The mornings are most defintely cooler, thankfully. We're still in the 80's in the daytime though. Beautiful comma and great story about the Monarchs, Ruth.

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments. I am slow in responding to comments and in commenting on other blogs this week. Transitioning computers is very time consuming!! but I do appreciate the visits.

  12. Ruth,

    The photos are beautiful. What great shots. I'm hoping your Monarchs emerge in time to migrate.

    The raspberries look delicious and I've noticed the heavy dew in the mornings that last well toward noon.

    Have you noticed the pine cones are high in the trees this year. According to folklore, this means a snowy winter.

    I clicked on your link and noticed that Wings of Paradise is celebrating its 12th annual Monarch Days this weekend. The St. George Apple Festival is also on. There's lots to see and do here in autumn.

    Glad you enjoyed my tour of the Grand. It is a beautiful river and there's so much to see along its banks if you are a history or nature love. I'm glad you dropped by to take the tour.

    Have a wonderful day. I look forward to seeing your Monarchs emerge.



Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.