It has been a strange year on the farm for Monarch Butterflies. It was mid July before I saw the first one. I’ve only seen a few since. I’ve only found one Monarch Caterpillar so far this year. Last year I was overrun with Monarchs and Monarch Caterpillars.
Monarch Butterfly and goldenrod
Linda put together a show of eight of my photos at the Menomonie Public Library. She did all of the printing, matting and framing of the photos. I just took the pictures. They will be on display through the month of April.
There are four Landscape photos.
Now and Then Falls Amnicon Falls State Park
Apostle Islands Sea Cave Cornucopia, Wisconsin
Crex Meadows Grantsburg ,Wisconsin
Seney National Wildlife Refuge Seney, Michigan
There are four wildlife Photos
Goslings Hoffman Hills Recreation Area Menomonie, Wisconsin
Black Bear Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary Orr, Minnesota
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Canadian Hill Farm Menomonie, Wisconsin
Monarch Butterflies Fontenac State Park Fontenac, Monnesota
With all of the Monarch Caterpillars that I found I expected to see a lot of Monarch Butterflies. That hasn’t been the case. They have been few and far between.
Monarch Butterfly on Alfalfa
Monarch Butterfly and goldenrod
The dog days of summer are not the best times to visit Crex Meadows but there were a few things to photograph. The water levels in some of the flowages had been reduced so the waterfowl only had small ponds to swim around in.
There were quite a few Monarch Butterflies on the eastern edge of the Meadows.
Trumpeter Swans were around with their young teenagers.
There were quite a few teenage ducks around.
I typically see large numbers of Blanding’s Turtles in the spring when they are on the road laying eggs. We found this one wandering across the road.
This Canada Goose was perched on top of a beaver lodge.
In all of the time I’ve lived on my farm I have never seen a monarch chrysalis. Shortly after all of the monarch caterpillars had disappeared I noticed this chrysalis attached to the side of my house. What was most amazing to me was the fact that the chrysalis was over 50 feet from the nearest milkweed plant. I wasn’t even sure it was a monarch chrysalis but my wife confirmed it. Over a period of days I photographed it. Once it looked like the butterfly was going to emerge I started checking on it every several house but I still missed the big event. On the last check I found the Monarch Butterfly trying to crawl into the grass. It crawled onto my finger then took flight.
This has been an excellent year for photographing Monarch Caterpillars. It has been quite a few years since I have been able to find so many of them. This is the batch of Monarchs that will be starting their migration to Mexico in a few weeks.
What is interesting to me is that I found most of these on Milkweed plants that had been mowed down earlier in the summer so these were sort of a second generation plant. I suspect they were newer and much tastier than the older plants.
A few years ago I found a similar situation. I had a large number of Milkweed plants in my garden. When I decided to eradicate them I found it was almost impossible. I took three years of constant hoeing to get rid of all of them. Every week there would be new plants. Even though the plants were only a few inches tall I started finding Monarch Caterpillars on them. Every time I went out to work in the garden I had to look for the caterpillars and move them before I could hoe.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to take a stroll through the prairie on my farm. I had my macro lens on and thought I might be able to get some shots of the insects feeding on the last of the summer flowers. As I approached a large patch of Daisy Fleabane I noticed it was covered with bees so I started taking photographs of them. I then noticed that there was a Monarch Butterfly feeding on the Fleabane. Then I saw another Monarch and soon I noticed there was a half dozen of them. I was afraid I would disturb them trying to photograph them with my macro lens so I went back into the house and switched to my 200-500mm birding lens. I spent several hours in the afternoon photographing the Monarchs. This was the most monarchs I have seen in several years.
It’s been several years since I’ve had many Monarch Butterflies on the farm. About five years ago Milkweed started growing in my garden. Since I wasn’t using the entire garden I let it grow. For several years in a row I found large numbers of Monarch Caterpillars on the Milkweed plants.
A couple of years later the Milkweed had established itself in several other places on the farm so I decided to remove it from the garden. This was easier said than done. The root system is large and the roots are even larger. I’ve spent the last couple of years hoeing it under several times a week and it is still growing.
Last week my wife and I were gathering produce from the garden and my wife found a Monarch Caterpillar on the ground. I decided to move it to a patch of milkweed growing nearby. Over the next week I found about a half dozen Monarch Caterpillars in the garden. I noticed they were attaching themselves to the young milkweed plants still growing in the garden. As I hoed the garden I carefully remove the caterpillars and moved them to the nearby milkweed plants.
I haven’t quite figured out what is going on because there are no milkweed plants in the garden that are over three inches tall but the caterpillars seem to gravitate to them.
Up until a couple of days ago I didn’t know if the caterpillars that I had moved survived but as it turned out they are flourishing in their new location. Every time I go out the check on them they are eating as fast as they can.
I’m concerned that they are not going to survive to migrate south because the Monarch Butterfly migration is currently underway in this area.
Yesterday we made, what has become, our annual visit to Frontenac State Park. Several years ago we were hiking in the park and encountered an amazing number of Monarch Butterflies.
Now every year in the fall we make the trip the first week in September searching for butterflies. Last year the monarch numbers were down but we found a large number of swallowtails.
This year there were no swallowtails, a few fritillaries, and a few monarchs.
Great Spangled Fritillary
Over the past several years I’ve been trying to grow milkweed on the farm. I started with a patch in the garden and now have three large patches of milkweed. The original intent was to provide food and lodging for Monarch Butterflies. Last year I had a bumper crop of Monarch Caterpillars in the various milkweed patches. This summer I’ve seen the results of my labor. Not only do I have Monarch Caterpillars but I have a great variety of butterflies using the blooming milkweed. In addition to the butterflies there are also Ruby-throated Hummingbirds frequenting the patches as well as a variety of bees.
I spent the better part of a morning in my patches photographing butterflies. As I formed the idea for this blog I thought I must have lots of photos of butterflies on my milkweed plants. Later in the day I searched my photos and much to my surprise I don’t have a single photo of a butterfly on a milkweed plant. Either I haven’t been out in the milkweed patches at the right time or this is truly an unusual year. Today I counted 10 different butterflies in my milkweed patch. Here are just a few of the insects I found on my milkweed plants.
Silver Spotted Skipper
Great Spangled Fritillary