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Category Archives: Monarch Butterfly

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.

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Trumpeter Swans were around with their young teenagers.

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There were quite a few teenage ducks around.

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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.

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This Canada Goose was perched on top of a beaver lodge.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Monarch Caterpillars

Monarch Caterpillars

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.

Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch Caterpillar

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.

Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch Caterpillar

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.

Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch Caterpillar

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.

Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch Caterpillar

I’m concerned that they are not going to survive to migrate south because the Monarch Butterfly migration is currently underway in this area.

Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch Caterpillar

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.

Monarch Butterflies

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.

Giant Swallowtail

Giant Swallowtail

This year there were no swallowtails, a few fritillaries, and a few monarchs.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

Great Spangled Fritillary

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.

Common Milkweed

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.

Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch Butterfly

Silver Spotted Skipper

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Honey Bee

Great Spangled Fritillary

Giant Swallowtail

We usually think of legumes as forage crops but they also make nice subjects for photography. In the Midwest they mainly consist of alfalfa, clover and vetch. What I like about photographing them is that they start blooming around the first of June and continue to bloom until killed by frost. This year they were blooming by the middle of May. All of the above mentioned legumes are blooming in my prairie area. In order to keep them blooming I mow them periodically so there are always some blooming and always some blooms for the butterflies and bees.

The great thing about alfalfa is that it comes in a wide variety of colors. Almost every plant offers a different opportunity for photography.

White Alfalfa

Alfalfa

Monarch Butterfly

Clover really lends itself to some great photography opportunities when there is a heavy dew.

Red Clover

Honey Bee

Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Vetch is a less common legume but it still provides a nice subject for photography.

Vetch

Red Cedar State Trail

My wife and I walked the Red Cedar Trail from Menomonie to Downsville this past weekend. It is the first time I’ve been on the trail in some time. There were many other folks out enjoying the beautiful but windy weather.

Leaf

Most of the fall leaves are gone. The entire fall has been marked by strong winds which brought the leaves down as soon as they reached peak. There were a few spots with a little color but most of the leaf photography was of single  leaves.

 

 

 

Monarch Butterfly

The Woolly Bears Caterpillars and butterflies were out in large numbers. I was surprised to see a number of Monarch Butterflies still around. They had better be leaving soon or they won’t make it.

Cedar Waxwing

There were lots of birds along the trail. With most of the leaves gone they are relatively easy to spot. We saw a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers and some Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Flocks of Cedar Waxwings and Robins were feeding along the trail.

Bees Nest

This is also the time of year when the leaves are gone and you can see bees nests along the trail. Some of them are quite large and colorful.

Ripples

I also managed a few water shots. This one of ripples in a small stream flowing along into the Red Cedar River.

Monarch Butterfly

This has been a very strange year for Monarch Butterflies. I had more butterflies around early in the summer than ever before. This included a large number of Monarchs. I was able to get some great photographs.

 

 

 

Monarch Caterpillars

In July I usually find the Monarch Caterpillars on my Milkweed plants. This year I didn’t find a single Caterpillar. Then in the last week of August I started to find them in large numbers. This seemed to be a bit late in the season since the Goldenrod was already blooming and they seem to feed on the goldenrod as they are migrating through. The caterpillars all disappeared within in a couple of weeks but I couldn’t find a single chrysalis.

 

Monarch Butterfly

Normally during the first week of September I have quite a few Monarchs migrating through and feeding on my large crop of goldenrod. In spite of having large numbers of caterpillars there were almost no Monarch butterflies around during the first week of September. We had several frosts the second week of September. I have only  seen an occasional Monarch since then.