Happily, the monarchs are going about their business after three days of chilly 50 degree F temperatures and two nights with temperatures that went down to 32 degrees F. Thankfully, I was able to be at home most of today and observe their activity.
By 11:30am it was 60 degrees F, sunny, light breezes from the south, and humidity at 40%. Earlier I had seen several monarchs flying around and nectaring on yellow thistles. Now as I walked around the pastures I saw at least ten monarchs, mostly females fluttering low looking for milkweed. I followed a couple of them and watched as they laid eggs on fresh milkweed (now plentiful). They did a lot of resting/sunbathing as well. There were a couple of males flying around, often resting/sunning, as well as nectaring on yellow thistles (mostly).
I noted there was a lot of new milkweed growth and that often there were a couple of eggs already in place as well ... no egg loading occurring any more. I looked at some of the older milkweed plants and found eggs, 1st instars, and quite a few 2nd instars as well. The larvae at this time did seem pretty chilled (not moving and usually tucked in a crown), but they had survived the low temps of the last two nights.
From 1:00 to 1:45pm I went walking around again ... really lovely weather about 64 degrees F, sunny, 33% humidity, with light breezes. I saw at least 12 individual monarchs (with many more actual encounters) ~ they were flying, nectaring, looking for milkweed, egg-laying, resting/sunbathing, and males were chasing females. As I followed one wonderful, diligent female monarch who was carefully laying her eggs and very focused, a male monarch nectaring nearby at a yellow thistle "watering spot" saw her and zoomed over. He pounced, taking her completely unawares, and they began mating.
Later, as I ambled about in all parts of the pastures, I saw monarchs flying around and females finding new milkweed ~ sometimes in unlikely (to me) spots, but there it was! It seemed that the females preferred to settle their own territories, so they found areas apart from other egg-laying females ... willing to patiently find the more obscure milkweed locations.
This is a photo of a beautiful lady monarch laying her eggs on a fresh milkweed in our back yard. I truly did not expect her to find this where she did ... none had been there last year.
Latitude: 30.4 Longitude: -95.8
Observed by: Kathy
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