The blooms of butterfly weed and other milkweed plants attract many kinds of butterflies such as the Black Swallowtail above. Its attraction to the plant is for the nectar, not for its use as a host plant, for this butterfly lays its eggs on parsley or fennel or native wildflowers in that family.
|A Black Swallowtail caterpillar munching on parsley|
Milkweed is host plant, though, for migrating Monarchs and resident Queen butterflies who lay their eggs on the plants. We had so many Queens this year that a virtual veil of them hovered over the flower beds and fluttered in front of me when I walked by. Caterpillars were so thick on the plants that they stripped the leaves at an alarming rate. (See if you can spot the "hungry, hungry caterpillar" in the photo below, and notice the nubs where leaves used to be. If you look very closely you can see a few eggs on one of the leaves--eggs that never had a chance to hatch. For a better look at a pearly-white, grooved Queen egg, see this post from last year.)
I bought several new large milkweed plants to accommodate the hungry critters, but even those new plants were leafless in a couple of days. Fortunately the leaves grew back quicklyafter I watered several times a day. Now there are fewer caterpillars and butterflies, more of a normal quantity I'd say, and the supply is keeping up with demand, if just barely.
|Queen butterflies feed on the nectar of native mistflower. The pink tropical sage is also a favorite food.|
It's dark outside now--and still hot. A heavy humid hot that makes us move slowly even after dark. We just watched snook and catfish slowly circling the underwater fishing lights by the dock. A large shrimp swam by and they didn't even look at it. Even underwater it must feel too hot for moving around much!
I'm hoping for migration activity to pick up soon. I'm not sure if the birds are really slow to come back through on their way south this year or if it's just me being too lazy to go outside. I did start a part-time job last week, teaching a couple of classes at a nearby university, so I'm not getting out there to look at the yard quite as much. Yesterday as I pulled out of the driveway, a flash of gold near the bird baths --a year-round Lesser Goldfinch? A migrating Prothonotary or Yellow Warbler?--made me wish I could stay and watch. But then I got to campus and a small flock of Green Parakeets flying overhead made me glad I was there to hear them.
No matter where you are in the Rio Grande Valley, you'll find the birds--or they'll find you. Slow is relative.