Monday, September 16, 2019

Milkweeds and Monarchs

We moved to our current location (west side of Metro Detroit) from our decades-long residence on the east side around in late summer of 2014. That also turned out to be a move from a tiny but very active backyard, garden, and Swallowtail butterfly ranch to a huge yard with much grass, a pear tree, and a grand rectangle all around it of bushes and trees grand trees.

Back in the old country, to call it something memorable, anxious then to diversify our Swallowtail population by adding Monarchs, we planted a milkweed bush bought at a garden store. Pictures of that plant back in 2013 are shown here.

After settling here, we discovered milkweed growing wildly off an almost daily-taken road called Ladd. We dug up a couple and planted them in our new huge yard. They multiplied. We now have what amounts to a milkweed forest. It looks like this:

Indeed there are more plants than shown here; the largest are to the right. As these plants took hold, our new terrain became a kind of Mecca for Monarchs. Every day this summer at least one Monarch took a leisurely but intense inspection of our forest. We even raised a few—but nothing like the number of Swallowtails we used to raise; by the end of our stay, that activity had become something of a job. The reason for this difference is that Monarchs are more difficult to find (in their bug form) and to keep alive indoors as caterpillars; partly our fault: we’ve grown more forgetful and careless. Thanks to chance (is there such a thing?), we settled next door to Pat (for Patricia), who turns out herself to be a Grand Mistress of Monarch Raising. With her help we’ve managed to raise about three or four—and to release them to the Wild (read our backyard). To our delight, we’ve seen that both Swallowtails and Monarch all take off in the same direction when released, flying generally to the northwest, much as they did back in the “old country” we left behind.

What’s a blog without a mention of our closest friends and the plants they eat. Here, to be complete, I must mention that with zero effort, lots of Cotton Whites also inhabit our paradise. They live in the grass, we think; it is never too closely cut by the myself, the Mower of the Grass.

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