Warm sunny days are fueling carpets of wildflowers in abandoned fields. Nectaring butterflies – monarchs, painted ladys and others – complete the scene as they dart, flutter and glide about in a continuous and purposeful manner. It all seems right. And September is a wonderful time of year to be alive.
In recent days the life cycle of monarch butterflies has unfolded before my eyes. My post on late summer white-tails will have to wait.
Monarch caterpillars are feasting on the leaves of milkweed, with several sizes or instars visible. This one is actually on a milkweed pod, in search of a fresh leaf to chew on.
After feeding, growing and molting for about 2 weeks, the mature caterpillars pupate. This chrysalis was discovered in a large patch of milkweed plants at the edge of a field.
The pupal stage may last another 2 weeks, but it’s worth the wait. The emergence of the last generation of monarchs in late summer is a defining moment. Their field trip to wintering grounds in Mexico is a miracle.
Monarchs fluttering over fields of goldenrods bring fitting closure to the wildflower season and offer a heart-warming prelude to autumn colors on the horizon.