Coppery orange and black monarch butterflies glow against the warm, late summer sun. Monarch migration to Mexico is underway in the northern United States. According to monarchwatch.org’s peak migration chart, at 45° latitude the greatest number of monarchs will migrate between August 29 and September 10. In St. Paul, Minnesota, I’ve primarily seen the butterflies floating beneath trees in backyards and along the streets. A few rest in our garden and nectar on garden phlox, goldenrod, snakeroot, Japanese anemones, black-eyed Susan’s and Joe-Pye weed, which appears to be their favorite.
A male monarch suns itself on white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)
A monarch rests on one of more than 40 species of goldenrod (Solidago) native to Minnesota.
A female monarch drinks nectar from sweet Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium dubium).
Will this year’s migration numbers be higher or lower than 2014’s? It’s easy to help scientists track the data by contributing your own monarch migration observations. Visit learner.org’s Fall 2015 Migration Report Page and complete the short information form for monarchs. Or, if you’re just interested in how 2015 fall migration is progressing, you can check out the latest information on their Fall 2015 Maps and Sightings page.
The backyard was lush and green after the week’s heavy rain. The air felt chilly and damp as I picked up windfalls from our beacon apple tree. Soaked, bedraggled bumble bees and long-horned bees clung to Joe-Pye blossoms and the undersides of leaves. Only a few crickets chirped in the unusually cool August evening air. As I reached into the garden to pull some weeds, I felt a fluttering against my fingers and heard the slightest rustle of wings. Barely grasping my fingertips was a beautiful green dragonfly —a common green darner. Its aqua-green thorax and dark maroon abdomen hinted that it was probably a female or juvenile. I thought it was injured, or perhaps dying. Gently, I held my hand next to some sedum plants. The dragonfly struggled onto the flower buds and I left it for the night.
Common Green Darner (Anax junius).
In the morning, the green darner was gone. I found no scattered wings or chitin, no other remains in the garden to indicate that it had been eaten. I believe that the sun’s warmth revived it. Since then, I’ve glimpsed a large dragonfly zooming over the garden on several different days; perhaps it is the same one. I hope that it lives to make the long migration flight south to the Gulf Cost in September.