Monarch butterflies began to arrive in our gardens this past week. They are most active late in the afternoon, when they flit from flower to flower, alighting particularly often on purple coneflowers.
The colors of one monarch I spotted were faded. Pieces of its wings were missing. Its flight pattern was slow and halting. Knowing that the life cycle of butterflies is only 2-5 weeks, I anticipate that this lovely creature had only a short while to live.
Meanwhile, others sported bright colors and vigorous flight. A pair cavorted in the air, coming together in a playful pattern likely to ensure the next generation.
In another month, the monarchs will begin their long and famous migration to Mexico. These amazing creatures fly 1,500 - 2,000 miles over six weeks. Recently I learned that the final generation of monarchs born in the late summer has a life span of 8-9 months - just so they can make this very long journey.
Iowa is part of the butterfly flyway to Mexico. The shape and formation of the Loess Hills are especially favorable for butterfly flight because the hills produce strong wind currents that help the butterflies along their way.
I am hopeful that the prairie flowers in our yard, along with the water dishes we maintain, will encourage more butterflies to stop in for a visit in their long migration south. monarchwatch.org is a great source for monarch info.
Bon voyage, my pretty friends!