Friday, July 23, 2010

The Itsy Bitsy Monarch

Butterflies have swarmed the garden. Skippers, painted ladies, sulphurs, tiger and black swallowtails. Even an 8" long dragonfly with a good 6" wingspan has made a recent appearance. As my wife and I weave through agastache, coneflowers, giant joe-pye weed, liatris, milkweed, wild senna, and culver's root, the blooms rise like inverted glitter--we seem to be in a snow globe. As we stand on the deck overlooking tall butterfly bushes that reach through the railing, swallowtails dart and weave through the covered space, arc to blooms, settle, rise in a panic, settle, and gracefully encircle us again. We are held tightly to this world.

But it will always be the monarchs that pull me in the closest--their arial acrobatics are a marvel.

Males will often "attack" other males, seeming to pinch at them in the air and chase them off, protecting a liatris bloom. They will also do this to other butterflies, moths, and even dragonflies. If anything, monarchs seem to be far more territorial than other winged insects. The other evening two males were competing for a female until one gave up and retreated into the cedars.

I don't know if it's love, lust, panic, or simple phermonal response imbedded in them like the unconscious act of breathing, but the arial courting is intense. The couple, spinning in and out of each other a double helix, rise like flames vanishing into the air above, then fall fast like fading fireworks before racing across the garden.

Their motion reminds me of a grade school teacher who, while singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" made crawling motions with her hands. As the spider went up the water spout, she touched the tips of pinky to thumb on opposite hands, her arms rising in the air. These are the monarchs, chasing and being chased, flashes of orange and black like the sun on the horizon--or simply a glance through time that is both momentary and eternal. We will always be held tightly to this world.


Kyna said...

I saw that same thing happening yesterday in my front yard, when I got home from work :) Very intersting...but no more interesting than human mating rituals lol.

Randy Emmitt said...


Better catch the huge dragonfly and show the world a new species! The biggest I have ever seen was around 4 inches.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Kyna--Yeah but I don't need to see humans flirting and sexing in the garden. Or anywhere.
Randy--I know, you don't believe me. But it's th truth. 6". No kidding. I can't exactly hold a ruler up to it and have it stay still. I did see a huge wasp tackle a cicada, and the cicada went into a hole in ground with the wasp hanging on.

dining sets said...

You are so lucky to witness that amazing event. I wish I can also see it. By the way I love this post and It is so much fun to read.

Gail said...

We get a few monarchs but aren't on their route! I have noticed that more butterflies are visiting and think they love the heat and sun we've had this summer...gail