For several decades, the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has been steadily declining in number to the point where it was flirting with endangered status.
This year, for the first time in many years, I have been able to catch the monarch in its various guises. Close to where I work near the riverfront, there was a stand of milkweed growing in front of the Table 9 restaurant. Until recently, at least, whoever tended the flowers planted there had ignored the patch of milkweeds growing among the planted flowers.
From an ecological standpoint, its amazing what is drawn to the milkweed. Below, you can see the business end of the caterpillar munching down among what look to be aphids.
This shot is actually upside-down from the actual orientation. It just looked too odd when looking at it that way.
In recent weeks, a new generation of monarch eggs had hatched, and I could see about a dozen or so caterpillars munching away. Suddenly, however, it looked as if someone might have sprayed herbicide on the milkweed plants, because they all withered almost over night. I feared for the caterpillars.
Fortunately, it looks like the majority have survived. Most of the chrysalises that I saw were hanging from the concrete window sill in front of Table 9. Nice, but not a pretty picture. One caterpillar, however, ventured up into a stand of Chinese silver grass.
I'd actually shot this chrysalis over several days, experimenting with exposures. The shot above, while looking like a nighttime picture, was taken in morning light. I used a ring flash and stopped the aperture way down to get this shot. Unlike the other shots in natural light, this one succeeded admirably in reproducing the stunning golden beads that form a crescent near the top.
I hope I'll be able to catch these pupae as they are close to hatching. But for now I'll take you back in time to show you the "mother." I caught this one on the exact same plant that the caterpillar was on in the first picture. Although I couldn't see the egg, it looks like she's depositing one on the underside of the leaf.
Here's one back from July 31st, sucking on a milkweed flower:
Cheap thrills for nerd boy.