Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 is the seventh day of summer. 87 days of summer remain. It is the day of the Monarch butterfly.

It could be the day of the Viceroy. I can't see the butterfly's wings
closely enough to see the differences. The Viceroy has an extra black
band on its hind wing. The Viceroy mimics the wings of the Monarch
butterfly, and birds are said to avoid the Viceroy because birds learn
Monarchs are bitter. It's more than that. Monarchs are poisonous. A
monarch butterfly contains cardiac glycosides from its day as a
caterpillar munching milkweed leaves. The protection doesn't work as
well as one thinks. Birds chew on a few monarchs and consume the ones
that are less bitter and poisonous. As for the Viceroy, it's not a
sweet morsel, either. The Viceroy is even more bitter than the
Monarch. I love how nature stacks up the ironies.

I have an office with a window, and that window looks over a gap
between the office and the factory. The space is spread with
landscaping rocks, crushed marble. The space is enclosed by two walls,
a breezeway and a fence to keep out rabble and homeless people. A
variety of plants have found soil under the rocks, and milkweed,
queen's anne lace and goldenrod have seeded and thrived. This is my
fifth summer looking over this spontaneous garden, and I think the
gardener has made his early June pass. Three years, he's weed whacked
the prairie weeds and then sprayed herbicide over the rocks. Last year
and this year, he's nt made it to this miniature paradise. The
herbicide has never worked, as the garden grows up even greater the
next year. This is the fullest stand of milkweed so far. The birds
have taken to running around on the stones.

I think I saw a female of the monarch species, the butterfly hanging
from the underside of a milkweed leaf, slowly beating its wings. I'll
have to learn more, but she might have been a pregnant monarch
depositing her eggs upon the food her brood will eat when they hatch.
I'll have to find a key to access the garden to inspect the underside
of the leaves. But not during working hours. I learned my lesson years
ago when I picked up a newspaper in an office with windows open to a
main hallway. I heard about my lack of productivity from three
different departments: Human Resources, Training and Production.

If I have the article right, these eggs will hatch, and the leaves
will show the gaps from their feeding. Then, the caterpillars will
hang from a stem by their rearmost legs and transform into a pupae.
Last, the caterpillars will emerge as butterflies, flutter about, and
then fly south, reaching Texas milkweeds and repeat the cycle. If you
want Monarchs in the Galapagos, plant milkweeds. The monarch can cross
the Atlantic ocean, and if the milkweed is found, they'll start a
family there. I hear Bermuda has been colonized because Milkweed like
plants have become popular with gardeners.


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