Butterfly Observations

Photo by Ed Wesley. Faded monarch extruding an egg from the tip of her abdomen.

As I was just about to close up the Environmental Learning Center on Friday before Labor Day, I noticed Ed Wesley of the Butterfly Barn walking up our drive. He was interested in looking at some milkweed plants that had sprout up in the restricted area of the dam, just outside our environmental gardens. Specifically, he wanted to know if there were any monarch eggs on the underside of these new plants so he could preserve them for next week’s Butterfly Abound program at the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center.  I walked him down to the entrance of the dam to take a look.

Photo by Ed Wesley. A fresh Giant Swallowtail

 He must have sensed my interest as he told me more about migrating monarch butterflies. Recently he has noticed the butterflies in our garden flying across the lake towards the sun after getting the nectar they need. He then told me an interesting fact: butterflies who flutter around nectar sources such as the butterfly bush are locals; while butterflies who simply stop by for nectar and then fly directly toward the sun, are migrants on their way to Mexico. Our local monarch generation (which lives 5 or 6 weeks) is still around, and may continue to lay eggs, though I seldom find them after the first week of September. These monarchs overlap with young migrants, who cannot lay eggs. Migrants do not mature sexually until late next winter in Mexico. That’s when they mate and the females then fly north and many will lay eggs on milkweed sprouts along the U.S. Gulf Coast and in north Texas. The locals here are pretty much done laying their eggs, but some are still active, which is why he wanted to check the new milkweed plants that may not have as many predators such as mites or spiders on them. Unfortunately there weren’t many eggs to be found, and the few we did find were empty, meaning a predator had already gotten to them. We wound up finding a few highly detailed empty eggs that will serve as great examples for the program on Saturday. 

Photo by Ed Wesley. Tattered Giant Swallowtail.

Ed has been observing migrants here in our area already, as well as a lot of other local activity which he later detailed in an e-mail with some great pictures he has shot, seen below. Since 1996, Wesley and his associate Barbara Yeaman have rescued Monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars from threatened habitats and raised them in the Butterfly barn in Milanville, Pa.  With the help local school children, they’ve nurtured and released almost 3,000 adult monarchs.

 If Friday’s meeting with Ed was a preview to his Butterfly Abound program, I can’t wait for Sept. 8. I hope to see you all there as well!  Below are some of Ed’s observations and great photos he has taken in the area. 

 “Monarchs have begun their migration thru Hawley – Wednesday afternoon I watched nearly a dozen drift onto Butterfly Bush flowers – then drink nectar and pretty soon fly straight toward the southwest (and the sun), across the north end of Lake Wallenpaupack. Keep an eye out for monarchs flying in a bee-line toward the sun.

Photo by Ed Wesley. Tattered Giant Swallowtail.

I also spied a Giant Swallowtail butterfly on a butterfly bush near the Library in Hawley. BUT, it was very tattered, as if birds had pecked away a lot of wing tissue. The tattered “Giant Swallowtail” in my pictures is a southern butterfly that frequents orange groves.  I saw a fresh one in our garden, and a week later found a tattered one in Hawley – probably 4 or 5 weeks old. These were firsts – in 20 years of observing local butterflies I’d never seen a G. Swallowtail (although plenty of yellow Tiger Swallowtails, which are native here). It may be another indicator that our local climate is warming – along with an ice-free Upper Delaware River the past three winters.” -Ed Wesley 

 For more information on the Saturday Sept. 8 Butterflies Abound program with Ed Wesley, as well as all our free public programs, visit our calendar here.

 -Sarah Hall, PPL Wallenpaupack


  1. Nancy Kelley said,

    September 5, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I want out to let several Monarch butterflies go and I noticed many new eggs…what can I do to preserve the eggs for next year. Michigan has an Indian summer in October…but it is too late for these fellows. Let go 30 males and 2 females last weekend…help!

    • PPL Preserves said,

      September 10, 2012 at 10:57 am

      While I am not too familiar with Michigan’s climate I would say in this case it would be best to let nature take its course and not preserve the eggs for next year. The eggs are probably still developing and have a chance for survival, even if they don’t there are always stragglers left by local populations who don’t migrate.

  2. allmountaingirl said,

    September 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Very interesting and informative. I will be paying closer attention to the direction of flight! Great article and photos!

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