This week, with the Iowa County Conservation Board Naturalists, we visited
two very different butterfly colonies.
considered to be one of the Chincua colonies, was high up in a canyon
on the north side of the Sierra Chincua massif and accessed through the
delightful colonial town of Senguio. The canyon is named Ojo Caliente;
the approximately one half hectare, highly dispersed colony was near the
Llano de Koala. We arrived late, but in time to see the monarchs reforming
their clusters in late afternoon.
The other colony was the lower part of the Rosario colony now spread out
for a least a kilometer in a canyon called Arroyo Grande. This colony
was above the settlement of La Salud. We arrived early and a combination
of slightly cooler than average temperatures and some early morning clouds
kept the ambient cooler than usual and the butterflies less active than
normal. But we were not to be disappointed. By noon tens of thousands
were pouring down through the forests and above the canopy. Many were
headed to nearby fields where water seeps were present. Many were nectaring
on Eupatorium and Senecio at field edges. Others were watering along streamsides
within the forests. A quick but limited count of those nectaring at field
edges revealed that 100% were male. These males were likely stocking up
on the sugars needed to power their mating activities.
forest, like parachutes of colored cardboard, numerous monarch pairs floated
down from the canopy, resulting in reluctant embraces on the forest floor.
Reluctant because the females were clearly trying to avoid being clasped
by the males. A paradox because the females clearly need the nitrogen
from the male spermatophores to make egg yoke.
The male is seldom successful in his courtship – maybe only 10%
of the time does he attach to the female and attempt to fly off to a perch
in a tree or shrub. And 10% of the time he mistakenly grabs another male.
Strangely, the male brought down – also clearly reluctant –
pumps his labial palps open and close just as the female does when she
is brought down by a male. At any one time, ten to twelve mating pairs
could be observed struggling in the ground within a small area.
Early that morning when there was little butterfly activity within the
forests other than basking behavior, high up over the forest canopy and
fields, monarchs were seen flying northwards. We surmised that these were
those that had begun the migration home just as we will do this coming
For information on future Monarch adventures to Mexico, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
in the sky.
you find the pair in nuptial flight? (See larger