The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

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Tracy G
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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 14 Jun 2016, 14:19

Thanks for that excellent question, winterfire. Sometimes there will be a run of one sex in a particular batch that we're fostering, but over the course of a full season, the proportions turn out to be approximately equal. In the first group this year, there were seven females and five males.

The green coloration of the chrysalis likely helps to provide camouflage among the leaves outdoors. The black-and-orange (Don't eat me! I'm poisonous!) pattern on the wings is among the last of the transformations that take place before the butterfly ecloses. When the chrysalis darkens, the butterfly is due out in less than 24 hours. When it looks like the photo below, it's time to get the camera ready.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 14 Jun 2016, 14:20

Hello, world.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 14 Jun 2016, 14:22

When they first come out, their abdomens are wonderfully zaftig. Their bodies are full of fluid that they pump into their initially soft and crumpled wings.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 14 Jun 2016, 14:27

Here the "split tongue" effect is visible in the curlicue structure looping out from the butterfly's face. This is actually the proboscis, the nectar-sucking tube, which forms in two halves (as can be seen in the labeled photo of the pupa earlier on this thread). One of the butterfly's first tasks is to "zip" the proboscis together.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 14 Jun 2016, 14:34

And here's a photo of monarch #12 about five minutes before his maiden flight. He was a little slower to take off than the others in his group, so I carried him to the borage flowers to inspire him with courage.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby winterfire » 14 Jun 2016, 18:49

Blessings on them! May they fly high and find safe landings. :butterflies:

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Alwin » 14 Jun 2016, 20:51

Wow! I'm speechless! So beautiful!
Thank you for sharing, Tracy!
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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 21 Jun 2016, 17:55

Thanks for your additional good wishes and compliments, winterfire and Alwin!

Monarchs #13, #14 (whose egg came off the leaf), and #15 (who pupated on the underside of the leaf) turned out to be solstice butterflies. They all eclosed and successfully flew within two days of Alban Hefin. Here's #15, with plenty of space to inflate her wings for her first flight later that day.

I'll likely be less active on this thread until September. Since June 3, my husband has found one egg and one caterpillar outdoors, and I've found none at all. We do still have eight chrysalises, and if I manage to capture any particularly beautiful snapshots of butterflies from that batch or from later batches, I'll post those. Otherwise, the next pictures will illustrate the tagging process. Tags are applied only to the generation that migrates to Mexico, so that work begins in early autumn.

Meanwhile, here's a link to a fun six-minute video, in which my talented spouse demonstrates the tagging technique.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby winterfire » 21 Jun 2016, 22:04

Just amazing!

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 26 Jun 2016, 17:49

Okay, just three more for now, since these are probably nice enough to share. :)

Here's the sharpest photo that I took during yesterday's release of five monarchs. In terms of technical quality and the level of detail that is visible at the butterfly's face and eyes, this is about the best that I'm capable of achieving with my pocket camera.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 26 Jun 2016, 17:58

These pictures are slightly blurred due to the shallow depth of field and the movement of the butterfly's wings as they prepared to take their first flights. I'm posting them anyhow because they so nicely illustrate the difference in wing markings between male and female monarchs. The male's wings have thinner vein pigmentation and a small dark dot on each hind wing. These dots mark the location of the male's pheromone pouches, which project slightly above the surface and are covered in black scales. The female's wings have thicker vein pigmentation and no scent spots. So far this year, we've fostered 12 females and 11 males.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby winterfire » 26 Jun 2016, 18:26

Gorgeous!

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby ShadowCat » 28 Jun 2016, 08:13

They are so beautiful...
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the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Alwin » 28 Jun 2016, 20:39

Wow, fantastic! These colours are just breathtaking!
These pictures are slightly blurred due to the shallow depth of field and the movement of the butterfly's wings
It is quite tricky to capture insects (and animals in general) because of their fast movement. If you have a DSLR set the exposure time to 1/200s or 1/250s and let the camera do the rest. Most digicams also offer a special mode for action or sport images. I'm not sure if this goes together with the macro mode but give it a try. What camera do you use?
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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 02 Jul 2016, 01:52

Thank you, everyone! The colors truly are amazing when they're fresh out of the chrysalis. I swear I didn't touch the saturation level in Photoshop—they really are that orange. After the monarch butterflies have been outside for several weeks, they tend to fade a bit and sometimes get tattered, too.

Alwin, I'm using a Canon PowerShot S100. I normally keep it on the aperture priority setting, but I could try shutter speed priority for the next batch of butterflies. The difficulty with the last batch is that the butterflies eclosed on a heavily overcast day. So even though I was mainly using apertures of f/2.5–f/3.2, the auto exposure times were on the order of 1/60 second. I tried using the flash on its lowest setting for several shots, but the results were pretty harsh and artificial-looking. I really love sky conditions that are just lightly overcast, so there's adequate but soft lighting. Then my technique mostly consists of praying hard that the insect's face is in the focal plane. I almost always prefer that the eyes are sharp, even if the rest of their bodies are not in focus.

Here's another example, from last year's bee photographs, to illustrate the best I've been able to do with this camera. I like that the segments on his antennae can be counted, and his tongue sheath is pretty clear. The original image does have better resolution; I've resized and compressed it for posting here.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 12 Sep 2016, 15:22

As of last week, the monarch migration has begun here in Nebraska!

Here’s a cell phone photo of my husband releasing a wild male that he netted and tagged outdoors this past weekend. The round sticker on the butterfly’s rear wing bears a unique identification code. The stickers are supplied by the organization Monarch Watch. If this butterfly is later recovered in Mexico (or anywhere else along the route), the Monarch Watch staff will notify my husband, and he will be able to print out a certificate.

My husband does have several recoveries already from past seasons; I have none yet, but that’s because I tend to focus my attention more on rearing than on tagging. I’m now caring for the last butterflies of the season, which currently number 11 larvae and 18 pupae. Justin had asked earlier if the numbers are down this year. They are. Depending on how many of the current batch are successful, I’m projecting that I will release only two-thirds to three-quarters as many monarchs this year, as compared to the 2015 season. I’ve done my best, but I simply haven’t been able to find as many eggs and larvae outdoors this spring and summer.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby JustinR » 13 Sep 2016, 11:10

Thanks so much for your efforts. I've thought of this everytime I've seen a monarch this summer. :)
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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 18 Sep 2016, 01:06

The volume of butterflies flying overhead has picked up noticeably. We are close to the local peak of the monarch migration, which occurs around Alban Elfed. During our tagging efforts this afternoon, this wild male fueled up for his journey on pitcher sage (Salvia azurea) flowers.
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Tracy G » 18 Sep 2016, 01:09

While we were at it, we also collected some common milkweed seeds for the Prairie Plains Resource Institute, the local organization that restored the park and trail where we were tagging. :)
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“Herein therefore lies our present problem: to find forms of expression for the time-spirit of the seasons in such a way as to enrich the spirit of devotion to the soil, to express and to intensify co-operation with nature.”
...—Ross Nichols, “An Examination of Creative Myth,” in The Cosmic Shape (1946)

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Re: The Monarch Butterfly Picture Thread

Postby Alwin » 18 Sep 2016, 13:50

Beautiful this image of the butterfly in the wild! :)

Do you also plant the milkweed seeds?
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