Last year wasn't great for the Monarch butterflies, but this year...
Guests report that hiking in our back fields is like walking through a flying garden just now, with monarchs everywhere. We manage that field, through an agreement with the MNR, for wildlife, and we make sure we don't mow it during the butterfly season. (One year, when we hosted a Star Party here for Muskoka Heritage Place, we had to mow pathways for the guests... I kept climbing off the bushhog and checking the milkweed along the trails, carefully and labouriously removing the caterpillars to safer milkweeds. It took a terribly long time, and I didn't get much else done, but I think the effort was worth it. So did the butterflies!)
Lesley described the back fields as "magical." And so they are. The butterfly farm at the entranceway to the Lodge has done well this year. The milkweed have been nibbled down to naked stalks, and almost all the caterpillars are now either out of their chrysalis', or about to be. There's just one latecomer who only yesterday spun into the jade green chrysalis to begin the journey into butterfly. This is why we leave milkweed in the gardens, rather than root them out. Milkweed = Monarchs. Monarchs, in our book, trump imported garden annuals...
Our guests have been watching carefully as the process unfolds, checking in frequently to catalog progress. Leslie boosted Nora up for a close look at the next butterfly waiting to emerge.
As the time grows close for the butterfly to emerge, the chrysalis changes colour from jade green to black -- that's because the shell is actually transparent, and the colour is coming from the creature within. A close look shows the pattern of the monarch's wings beginning to be visible inside.
Then, in what seems to be just the blink of an eye, the chrysalis splits open, and the butterfly comes out. Slowly the wings unfold, and strengthen, and at last this breathtakingly lovely butterfly takes to the air to begin the cycle anew. How anything this fragile can fly to Mexico still astounds me.
Nobody really knows how this process occurs, how we get from fat green caterpillar to elegant monarch... but if anybody is looking for proof of miracles, they'd do well to look right here.