Where are they???
OK, so it's the middle of July, and I'm seeing only a fraction of the pollinators I saw at this time last year, and I'm on the verge of panic. With all the new habitat Shannon and I have added to our property over the last year, I just knew it would be positively abuzz with bees and rich with color from all the butterflies by now. Sweat bees are around in fair numbers, and we started out with a promising array of butterflies, which have since pretty much vanished, but there really just isn't much. I was hoping it would be the case that they're just more spread out now, but even when I explore every corner of our prairie/gardens, I'm alarmed by how little I see. Shannon said he heard an NPR report on monarchs the other day, and the guest said that he'd been hearing from people that there has been a perplexing lack of monarchs, given all of the habitat that's out there this year. And I have to agree. Look at this:
This is one side of a streambed in the middle of a cornfield surrounding us. The other side is at least as thick with milkweed. (The farmer went out his way to avoid spraying anything near this amazing habitat.) I've seen maybe three monarchs down there and one monarch caterpillar. There have been a handful of honeybees, and I saw a red-spotted purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) near the patch, but shouldn't it be alive with all kinds of bugs? Maybe I'm just watching a pot boil; I'm so anxious for all of my little neighbors to return, I'm jumping the gun. But I don't know . . . When I look at the dates on the photos I took last year, by about this time I was seeing much more. I'll try to keep my panic at bay for a couple more weeks. In the meantime, I'm blatantly interfering with nature. I've brought what monarch eggs I was able to find into the house to eliminate at least the predator factor. (Did you know that at least 90% of monarch caterpillars don't make it to butterfly?) Here are Larry, Curly, and Moe:
There's a new baby not pictured here, and when I went to get fresh milkweed for their habitat, I found another egg. I haven't been able to find them since I improved their temporary abode, but I can see by the leaves at least a couple of them are eating well. I worry about them like an old mother hen...