There’s a small, steady stream of monarch butterflies outside my window, flittering their way south, stopping now and then at a blooming male groundsel tree. These bushes are covered with pollinators right now~ you can see in this footage that there are plenty of insects whirling around of all sizes.
While we have a native milkweed here on the island, I haven’t seen monarch larvae on it~ but adult monarchs are everywhere right now. I took the footage of the caterpillar at the South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson University a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s amazing that butterflies have multiple generations a summer, and only the last one heeds some inner call to head south and gather in huge still swaths together so they don’t freeze. Check out this video (watch it in HD~it’s worth the bandwidth) taken by a hummingbird drone so the butterflies weren’t disturbed by human activities:
Monarchs aren’t the only long distance migrants moving through here. Songbirds and shorebirds, dragonflies, and other butterflies like Gulf Fritillaries and Buckeyes are all headed southward. If you need a dose of nature therapy and you can’t get right out there, here’s some unedited footage of these pollinators.
How do you know it's a Monarch?
Monarch, Queen, Fritillary, Viceroy: It can be hard to tell the fall butterflies apart. We have a handy diagram below, and you can check out our page on how to make sense of the orange butterflies of fall. There are even some downloadable diagrams here. (Hint, if you’re going to print your download, do it with the white version… my mom used up too much ink with the black version.)