Milkweed and Monarchs

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One day last week, riding down the railbed, I noticed these weird, reddish, flowery things.  So, of course, I had to stop and take a picture.  As I pulled my phone out of my pack, 2 butterflies landed and stayed to pose for pictures.

Turns out the plants are milkweed, and the butterflies are monarchs.  I spend a lot of time in the woods, and see many more moths than butterflies, but suddenly, it seems that there are butterflies everywhere.  Well, monarchs can be found almost everywhere in the US, and their food of choice is milkweed.

I always thought of milkweed as plants with puffy, white seed pods breaking open in the fall.  But this is what they look like earlier in the year.  I took this picture last summer, and didn’t realize what it was.  IMG_1691.JPG

Monarchs lay eggs on milkweed plants, and when the eggs hatch, the little caterpillars eat the plants.  When they transform to butterflies, the adults eat nectar from many plants, including milkweed.  Milkweed plants are toxic, so please don’t eat them.  The toxins remain in the butterflies (so please don’t eat them either ;)).  The monarchs’ orange color is a warning to predators that they aren’t good to eat.

It would be easy to go out into the woods and focus only on the ride, run, or hike.  But there is so much more than that.  Most of us will never be world class athletes, so a few minutes break from a workout isn’t a big deal.  So tomorrow, when you’re out in the woods, stop and smell the flowers.  Or in this case, check out the flowers…and the butterflies!

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