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Bug of the Week is a bit late for a good reason. I had a post all queued up and then a monarch butterfly flew by.

Not just any monarch butterfly. Do you notice anything unusual about it?

What about now?

This monarch is extremely skittish. It won't let me close. See it yet?

This is the best I could do before it flew away. On it's hind wing is a circular paper tag. This is a tagged monarch!

Why is it tagged? People have been tagging monarchs to learn more about the their migration. You can learn more about the tagging program at Monarch Watch.

Wish I could have read the number and found out where it was from.

~~~~~

Want to discover more about monarchs and their migrations? Check out the new middle grade book The Monarchs Are Missing: A Butterfly Mystery by Rebecca E. Hirsch. It was nominated for a 2018 Cybils Award.

Illustrated with large color photographs and clever illustrations, this book delves into all the reasons that monarch butterfly populations have been on the decline. Hirsch goes beyond the loss of habitat in the monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico, and examines other factors such as:

  • Increase in herbicide use killing their milkweed food plants.
  • Decrease in fall wildflowers that supply food for their long migration flights.
  • Planting tropical milkweeds, which encourages the monarchs to overwinter in Southern states, and thus increases the spread of a disease.
  • Changes in weather conditions in Texas in the spring.

To counteract the bad news, Hirsch also suggests some small changes that could make a big difference, like planting native milkweeds and avoiding pesticide use. She also encourages kids to participate in any one of a number of different citizen scientist projects for monarchs.

The Monarchs are Missing is part scientific mystery and part tribute to an amazing insect. It is a great choice for kids interested in nature and particularly in butterflies.

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: Millbrook Pr (January 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1512452505
ISBN-13: 978-1512452501

It will soon be part of our growing list of children's books about butterflies and moths at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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After I wrote last week's post about insects gathering nectar and pollen from a flowering wolfberry plant,  I visited the plant once more.

It looked quite different. Rather than one or two snout butterflies here and there, there were over thirty fluttering around.

A closer view...

Can you see the long snout that gives them their common name?

The adult butterflies were only sipping nectar from the wolfberry flowers and it is not a host for them. Snouts lay their eggs on hackberry trees (Celtis sp.)

The caterpillars that hatch from the eggs are green. Butterflies and Moths of North America website has some photographs of the caterpillars. When they are done feeding, they form chrysalids that are a similar green color.

Today, the wolfberry has finished flowering. I wonder where the snout butterflies are now.

When I visited the yard this morning to take photographs for this post, first I checked to see what was flowering. Flowers are great places to find insects.

The little leaf cordia (Cordia parviflolia) attracted my eye. It was covered with clusters of white blossoms.

The flowers were beautiful, but nothing was visiting them. In contrast, the plant next to it was humming and buzzing.

That's the wolfberry, Lycium species. It isn't much to look at from a human perspective.

From an insect's perspective, however, it was an open grocery store.

The honey bees and digger bees were lining up to sip nectar.

Smaller bees were wrapped around the anthers harvesting pollen.

When it was done, the underside of this one's abdomen was white with pollen.

Snout butterflies visited the flowers, too. They are drab when sitting like this.

Surprise!

Numerous flower flies and a few wasps flitted around. This flower or hover fly has a really big head compared to the rest of its body.

From the street (top photograph) the wolfberry bush looks like a small cluster of brownish branches on the left between the bright green Texas sage on the bottom left and the little leaf cordia. If you didn't know the wolfberry was there, you wouldn't even see it. Just the same, it provides food for hundreds of insects which in turn pollinate our gardens and serve as food for wildlife.

I hope I can continue to convince our homeowner's association that it deserves to stay.