Yesterday, I pulled up my huge rambling zucchini plant around noon.
It was planted in the blue raised bed container but throughout the summer it managed to spread its tendrils and meander around the milkweed/vintage iron urn bed, taking up a swath of the back garden 3' wide by 12' long.
(Pumpkins were set among the zucchini foliage just for effect!)
Since our first frost was forecast for last night (predicted low temps of 28 degrees) and the plant was basically done producing, I gathered it up and carried it around front to the yard waste bin.
On the way back, I spotted something bright orange lying in a little puddle of water on the patio ~ I could not have been more shocked to discover it was a newly emerged Monarch butterfly!!!!! Wings wet and totally limp. It is LATE in the season for him to just now be coming out.
I think his chrysalis was hanging on the underside of a zucchini leaf! He had just eclosed & must have fallen off when I was carrying the plant around! At one time, I had wondered whether one could have crawled under a leaf (and even looked under a few but obviously not the right ones!) I think this butterfly is the "missing" 4th caterpillar that I never could find after he left the milkweed. If so, he was in the pupa stage for at least 28 days, an extraordinarily long time.
Determined to help him, I picked up a twig and held it down next to him, hoping he was alive but not sure since he wasn't able to move. He reached his legs out and grabbed right on! This butterfly was defying the odds ~ selecting the zucchini leaf to build his chrysalis on (where he could very easily have been stepped on) waiting so long to eclose, being dropped on the patio pavement in such a vulnerable state ~ it's already a miracle he's alive.
Very carefully I carried him around to the garage where he climbed off the twig and onto one of the Brugmansia plants stored inside. At least there he had some protection from the wind ~ of all the days to emerge, it was cloudy, very windy and cool (low 60's). I recorded my sightings on the Migration Map & if you click on the link, you can see by the green dot in Colorado, mine is the one & only sighting seen after Oct 24 anywhere in the vicinity!
I hope he can make it, it's pretty extremely late in the season. And to think I was so worried about the last one! This one is two weeks behind her!
Above: Cool shot of a drop of fluid that leaked as it was being pumped from the abdomen into the wings. I noticed with all four Monarchs, some fluid would drip off.
He worked really hard to knit his proboscis together & managed successfully but there was very little warmth or sun to help dry his wings. I left my garage door open until well after dark but he did not seem inclined to leave the Brugmansia. Deciding he was going to roost there for the night, I eventually closed the door.
This morning I waited until it warmed up (upper 40's) to open the garage door then using a dolly, I moved him and the whole Brugmansia container out into the sun. He remained on the plant, in the sun, for several hours but unfortunately, I missed seeing him fly off.
I hope he continues to defy the odds and weather cooperating, makes it safely to Mexico. I gave him a pep talk the last time I saw him & told him he could do it but he needed to hustle!!!
That brings the contribution from my garden to four Monarchs successfully undergoing metamorphosis to join in the greatest migration! It's not a big number but it makes my heart happy to have helped them in any way at all.