This Monarch Butterfly Was Not Ready For Its Closeup

So yesterday I was out in the front garden when I spied a Monarch Butterfly on the Rose Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). This was the third Monarch sighting of the year, not including some caterpillars on the Butterflyweed (A. tuberosa).


Judy usually takes the pictures of the garden, but she was busy, so I rushed inside and grabbed the camera myself. The Monarch seemed unusually skittish, unfortunately. Even a small movement on my part seemed to set her off flying round and round. She always ended up back on the Rose Milkweed, though.

DSC_0604The Rose Milkweed has buds but no blooms at the moment, but the Monarch seemed to be focused on the buds. I’d like to think she (assuming it was a she) was laying eggs, but I couldn’t find any.  To be honest, I’ve never actually seen any butterfly eggs in the garden, though I didn’t exactly know what to look for.

DSC_0609Anyway I hope she wasn’t getting frustrated because I kept hovering around trying to take pictures. Was the butterfly wishing that I would go away so she could lay her eggs in peace? Guess I’ll never know.

DSC_0615This year has gotten off to a fairly slow start, butterfly-wise. Normally we don’t see many Monarchs until August, so I can’t complain (yet) as far as that goes. Otherwise all I’ve seen are some Red Admirals and Eastern Commas. And Cabbage Whites, though I really don’t feel that they count. If we called them by a different name, would they be more exciting? How about “Brassica Ecru Butterflies”?

No Swallowtails yet, which is disappointing.

Anyway, I did manage to get some decent Monarch photos, but it wasn’t easy. Anyone have any tips on taking butterfly photographs?

44 Comments on “This Monarch Butterfly Was Not Ready For Its Closeup

  1. No advice on photographing them well (I, too, think you did just fine). Monarch eggs are tiny but visible white baubles, quilted in texture, usually on the undersides of leaves and rarely deposited in groups. I keenly remember seeing them for the first time, around age five, and trying to destroy them with big shoots of hose water because I thought they were trying to kill our garden. My parents were aghast and scandalized at such behavior, and promptly educated me on the subject. I still feel guilty about that.

    • Sometimes guilt is a useful emotion (not often, though). I will have to look more carefully for the eggs. Are they ever laid near the umbels?

  2. This cold summer there are few butterflies here, Jason. You’re lucky to take such beautiful photos!

  3. Looks like a female monarch (the male will have one dark circle on the each hindwing) If she is laying an egg, her abdomen will swing under a leaf to lay the egg and it looks like a very small white dot. Hope you have some! Ours usually don’t show up until around mid August but I did see one yesterday. As far as pictures go, you just have to be still and be patient which is so hard for me!

  4. The main thing about butterflies is to not chase them. They usually have a favorite flower and you can usually see which one it is and it will come back to that flower. Stay by that flower and wait for it to come back to it for your photo. Don’t move any more than you have to.

  5. My grandson was all excited because a Monarch landed on his Dad’s shoulder. I’ll be seeing lots of them when the Joe Pye weed opens.

  6. Lovely picture. There was a monarch in my garden yesterday; my first sighting this year.

  7. How exciting to see a monarch! I haven’t seen any yet this summer, though a couple people nearby have just found caterpillars. When the Monarch lays eggs, she’ll be down lower curling her abdomen to lay an egg on the bottom of a leaf. Hope you get some caterpillars! I haven’t even seen many butterflies in general this summer (unless you count invasive winter moths). I’ve found the best thing for taking photos of them is moving very slowly. (It was honestly much easier after I got a zoom lens, which really helps so you don’t have to get too close.)

  8. Great photographs and exciting happenings! Love the Rose Milkweed : )

  9. Kudos to you being able to get pictures of the Monarch. I find butterflies often more skittish than birds. I haven’t seen many Monarchs yet either, but am glad to have had at least a bunch of Red Admirals and bees over the weekend.

  10. Happy to report that I’ve been seeing many Monarchs in my Southern California garden this year. No Swallowtails yet but hope to see a few.

    • I would love to see the Monarchs roosting in Southern California. I’ve heard many roost in the area around Santa Barbara in the winter.

  11. We have very few Monarchs here in Washington (I do have milkweed), but I’ve had oodles of swallowtails flitting nervously through my garden. They refuse to hold still long enough for picture taking.

  12. I think I spotted my first ever butterfly egg this morning, so I picked the milkweed stem and it is now in a vase to see if I can raise it to adulthood myself. Apparently the percentage of Monarchs that reach adulthood when left to fend for themselves is minuscule, so I’m hoping to do my part in helping them along. Since I too have never seen butterfly eggs – or if I have in an exhibit, I can’t recall what they look like – I have no idea whether what I have is an actual egg or a speck of something else. Guess time will tell.

    And no – no other name would qualify the cabbage white as a welcome site in the garden…well, at least in my garden!

    • I admire the people who raise the eggs themselves, but I don’t trust myself to do it. My caterpillars would probably starve.

  13. I’m learning a lot from just reading the comments on this post. Love the photos. Maybe someday I can post something similar.

  14. Exciting sighting – I saw my first today and was so thrilled. Hopefully, there will be mates and lots of eggs – fingers crossed!

  15. Great photo, I’ve only ever taken a decent photo of a butterfly once…so I’m impressed.

  16. Lots of swallowtails here but I haven’t seen a monarch yet. I am also happy to report that our population of “Brassica Ecrus” is much smaller this year, thanks to covering the veggies they love with fabric.

  17. Lovely photos. I could get behind the ‘Brassica Ecrus’ rebranding, but then I’d see far too many descending on the Kale and I’d feel the same as I usually do about them!

  18. Those are beautiful photos of the butterflies. I’m not sure how to keep butterflies still. Trying to take pictures of hoverflies is just as frustrating. I wonder is a motion-sensor setup or trained camera and a lot of patience is the answer, or just get Judy to do it!

  19. Wonderful photos of such a lovely butterfly. Their wings always look like stained glass windows to me. I hope you find some eggs at some point. It’s a little slow on the butterfly front around here too, I hope they turn up soon and their absence is not about population

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