Tigers on the Wind: A Swallowtail Soirée


The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is one of the most elegant butterfly species that flutters above the meadows and flower gardens of Oakland County. They are not as much of a “media-hog” as our milkweed loving monarch butterflies, nor do they undertake long border crossing migrations, but as for their visibility in these waning days of August—the beautiful swallowtails win hands down.

Don’t get me wrong. I like monarchs and often attend our local monarch butterfly festivals, but our “tigers on the wind,” the eastern tiger swallowtails, barely get a public notice even with their nearly five-inch wing spans. Perhaps they should, for they are appearing in the urban areas of Novi, Pontiac, Royal Oak and Rochester, and as to be expected they are fluttering about rural fields and the wide open spaces of our Huron-Clinton Metro Parks, Oakland County Parks, and the expansive State Recreation Areas managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. It’s almost impossible to hike or bike down the Paint Creek, Polly Ann or Clinton River Trails on a sunny day without taking note of their mesmerizing appearance on trailside wildflowers. With those thoughts in mind, and no disrespect meant to the monarch lovers (count me among them) here’s a snapshot salute to the swallowtails, for in the world of nature all things are connected. Continue reading

Monarch Migration and Milkweed: From Michigan to Mexico



The monarch butterfly‘s migration is perhaps the most magnificent migration of any species. Most monarchs that are now emerging from their chrysalises in Oakland County will attempt to fly all the way to the mountains of central Mexico. Monarchs know no borders, and Mexico is their overwintering destination. Some will be successful in that hazardous journey now underway, however many of these delicate beauties will die en route. To keep the journey alive in Oakland County, it is paramount that milkweed plants continue to grow here, because without them there would be no monarchs.

monarch-signEducation plays a big role. Enhancing monarch habitat by planting milkweed is akin to creating birthing rooms and feeding stations in one easy action. A colorful new interpretive sign created for Oakland County Parks shares the message of the great migration, the magic of metamorphosis and the need to plant and protect milkweed. Milkweed is only a weed to many humans, but for the monarch it is life, for it is the sole food source for the colorful larvae of the monarch. That’s where this tale begins, here in Oakland County where many park agencies and residents strive to create monarch way stations, landscapes that support milkweed.

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