Monarch Butterfly On Buttonbush

I was looking for Dragonflies to photograph at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge Maryland, but came across this Monarch Butterfly on this Buttonbush plant. I was using a 400mm DO lens with a 1.4x Teleconverter on a Canon 1DmkIV. I thought it looked interesting hanging upside down on the spherical pincushion blossoms. They are composed of dense clusters of tiny white tubular flowers. Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is often lauded for its utility rather than its beauty. Its commercial introduction in 1735 was primarily for beekeepers (hence, its other common name of honey-bells), who cultivated this deciduous shrub as a pollen and nectar resource for honeybees. This wetland shrub can be found in low-lying areas, swamps, marshes, bogs, and wetlands, and along the edges of ponds, streams, and rivers. It is often used to develop and restore wetlands, control erosion in riparian areas, and create wildlife habitats.

Monarch Butterfly At Davidsons Mill Pond

While I was photographing dragonflies at Davidsons Mill Pond Park this Monarch Butterfly flew in to these flowers right in front of me. I was using a 300mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter, so I had to backup some because it was too close to focus on. I was shooting almost wide open to get a smoother background so the Monarch & the flowers would standout more against a smooth background._Monarch_v2 Feature 1600iso_300mm_1_4X_7D_300mm_1_4X_7D__MG_1885Monarch_v1 stk_300mm_1_4X_7D__MG_1933

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2 image limited focus stack to get a little more detail on the Monarch head & flowers right in front of the Monarch and still have a smooth background

More Monarchs

Butterfly season and Summer are coming to an end. The butterflies and dragonflies are starting to look the worse for wear. Wings are starting to look more tattered and pieces are missing. These were taken at Davidson’s Mill Pond Park outside the butterfly house that is now closed. This year with work and the weather not cooperating I never shot inside the butterfly house, but I enjoy getting shots where they are not in a controlled environment anyway. I like the look and challenge of a natural environment to capture my images instead of a “zoo” like environment.

Monarch_v2_43G7762With the wind blowing them and the branch all around and their constant movement I was surprised I got some sharp images. I was not stopped down much so I sacrificed depth of field for a higher shutter speed to help stop blur from the butterfly blowing around in the wind.

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Monarch Butterfly Portraits

It is interesting to see and photograph Monarchs feeding on a plant. But after photographing them for years I never realized their amazing full life cycle. You know they go through the different stages, caterpillars thru to butterflies, but I did not realize how many stages they have.


The following info is from

The Photos are PhotoArtFlight Images.

The Life  Cycle(s) of a Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies go through four stages during one life cycle, and through four generations in one year. It’s a little confusing but keep reading and you will understand. The four stages of the monarch butterfly life cyclebutterfly are the egg, the larvae (caterpillar), the pupa (chrysalis), and the adult butterfly. The four generations are actually four different butterflies going through these four stages during one year until it is time to start over again with stage one and generation one.

In February and March, the final generation of hibernating monarch butterflies comes out of hibernation to find a mate. They then migrate north and east in order to find a place to lay their eggs. This starts stage one and generation one of the new year for the monarch butterfly.

In March and April the eggs are laid on milkweed plants. They hatch into baby caterpillars, also called the larvae. It takes about four days for the eggs to hatch. Then the baby caterpillar doesn’t do much more than eat the milkweed in order to grow. After about two weeks, the caterpillar will be fully-grown and find a place to attach itself so that it can start the process of metamorphosis. It will attach itself to a stem or a leaf using silk and transform into a chrysalis. Although, from the outside, the 10 days of the chrysalis phase seems to be a time when nothing is happening, it is really a time of rapid change. Within the chrysalis the old body parts of the caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation, called metamorphosis, to become the beautiful parts that make up the butterfly that will emerge. The monarch butterfly will emerge from the pupa and fly away, feeding on flowers and just enjoying the short life it has left, which is only about two to six weeks. This first generation monarch butterfly will then die after laying eggs for generation number two.

The second generation of monarch butterflies is born in May and June, and then the third generation will be born in July and August. These monarch butterflies will go through exactly the same four stage life cycle as the first generation did, dying two to six weeks after it becomes a beautiful monarch butterfly.

The fourth generation of monarch butterflies is a little bit different than the first three generations. The fourth generation is born in September and October and goes through exactly the same process as the first, second and third generations except for one part. The fourth generation of monarch butterflies does not die after two to six weeks. Instead, this generation of monarchs migrates to warmer climates like Mexico and California and will live for six to eight months until it is time to start the whole process over again.

It is amazing how the four generations of monarch butterflies works out so that the monarch population can continue to live on throughout the years, but not become overpopulated. Mother Nature sure has some cool ways of doing things, doesn’t she?

Female Monarch Butterfly

We went to the Davidsons Mill Park to look for dragonflies by the water. On Sundays the Butterfly House is open between 10 and 12 noon. So we decided to take a look. A lot of caterpillars munching their way through leaves and a few butterflies flying around. I usually like to photograph butterflies out in the fields but it was fun to take a look. Also outside the exhibit they have lots of plantings to attract butterflies. It was extremely hot and humid morning, so we only stayed for a few minutes and went back outside to see what we could find. To be able to get close to some of these small subjects, I used a 300mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter on a Canon 1.3 crop body, so it was about 546mm. So the backgrounds get “softer” and not distracting in the overall image.

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