Last year we had an early spring (and not much of a winter), so the butterflies arrived and the bees appeared well before there were flowers to pollinate, or even leaves present as food sources for larvae. Things were out of sync — badly, and I’m sure the insect populations took a nose dive in Minnesota as a result.
This year, spring was 4-6 weeks late here, and also late perhaps further south of us as well. We are well into summer, the flowers blooms are peaking in home and natural gardens, but pollinators are rarely found. My raspberries have bloomed and set fruit, and yet I never saw a bee on the flowers the entire time. Bumblebees are mostly absent, wasps are a rarity, honeybees and other small bees almost entirely absent. We do have a lot of bee-mimic hoverflies (Syrphidae) though.
So, I was delighted to find a female Monarch butterfly in the backyard (first one this year!), depositing her eggs on a swamp milkweed plant. The flower heads were still a couple of days from opening, but she was not trying to insert her proboscis into them anyway (proboscis is tightly coiled in the photo).
Several times I saw her purposely lower her abdomen below wing level underneath a leaf, so I assumed she was laying an egg there. When I checked those leaves, sure enough, there were some little cylindrical eggs sticking up from the under surface (one per leaf). I would have taken a photo, but they were much too small for my telephoto lens.
You can see the curvature of her abdomen better in this photo, and even imagine that there is a little white something being extruded from the tip onto the undersurface of the flower umbel (this is pure conjecture — I don’t know that they would lay an egg in a flower cluster). Click on the photo for higher resolution of the abdomen.
I haven’t seen many photos of butterflies posted on the various blogs I read, so I wonder if this drought of butterflies is widespread over the U.S. (or other parts of the world) this year. There are strange climatic swings everywhere that may well influence the insect populations (drastically), and that, in turn, would be devastating for our food production.