A Brief Detour from ‘shrooms

Monarch Matrix
Monarch Matrix

We have to give the animal kingdom its share of attention, but one thing I noted about mid-way through my graduate education: animals don’t stay put where we find them so we can go back and visit them again. This milkweed, OTOH, will be there when I pass that Coles Knob roadside pasture this morning on my way to town. I’ll be packing the camera, the monarch caterpillar will have eaten his platform out from under himself (or herself as the politically correct case may be) and moved on.

But the setting in which I found this tight shot was worth another visit–a beautiful roadside garden of several goldenrod species in different degrees of yellow matureness and tall deep purple Ironweed, a color combination perfectly matched. I’ll be printing some of those for sure!

You recognize, of course, the favored food of the Monarch–milkweed, with its spiny silk-filled pods–that gives the winged adult its poisonous protection, for which birds recognize the pattern after just one attempt to eat a butterfly with the distinctive orange and black pattern, and thereafter, never touch another Monarch.

There is a form of mimicry in which other butterflies have survived and the pattern spread by virtue of the extent to which they resemble Monarchs–just enough to reduce predation and increase the rate of survival to produce more offspring.

So much for our zoological moment. Soon (maybe one more caterpillar shot, now that I think about it) back to wildflowers, fungi and such.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I saw a little moth the other day that made me laugh – mostly because originally I wondered how a bird managed to get poop in that particular spot. (The aerial acrobatics I imagined were lovely.) But lo, it was a tiny little moth, and yes, I did get that close to what I thought was bird poop to see if those were, indeed, legs.