August & September: Monarchs, Fritillaries and more, oh my!

As the days get hotter, butterfly activity intensifies. It’s a great time for outdoor explorations. I went over to Shamrock on Monday, and the gardens were teeming with all sorts of creatures. With kids away, the insects play.

Visit if you can! You can find every butterfly featured in our Shamrock calendar in some form or another – egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly. You might bring the calendar and try a scavenger hunt. Your student can probably tell you some things about the gardens and their inhabitants that you don’t know.

Our Home Butterfly Studies page has some suggestions for activities. There are also lots of mosquitoes, so come prepared.


Right now my home garden is full of Monarch eggs and caterpillars. The first Fall Monarch arrived promptly on August 1, and there’s been a steady stream since. It’s a good year for Monarchs.

The Monarchs that emerge from the eggs laid in these late-summer months will head to Mexico for their long winter hibernation.

If we were in school, Shamrock’s third graders would be raising, tagging and releasing Monarchs as part of a long-running citizen science program done by Monarch Watch. It’s one of my favorite butterfly activities.

Next fall, we’ll plan to have both third and fourth graders tag monarchs, so no one misses out.

Gulf Fritillaries

I love the silver spots on Gulf Fritillaries’ underwings, especially the one that looks like a menacing eye. The orange color of their upper wings sometimes causes folks to mistake Fritillaries for Monarchs, but the underwings are a dead giveaway.

Gulf Fritillaries are usually calm, and often let visitors get closer to them than other butterflies. The black spikes on their caterpillars look prickly, but they aren’t.

Like Monarch, they migrate for the winter. But they just go to Florida.

Variegated Fritillaries

Variegated Fritillaries aren’t as brightly colored as Gulf Fritillaries. Their caterpillars are also red and spiky, but also have white stripes down the sides. They make especially beautiful green-and-gold chrysalises.

Other Beauties

Here are just a few of the things I saw on Monday. If you look carefully at your calendar, you should be able to identify most of them.