I have been waiting for these ladies for quite a long time. I had not seen a Queen butterfly in my garden all year. Until today when two of the beauties finally showed up.
Queens are a member of the milkweed (Danidae) family of butterflies. Just like their larger and more famous cousin, the Monarch, Queens lay their eggs on milkweed plants and when the caterpillars hatch they feed on those plants. By doing so, they store poisonous cardiac glycosides that are found in the milky juices of the milkweed plant. These compounds are distasteful and emetic to most birds and so they garner some protection from avian predators. Unfortunately, the poison doesn't seem to have any effect on predatory wasps that are probably the caterpillars' greatest enemies.
The Queens that were visiting today spent a lot of time on my milkweed plants. With any luck, perhaps they left some of their eggs there.
They also spent quite a bit of time with the almond verbena. Butterflies in general really like this plant and the Queens were no exception.
The shape of the flowers is much like the buddleia, or butterfly bush, so perhaps it is no surprise that the butterflies love it so.
But they always returned to the milkweed. (That bug on the leaf to the right of the butterfly is a milkweed bug. My plants have a number of them at the moment, but they do no harm.)
Queens do not stage long and dramatic migrations like the Monarch. They are resident primarily in southern states, although some do wander farther north. Although these wanderers may briefly colonize an area, they cannot survive freezing weather.
In the Houston area, Queens' presence is erratic; they are common in some years but more elusive in others. This has definitely been one of their "elusive" years. But better late than never. I'm just happy they are finally here.