As we did last year, we spent yesterday looking for milkweed and tiny, white monarch butterfly eggs at Choctaw Trails in Clinton, Mississippi. The event was coordinated by the Clinton Community Nature Center as the beginning of their week long series of activities related to monarch butterfly education.
Searching for the eggs on milkweed was much more difficult this year because the milkweed was not yet as abundant (colder weather?) and there were fewer monarch eggs to be found and gathered. We were told by some of the naturalists on-site that the butterfly population is greatly reduced this year.
Several in our group also spent time searching for eggs on a plant that looked similar to milkweed but was not! We should have remembered the milky sap that oozes out when the plant is cut. We hunkered down close to the ground and tried to decide if tiny dots that we kept seeing were eggs. Alas, they were not! Some of these dots turned out to be aphids, some may have been pollen or small seeds, and still others may have been other insect eggs. Only when we were about to leave, disappointed and hungry, did we find some milkweed hiding close to our vehicles at the beginning of the trail.
Finally, I found one egg. In comparison, my family found about 20 eggs last year. We had so many that we gave them away to multiple classrooms in three schools and raised several ourselves with enough gathered milkweed for all. This year in our group of 5 families, I think we only found 5 or 6 eggs after almost two hours of hunting.
After our egg hunt, we re-grouped for a picnic with friends, played outside, and ended our day by visiting the Nature Fest at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science where we learned about reptiles, bats, saw a colorful moth hiding near the ground, and raced a gopher tortoise. I also accepted a photography award in the museum's first annual Back to Nature Photography Contest for a photo taken last fall at the museum. The winning photo and a slide show of highlights from the rest of the day are below.