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By Jeffrey M. Camhi

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South of Oliver they would arrive at the Oxbows Ecological Reserve, where wetlands were being restored by ditching water back into the area. This drives old farmers crazy but delights birders and waterfowl hunters. But it was too cold for monarchs. Little white heath asters nodded in the cool gray breeze, unattended by butterflies. We crossed back into the United States at Osoyoos and for the rest of the day followed the Okanogan through Washington’s orchardlands, where a much greater threat than mantids faced monarchs passing this way.

Autumn emigrants are sexually immature and as a rule neither mate nor lay eggs until increasing day length the following spring triggers their hormones toward gonad development and mating. So she had only nectaring on her minute mind, and this she had been doing with fervor just before I caught her. Probably she had emerged only recently, perhaps maturing in this very milkweed patch or one nearby. But the milkweed’s attraction for monarchs is not solely as the required caterpillar host plant. Showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, the only species in British Columbia, has thickly fragrant heads of florets like clusters of pale pink stars.

Butterfly houses, enclosed hothouses like conservatories or aviaries but for (usually exotic) butterflies, have sprung up all over in recent years, and of course I always stop for them when I can. Stepping into its hot breath, I dodged a great black swallowtail swooping down • 28 • Okanogan • 29 from the glass sky. The tropical air felt good after the cool off-lake breeze. It wasn’t a large place, as butterfly houses go, but it was pleasant. Paths wound around streams, waterfalls, and islands of tropical vegetation such as banana palms and passion vines.

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