Monday, August 22, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, August 22, 2016

Here’s what’s happened over the past two weeks…

Well, my monarch caterpillars are gone.  The predators must have gotten them before they had a chance to grow larger.  I’m not sure how many of them will make it now with all the milkweed bugs, aphids and that praying mantis hanging around.  I really miss seeing those monarch cats crawling up and down the milkweed.

Luckily, this past Friday a Giant Swallowtail egg hatched on the rue.  I’m hoping this little guy grows large enough to disguise himself as “bird poop” and he makes it through to become a butterfly.
 About two weeks ago, I picked up a popcorn cassia at the garden center which the Cloudless Sulphur just loves to visit.  There are always Sulphurs fluttering about the courtyard, but they kept bypassing my garden.  I specifically got the cassia for them and sure enough, they are lingering in my garden now.
Finally, this past weekend I was treated to a Giant Swallowtail which came into the patio garden to nectar on the verbena bonariensis.  This plant is a butterfly magnet!  I bought a lot of it this year and the butterflies have been enjoying it all summer.  I also picked up some of the big, open giant flower head zinnias.  I’m not sure what the correct name for them is.  All I know is the butterflies flock to them.  They like these much better then the kind with the double blooms because the flower makes a nice big landing pad and they can easily access the nectar.  The Gulf Fritillaries seem to really enjoy the zinnias.
Lastly, besides the above mentioned butterflies, I can always count on my garden to be full of different skippers and also a few duskywings.  These little guys are there all the time flitting from flower to flower.  I can always count on them to be there even when some of the larger butterflies are absent.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, August 9, 2016

I saw two freshly hatched monarch caterpillars on the patio milkweed this weekend.  It’s now Tuesday, and I haven’t seen them again.  They were so tiny that either I’m just not seeing them, or they were eaten.  I’m guessing the later which seems to happen a lot.

The praying mantis is still living on the patio.  I watched her climb onto the bee balm and stay there perfectly still until a skipper few near.  Then she’d turn her head around quickly ready to catch it if it came close enough.  She didn’t have any luck.  She gave up after a while and crawled away on to another plant.  I didn’t see her at all yesterday, although I’m sure she’s still lurking around someplace.

I picked up more zinnia this weekend.  These are the big, flat flower head kind.  The butterflies love them!  I was finally able to get some nice images of a fritillary nectaring on the front porch.

I have a nice variety of nectar flowers right now.  I live in such an urban section of Pasadena, that I’m amazed I get butterflies at all.  But as I was told, plant it and they will come.  And they have!

Besides the butterflies, I have failed to give the bees any credit.  This year I’ve had so many of them!  I take them for granted as I also do the hummingbirds since they are always in my garden in abundance.  I took a photo of one of the bees on the milkweed.  I’ll try and get some photos of the hummers in a future post.

So far this year I’d say I’ve had a very successful pollinator/butterfly garden.  I am hoping more caterpillars make it through their cycle to become butterflies before the summer is over.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, July 31, 2016

It had been a few weeks and no monarchs.  Finally, this weekend I saw two of them in my garden.  One of them stopped by the milkweed to lay some eggs.  My milkweed is full of aphids now as well as milkweed bugs.  There’s also a female praying mantis that has take up residency on the patio.  Slim chance for the eggs.  I’ve taken the liberty of snipping off the milkweed seed pods.  Taking away the food source seemed to thin out the milkweed bug population.  Not much I can do about the aphids except for hosing off the plants.  I don’t like doing that though just in case there are caterpillars that I haven’t seen.  Here are some images I took this weekend of some of the critters:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, July 24, 2016

It’s been a couple of weeks without any new monarch eggs on the milkweed.  The plants aren’t looking as attractive now due to aphids, milkweed bugs and some of the foliage dropping off.  Fortunately, there’s new growth so hopefully the plants will rejuvenate themselves and look a bit more appetizing in a few weeks.  I haven’t seen any monarchs in the garden at all lately.  Maybe they’ve been coming when I’m not there, but if so, I haven’t seen any eggs.

This past weekend was another heatwave.  We also had a fire nearby causing a lot of ash in the air.  On Saturday afternoon around 1 pm I went outside to hose some of the fallen ash off the plants.  Afterwards, I spotted a swallowtail on the ground on my front walkway.  It looked like he (or she) was drinking the water.  I ran to get my camera and took a few photos.  There were two of them flying together at one point, and then each of them took turns fluttering back and forth through the courtyard and in and out of my garden.  Neither held still very long in order for me to get many photos, but I did manage a few.

Besides the swallowtails, I finally managed to get a shot of a Fritillary.  It’s not the best image, as I was hanging out my front door trying not to scare him away.  The second I went outside and tried to walk around to get a better angle, he flew away.

I saw quite a few skippers and duskywings this weekend.  I picked up some new nectar flowers, more zinnia and also ‘Little One’ verbena bonariensis.  The skippers couldn’t wait to get on the verbena and one landed on it and started nectaring as I was carrying it from the car to my house!

I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that there will be more monarchs before the summer is over.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, July 18, 2016

Last weekend I was so excited to see some of the monarch eggs had hatched producing at least 6 new caterpillars.  As of this past weekend, there are none, or at least none that I’ve seen.  The caterpillars seem to keep getting lost to predators.  So this past weekend was the first caterpillar-less weekend I’ve had in awhile.  I did have a few visitors to the garden which were the usual suspects; skippers, duskywing, marine blue, the sulphur that never stops by and the elusive fritillary who I can never get a photo of!  But sadly, I did not see any monarchs or swallowtails passing through.

As I was searching for caterpillars on the milkweed, I discovered another chrysalis from one of the swallowtails.  It had emerged already, most likely last weekend, but that makes a total of at least 3 swallowtail butterflies that were born in my garden last weekend!

Here is a photo of an umber skipper in my garden on the buddleia.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, July 8, 9, 10

On Friday I did a milkweed check and found 3 new monarch caterpillars on the front porch and 3 on the patio.  As of this morning, I only saw 1 on the patio.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Sometimes they’re hard to find.  But it’s also likely that something ate them, as that seems to be the case most of the time when they go missing.  Yesterday I found a nice size praying mantis on the patio milkweed.  He could be the culprit of some of the missing cats.  We’ll see what happens as time goes on.  If there are more caterpillars, they’ll be easier to spot as they grow in size.

Sunday morning the Swallowtail chrysalis had darkened.  I was very happy since I knew I’d be around the house most of the day.  I went out for a bit early in the morning and was back by about 10:30 am.  I believe it was somewhere between 11 and 12 noon when it emerged.  I took some photos shortly after.  I’m pretty sure this one is a female.  I read that the males have claspers on their rear end.  This one did not.  For about an hour or two she hung onto the fennel where her chrysalis was then eventually, she climbed up higher onto the plant and she flew away.

I’d actually forgotten to check on the swallowtail chrysalis that was on the other side of the garden wall until Sunday morning.   Sure enough when I did, it was empty.  I’m pretty sure that one emerged sometime on Saturday and I missed it.  I was glad I was able to see at least one of them.

This week I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that more monarch caterpillars appear and that another female will come by to lay fresh eggs.

Freshly emerged female Anise Swallowtail testing out her wings.
This was taken just a moment before she took her first flight.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, July 6, 2016

Just a quick update... I spotted at least one new monarch caterpillar tonight on the milkweed on the patio.  Looks like the two eggs I was able to see are gone, so hopefully the other one hatched and is out there somewhere.  I'm learning that I need to keep my fingers crossed that they make it until they are at at least their second instar.  They're so vulnerable when they're brand new.  Sometimes I see them, and then they disappear and become a predator's snack.  I know there are more eggs around since I saw a couple of females ovipositing over the weekend.  Time will tell how many make it.