Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes- Catching up August 27-December 27, 2016

It's been a few months since I've had time to update my garden blog.  During the past several months, I'd been letting the garden maintain itself.  I'd planted enough butterfly and hummingbird plants so that the garden could flourish without my interference and nature could do its thing.  I didn't take many photos over the last few months, but here are a few with notes.

August 27, 2016
The front porch was filled with butterfly plants.  Some of the top hits were:  Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed), Asclepias curassavica (Tropical Milkweed), and I also found Asclepias fascicularis (Narrow Leaf Milkweed).  Although this is native, I found the monarchs seemed to prefer the other two varieties for egg laying.  Verbena bonariensis was also a huge hit with all types of butterflies, so I was sure to have plenty of that on hand.  Lastly, Profusion orange zinnia was also top favorite.
 Profusion orange zinnia
September 4, 2016
The patio with profusion orange zinnia and verbena bonariensis and coreopsis
October 17, 2016
Female monarch laying eggs
October 31, 2016
Gulf Fritillaries were abundant during the month of October and laid their eggs on a passion flower vine that sprung up out of the ground from some seeds that had spread last year.  Here they are enjoying the coneflowers.
 Gulf Fritillary caterpillar on passionflower vine
 Monarch caterpillars on the patio
November 5, 2016
More monarch caterpillars on the milkweed in front of the house.  I hope they changed into butterflies.  I didn't keep track of them this time.
December 26, 2016
And here we are the day after Christmas.  I spent Christmas day pruning the rose garden.  Unfortunately, I decided at the end of the day to retire all of them and start anew in the spring.  I'd had my roses in pots since 2013 and sadly, they had outgrown the pots and were so root bound that neither I nor my husband could get them out.  We tried as best we could but eventually, the clay pot gave way on the first one we tried and it broke.  I made the decision it was time to say goodbye and rethink the new garden for 2017.

I pruned down the milkweed and verbena bonariensis and cleared out the rest of the spent summer flowers.  Instead of a rose garden this year, I've decided to use the space for a larger butterfly garden.  As beautiful as roses are to look at and smell, I'd rather create a garden with purpose for the wildlife.  However, I will admit that earlier today as I walked around the rose garden at Descanso Gardens and and smelled the wonderful fragrance, I was already missing my roses.  There is a possibility I may get at least one fragrant rose to mix into the butterfly garden.  It's still winter, so there's plenty of time to decided.  

As a start for the new garden in 2017, I've purchased three more Buddleja or Butterfly Bushes for the front of the house; two on the porch and two where the roses used to be.  The photos below show the garden in it's current state.  Most of the pots are filled with the milkweed and the verbena bonariensis that I pruned.  There is time now to think and plan what it will look like in the new year.

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.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, July 1 - 4, 2016

What an action packed butterfly weekend!  Two monarchs were born in my garden!  

Friday afternoon, I came home to find a brand new monarch butterfly had emerged.  She had not yet taken off, and my husband was able to take some photos and a short video of her before I was able to get home.  Thankfully, she stayed until I arrived.  What a beautiful creature!  She was on the potting table for a while testing her new wings.  Then she fluttered off and ended up underneath it where there are a lot of spider webs.  I watched her trying to crawl back up, but she kept slipping off the rake she was climbing up.  I bent down, put my finger next to her and she climbed onto it.  As soon as I stood up and stretch out my arm, she took her first flight up into the trees.  It was  magical!  

On Fourth of July morning, the second chrysalis that was out front attached to a passion flower vine was starting to look dark.  Around 1:30 in the afternoon, another female monarch emerged.  I was able to get some photos of her just after she came out.  She hung around on the passion flower vine for a few hours before testing out her wings.  Then she started to head towards the corner of the step where there are a lot of spider webs.  (My garden is actually full of spiders which is kind of a good thing since it keeps away a lot of pests.)  Before she got caught, I offered her my finger and she climbed on it.  I walked her to the milkweed on the porch and just as I put my finger next to it, she flew up over the house and she was gone.

Two monarch butterflies on the same weekend was a pretty awesome experience!

There were at least two other monarchs who came by to visit my garden on both Saturday and Sunday.  Both of which were laying eggs so with any luck, there will be more caterpillars soon.

As for other visitors I saw skippers, american lady, duskywing, gray hairstreak, marine blue, and for a split second I spotted a swallowtail.  I’m not sure what kind it was.  By the time I was able to run outside with the camera, it was gone.

Some photos I took are below.

Friday morning.  Chrysalis was dark and wings visible.
A perfect female.
Testing her wings.
Two Marine Blues
This female's wings were tattered.  She laid eggs on the milkweed both Saturday and Sunday.
Gray Hairstreak
The second monarch born in my garden.  July 4, 2016.
Perfect wings.