Monday, May 30, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, 5/30/2016

The highlight of my day today was seeing this American Lady in my garden.  She (or he) seemed interested in the pink dahlia flowers that I had just moved from the patio and put out in front of the house.  None of the other butterflies have shown interest in this flower so far.  The bees didn't appear too interested in it either.  As soon as I saw the American Lady, I ran outside with the camera.  She moved from the dahlias to the coreopsis, and then just like that she was gone.  This is the second sighting of an American Lady in my garden.  I was glad I was quick enough with my camera this time in order to take a photo and make an identification.
With the cloudy days we've been having, the butterflies seem to start showing up around 3 pm when the sun finally burns through the clouds.  The morning temperatures have been on the cooler side in the 50s and 60s, but it's been warming up into the 70s later in the afternoon.  After 3 pm is also when my west facing bungalow gets full sun on the front porch where I have the plants.  (Not including the patio plants which is a 10'x4' small patio that faces south and is quite sunny most of the day.)  I suspect as the weather continues to warm up, I'll start seeing even more butterflies.

Besides the American Lady, I saw some Cabbage Whites sampling the different flowers, but I didn't get any photos of them today.  I also saw several Skippers and the Funereal Dusky Wing.  They were mostly on the coneflowers and coreopsis.  I continue to see what I believe is an Orange Sulphur fluttering about the courtyard, although it never seems to stop long enough or come by my bungalow for a long enough time to get a picture.
I should note that the monarch eggs are still on the milkweed on the patio and front porch.  In addition, two of the monarch caterpillars molted and are still truckin' along.  The larger of the 3 caterpillars may have even wandered off to form a chrysalis.  I saw him earlier in the day, but in the evening, he was either on a top leaf where I couldn't see him since the plants are on shelves, or he went to find a place to form a chrysalis.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, 5/27/16 & 5/28/16

Came home on a sunny Friday afternoon to find at least two monarchs fluttering around my house.  I was on my way home from the garden center and carrying two new milkweed plants.  Before I could set them down, this female was already trying to land on them.  At one point she was just about sitting on my hand.  It was wonderful.  She went about her business to lay some eggs on the milkweed.  We have wasps in the garden, so I'm hoping they won't find the eggs and eat them.  I've ordered a "Get Lost Wasp" deterrent that looks like a hive (or a Chinese lantern) to hang in the hopes they go someplace else.
The caterpillars on the milkweed on the patio are getting bigger now.
There are also four new eggs that I could see on the milkweed on the patio.
On Saturday, as soon as the sun came out around 12 noon, the female monarch was back.  I'm pretty sure it was the same one because her wings were very tattered.  I was able to get a few nice photos of her.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Butterfly Garden: Notes, 5/21/16 & 5/22/16

On Friday evening, May 20th, I notice this cabbage white on the milkweed in front of the house.  It was chilly Friday night, so I'm glad she found refuge in my garden.  She was still there in the morning, but as soon as the sun came out and warmed things up, she was on her way. 
Mr. Snacks, the monarch caterpillar, was still hanging out on the side of the pot Friday night not moving.  When I woke up Saturday morning to check on him, I discovered that he molted.  Then he ate his skin!  Yuck!  I watched him on and off throughout the day, and he seemed to be looking for a place to pupate.  He didn't go back to the milkweed all day.  He was crawling up and down the plant shelves and eventually started going up the side of the house.  He spent Saturday night there.  
This is the last photo I took of Mr. Snacks.  I didn't see him anymore after the sun warmed things up Sunday morning.  I'm sure he's hanging someplace close by getting ready to turn into a butterfly, but I haven't been able to find him.
Here are some images of at least 3 more monarch caterpillars and an egg I discovered Saturday on the milkweed on the patio.  
Fiery Skipper spotted in my garden on Saturday, May 21 at approximately 1:15 pm.
 Funereal Dusky wing spotted in my garden on Sunday, May 22.
I should also note I saw a Gulf Fritillary on the butterfly bush on the patio at 12:28 pm on Sunday.  I was too slow with the camera, so I didn't get any photos.  Also, at approximately 2:55 pm, I saw what I believe may have been a painted lady on the milkweed on the front porch.  I ran for the camera, but again, I missed the shot and was unable to get a photo.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What happened to Mr. Snacks!?

Tonight I went outside to water the plants and I couldn't find Mr. Snacks.  That's the name I've given to the little monarch caterpillar.  Suddenly I went into a panic.  I searched all around the patio hoping he was still alive.  I looked up and down the plant shelves and all over the milkweed he had been eating and still no Mr. Snacks.  Then I spun the pot around and there he was underneath the lip on the edge of the pot.  Whew!  Thank goodness I didn't squish him!  Now I know better just to leave things alone.  It's cold tonight so he's just kind of hanging out there not moving much.  I hope he's okay.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Monarch caterpillar on the milkweed!

I was so excited tonight!  I went out on the patio to see if there were any eggs or caterpillars on any of the host plants, and I saw one monarch caterpillar!  I was so happy I danced around the house for about 30 minutes singing "I got a monarch butterfly!".  My husband thinks I'm crazy, although I guess he's used to it by now.

The caterpillar is pretty small.  Maybe about 1 inch long.  From what I’ve researched, I’m gathering he’s on his 4th instar (fancy new word I learned that means the interval between molts).  Fingers crossed he makes it to the next level.  I’m hoping no predators find him and pick him off the milkweed.

I realize a lot of people actually go as far as collecting the eggs and caterpillars and then keep them captive in butterfly tents until they pupate and change into butterflies.  I don’t want to interfere with nature, so I'll just let it run its course.  So far the butterfly garden is off to a good start!

How do you choose plants for your pollinator garden? Let the pollinators choose them for you!

If you are reading my blog, you know I’m creating a butterfly/pollinator garden.  I’ve been checking out library books, researching online and trying to get my hands on as much information as possible about what kinds of plants are the most attractive to pollinators.  While I’ve found a lot of really great information, I feel the need to note that the best way that I’ve found to shop for pollinator plants, is to let the pollinator you want to attract choose them for you.

Ever walk into a garden center and find bees swarming around a particular flower?  Or a butterfly that keeps coming back to visit a certain plant?  Well, do you want bees or butterflies in your garden?  Then get that plant!

Recently, I was at my local garden center looking to buy more plants that are attractive to butterflies.  I almost immediately saw a monarch fluttering around just a few feet away.  I headed in that direct and followed her.  Low and behold she lead me directly to the butterfly milkweed which just so happened to be what I’d come to the garden center to get.

I don’t know if this is the best way to shop for plants for your pollinator garden, but so far it’s an obvious method that seems to be working out pretty good for me!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Beginning a Butterfly Habitat / Pollinator Garden & Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, May 2016

This year on May 15th for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by May Dreams Gardens, I am at the start of creating a butterfly habitat/pollinator garden.  I talked about this briefly in my previous post.  I've been reading up on butterfly gardens and am slowly building up a small butterfly habitat in my urban container garden here in Pasadena, California, Zone 10B.

I should note that my garden is small.  I'm a renter which means I can only do as much as my landlord and space will allow.  But that doesn't stop me.  I love being surrounded by nature and through gardening, I can block out the city with plants, flowers and even some wildlife.

Over the past few years, I've had many visitors to my garden including hummingbirds (they are here year round), all sorts of butterflies, bees and all sorts of insects.  Recently, I've been reading up on some of the native California plants that are attractive to the different butterflies and pollinators, and I've been adding more of these native plants to my garden.

In this blog post I've listed some of the plants I've acquired so far.  Some are new to my garden and others I've grown in the past.  I've noted my success with each plant and have added a photo (when available) and listed what types of pollinators they have attracted.  This is not a complete list, but I'll be updating my blog and recording my progress over the next several months.

Butterfly Milkweed
Most butterflies seem to love this as well as bees.
Monarch caterpillar, 2013
 Monarch, 2013
Swallowtail - 2013
Skipper - 2013
A new flower for my garden.
I've seen Cabbage Whites on it so far.
Gaillardia, Blanket Flower
All butterflies.
All butterflies and bees.
Gulf Fritillary - 2013
 May Night Sage, Meadow Sage
This is a new plant for my garden.
So far it has attracted Cabbage Whites, Skippers and lots of bees.
 Lavender & Yarrow
Bees and Cabbage Whites are attracted mostly to the lavender.
 Salvia "Hot Lips"
 Butterfly Bush, Buddleia
 Dwarf Bottle Brush
 Dill, Host Plant
Black Swallowtail caterpillars.
Black Swallowtail - 2015
Rue, Host plant
Giant Swallowtail caterpillars.
Giant Swallowtail caterpillar - 2015

(I should note here that I have several of each host plant and have also included Parsley and Fennel.) 

 Agastache -
Hummingbirds LOVE this!
Bees, Cabbage Whites.
 Catmint, Nepta

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Two Cabbage Whites

Weather for the past few weeks has been cloudy.  I think they are calling it “May Gray”.  The sun was in and out most of the day.  Every time it came out from behind the clouds, butterflies started to appear.  These two cabbage whites (male and female) showed up around 1:30 pm.  They  fluttered around my front porch for a good long while bouncing from flower to flower.  They mostly seemed to enjoy the purple Meadow Sage.  At one point, the female perched herself on a leaf in my rose garden for a moment.  That’s when I was able to get this nice portrait of her.  Did she know I was taking her photo?  It sure seemed that way.  She didn’t move!   She just sat there looking at me while I fumbled around in a panic trying to focus on her tiny body and make sure I had the right aperture and shutter speed.  The male on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with the camera and went about his business extracting nectar from the Meadow Sage.  In addition to the cabbage whites, I saw a few skippers today too.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough with the camera to get a photo of them.  I’m hoping once the weather brings more sunshine, it will bring more butterflies as well.