Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes June 28 & 29, 2016

Out of the 7 swallowtails I originally saw, there are at least two who have made their chrysalises where I can see them.  

This one is on the opposite side of the garden wall.  Not the most glamorous real estate.
And this one changed overnight.  He (or she) is attached to the fennel on the top plant shelf.

This photo was taken in the evening.
This one was taken in the morning.
Last but not lest, this swallowtail was still chomping away at the dill until evening when he disappeared.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, June 25 & 26, 2016

It appears most of the swallowtails have left the host plants save for the littlest one who just molted away all of his black skin.  As of Sunday night, only he and one larger one were left.  I noticed the larger caterpillar crawled from the dill and began eating the fennel.  Good to know they also like fennel in case I run out of dill.  They really devoured the plants I had in a matter of a few days!  I just can’t believe how fast these little guys grew up.  I’m sure they are somewhere closeby getting ready to make a chrysalis, but I don’t like moving my pots around and disturbing things too much, so I won’t go looking for them.  It seems most of the time I eventually stumble upon them by accident anyway.

I noticed one of the monarch eggs that I found was being eaten by something.  It was too tiny to be able to see what it was, but hopefully the monarch that was here earlier in the week laid more eggs that I just haven’t seen.  It seems sad now to have a garden with no visible monarch caterpillars, but I do still have those two monarch chrysalises to look forward to and I’m sure there are more monarch eggs.  It’s just so sad to know how few of the monarchs actually get to become butterflies when you aren’t raising them in a cage.  

Since this weekend was scorching hot, I didn’t spend too much time outside in the afternoon.  I was very lucky on Saturday morning to catch an American Lady nectaring on the milkweed on the patio.  I also saw many skippers, and the marine blue seems to really enjoy the feverfew.  The faithful cabbage white paid a visit too.  In addition, I spotted the sulphur again which seemed to flutter up to my bungalow but didn’t stay.  Also, when I went to take the garbage out, I saw a fritillary fluttering around the courtyard.  I didn’t notice it stop by my garden though.  

Below are a few photos from the weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, June 23, 2016

As I was arriving home yesterday and walking towards my bungalow, I was treated to this female monarch nectaring on milkweed on my front porch.  Of course I threw all my bags down and ran as fast as I could to get the camera.  I’m not sure how long she’d been there before I got there, but later I saw there were new monarch eggs on the milkweed on the patio.  I still can’t get over the fact that I’m getting all these butterflies and caterpillars considering how small my garden is and everything is in pots.  Not to mention the front porch faces east, so it’s shaded until afternoon when the hot afternoon sun blares down on it.  Plus my patio isn’t exactly ideal either.  The size is only 4’x10’ and the entire thing is enclosed by four tall walls with an open top (no roof).  I did the best I could by placing all the milkweed and host plants on the very top of my plant shelves in the hopes the butterflies would see them if they flew high enough.  Low and behold, they are finding my garden!  Yay!

I made another discovery last night too.  There is a passion flower vine growing from the ground in front of the house.  I used to have more of this until the landlord ripped it out and turned part of our tiny yard into a gravel pit.  Luckily before the vine was destroyed, seeds were scattered and it came back again.  I know this is a host plant for fritillaries, so I was happy to see it grow back.  Anyway, I saw the vine had started attaching itself to the milkweed so I pulled it off and was going to train it in the opposite direction.  After I pulled it out from behind the milkweed, I saw a caterpillar hanging upside down, curled up as if he were going to soon begin to pupate.  Oops!  I felt so bad disturbing him.  I had no idea he was there.  I gently took the vine and tried to place it back in the same position I had found it.  I guess I’ll just have to let it wrap around the milkweed for now.  This morning I checked on the caterpillar and he was still there hanging in a J.  I hope he turns into a chrysalis today.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, June 22, 2016

The swallowtail caterpillars are getting so big now, and at least one of them is starting to develop its green color.  I cannot believe how quickly these caterpillars increase in size!  Now that they're large enough to easily see, I was able to count 7 total on the dill.  Yikes!  I think I'm going to need more dill to feed these eating machines!

So as I was moving pots around because I wanted to get a photo of the swallowtail cats, I found a monarch chrysalis!  Yay!  It's attached to pot of a penstemon flower I have setting on top of a small table on the patio.  I would have never even seen it had I not wanted to get a photo of the swallowtails and started moving things around.  This is so exciting!  I really, REALLY hope this guy makes it since the last chrysalis I found was eaten on the same day.  Ugh.  I wonder how many other chrysalises there could be in my garden that I haven’t found.  

Lastly, I noticed that there’s something on my rue.  It’s very small, and I couldn’t tell if it was a caterpillar or not, but I’ll be keeping an eye on that just in case.

Every day there is a new surprise!  Butterfly gardening is so much fun!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, June 21, 2016

Today I noticed a new monarch at about its 4th instar on the milkweed on the patio.  This one is on the plant that is by itself with some of the other host plants on the opposite side of where I have the majority of the milkweed.  It's really hard for me to see because it sits up high, but I was able to spot him when I was watering.  Great to know that they are definitely finding all the available plants I have for them!  Here's a photo of that shelf with the single milkweed and some of the other host plants (dill, rue, fennel).

Also, I should note that tonight while I was watering the front porch, that darn monarch caterpillar that keeps showing up everywhere showed up yet again!  I thought for sure he had gone off and turned into a chrysalis the night before last but nope... there he was again.  This time I was watering my brugmansia and he somehow managed to get himself into the pot.  I saw him crawling around all wet from the hose.  Poor thing.  I picked him up and put him on the milkweed (again) and in the morning he was gone.  I hope I don't see him again tonight and I hope he found a nice safe place in my garden to pupate.  Godspeed Mr. Caterpillar!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, June 20, 2016, Summer Solstice

Today was 110 degrees in Pasadena (ridiculous), and by evening it was still in the 90s.  I watered the garden a second time around 6 pm, and while I was outside squatting down to water one of the potted rose bushes I spotted a Gulf Fritillary.  It was flying around landing in the grass less then a foot away from me.  I wish I’d had my camera!  I’ve seen them in my garden over the years, but so far this year I have only see one, and it didn’t stay for very long.  

As I moved from the roses to water the plants on the porch I spotted a little white skipper.  At this point I realized there was still some serious butterfly action going on, so I asked my husband to bring me my camera so I could take some pictures.  I’m not sure what kind of skipper this is, exactly.  It kept its wings closed most of the time while it was nectaring, so I didn’t get any photos with them open to make a proper identification.
What happened next caught me by surprise and steered my attention away from the skipper… There was a 5th instar monarch caterpillar crawling on the ground across the front porch!  I am not 100% certain, but I have a strong feeling that this is the same caterpillar that was on the milkweed on the patio who crawled away Sunday evening.  Every day I inspect the front porch milkweed for caterpillars, and so far I’ve only seen a few little ones that don’t seem to last very long.  Maybe this crazy caterpillar just came by to say hi one more time!  Or maybe it was a completely different caterpillar that I somehow missed.  Regardless, I laid my finger down on the ground, and he crawled up onto it.  I put him on the milkweed where he continued to chomp away the rest of the evening.  He was still there this morning.
The entire time I was watering this pretty little cabbage white was fluttering around.  I took a photo of her after she perched herself in the Queen Anne’s Lace for the night and decided to have a “sleep over”.  She was still there resting this morning.
Lastly, I took some photos these caterpillars on the dill on the patio.  They are finally getting big enough to see and identify.  I think they may be anise or maybe black swallowtail caterpillars, and there are at least 4 of them that are growing bigger and bigger each day.
Despite the heat, it was a busy night in my butterfly garden!

Butterfly Garden Notes, 6/18/2016 and 6/19/2016

This weekend was HOT.  Friday started off in the 90s and then the rest of the weekend was well over 100 degrees.  This was a dramatic change from last weekend’s cool, damp weather.  Over the course of the weekend I saw the following butterflies in my garden:  Skippers, Duskywings, Cabbage Whites, Sulphurs, Marine Blues and on Sunday, I spotted another Hairstreak.

There were two monarch caterpillars munching away on the milkweed on the patio.  One is a bit larger then the other, but they are both in or near their 5th instar.  Friday evening when I was watering the patio, I noticed that the larger of the two had crawled off the milkweed.  I assumed he went off to find a place to pupate, but as I continued to water I saw the poor little guy crawling across the patio soaking wet from my garden hose.  I put my finger down on the ground, and he crawled up onto it.  I placed him back on the milkweed, and he stayed there chomping away until late Sunday afternoon.  After that he was gone.  As of this morning (Monday, June 20), only the one caterpillar remains.  I suppose by evening he will also have ventured off to find a place to make a chrysalis.  Good luck little buddy!

I have not noticed any new monarch caterpillars or eggs on either the milkweed on the patio or on the front porch.  The little ones on the front porch that I’ve seen in the past don’t seem to last very long.  The front of the house gets a lot of wasps, so I think they have a lesser chance of surviving.  I’ve had more luck with caterpillars on the back patio making it to their 5th instar.  I just wish the patio was more open and visible.  Nevertheless, the monarch butterflies do seem to be finding the milkweed there.  I have it on the top plant shelves and now that it is growing taller, it is more visible over the patio walls.  When I go searching I always seem to find monarch eggs in both places (front porch and patio), so they are coming to the garden, but obviously not every egg hatches to become a full grown caterpillar and then a butterfly since I am raising them “in the wild” and not in a cage.  I should also note that this weekend I saw a female cabbage white ovipositing on the cleome and nasturtium on the front porch.  I’ve seen her lay eggs there before but have yet to see any caterpillars.

In other news, I am excited to report that the eggs that were on the dill I brought home last weekend have hatched.  The caterpillars are getting big enough to identify now, and I can see at least 3 which I believe to be swallowtails.

Monarch caterpillars on Milkweed
Marine Blue

Friday, June 17, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, 6/17/2016

Saw a new butterfly in my garden today. I think it may be a Gray Hairstreak, common in California. It's also the size of my thumbnail. I saw it when I was outside watering and after a bunch of shitty cell phone pictures, I ran inside to grab the camera hoping it would still be there. Thankfully, it hung around for a few more seconds and I got a couple of images good enough to make an identification. I never realized there were so many different kinds of tiny butterflies until I created this garden and they started showing up.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, 6/12/2016

This weekend was unusually cool for June.  The marine layer didn’t lift at all on Saturday and the weather was cool and even misting most of the day.  Not good butterfly watching weather!  Sunday was about the same minus the drizzle.  Fortunately, around 2:30 the sun finally came out. As soon as it did, the butterflies were all over my garden within seconds!  Literally!  I saw a lot of Skippers, two Marine Blues both male and female and a female Cabbage White who appeared to be ovipositing on the nasturtium.  Besides the adult butterflies, there are at least three monarch caterpillars at various instars on the milkweed on the patio.  I’m learning not to get too excited about these caterpillars since I know raising them outside of captivity lessens their chances of ever making it to adulthood.  Nevertheless, it’s nice to know I do have caterpillars in the garden and I feel good about having created a habitat to host them.

Lastly, I stopped by the garden center and picked up some dill and some rue to put on the front porch.  As I was potting up the dill, I noticed two yellow/orange eggs which I believe may be some sort of swallowtail eggs.  Score!  Fingers crossed that they hatch before any predators find them.

Male Marine Blue resting in the roses
Female Marine Blue on Rose

Skipper on Milkweed
Duskywing on Milkweed
Female Cabbage White on Catmint

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Butterfly garden notes, 6/9/16, New Kid on the Block

I found another little monarch caterpillar.  This one's on the milkweed on the paito.  I sure hope he makes it!  I should note that I have not seen the little one I saw on the milkweed on the front porch.  I tried to find him tonight, but either I didn't see him, or he got eaten up.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Butterfly Garden Notes, 6/6/2016: Case of the Missing Chrysalis

Last night I came home from work to find that Harry’s chrysalis was gone.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was so upset.  I thought maybe the leaf he attached himself to had fallen off, so I went outside to the patio and started moving plants out of the way to see if I could find it and nothing.  I started checking the leaves on the vine to see if maybe I just didn’t see it.  That’s when I discovered what was left.  The pupa was completely gone and the only thing there was the silk button stuck to the underside of the leaf and cremaster.  What a loss.  I was completely bummed out.  I wish I knew what got to it.  I guess it could be a number of things --wasp, spider, ants, praying mantis maybe?  Ugh!
After the initial shock of losing Harry, I went out to water the garden.  Afterwards I started searching the milkweed for more monarch eggs and caterpillars.  Thankfully, I did find at least one monarch egg and one tiny caterpillar on the milkweed in front of the house.  I am not getting my hopes up for another Harry, but at least I know the circle of life continues.

Butterfly Garden Notes, June 5, 2016

This weekend had its ups and downs in the butterfly garden.  I’ll start with the good...  One of the monarch caterpillars that has been consuming the milkweed has become a chrysalis.  I named him Harry Houdini due to the fact that he crawled off the milkweed, disappeared and then kept reappearing in random places around my patio.  Saturday afternoon, fat and happy Harry ventured off in search of a place to pupate.  I thought for sure I’d never see him again, but as I was rearranging plants later that afternoon, I saw him crawling up a shelf on the opposite side of the patio.  I only took my eye off him for a moment and “poof!”, he was gone again.  I was confident that that was the last I’d see him, but to my surprise, Sunday afternoon I discovered him hanging in a “J” under a clematis vine leaf!  I was so excited I ran in the house shouting with glee!  My poor husband who had been taking a nap was abruptly woken up by my singing and dancing around the house.  Obviously, I insisted he come with me immediately to the patio to see J hanging Harry.  I knew it wouldn’t be long if all went well until he became a chrysalis, and sure enough, this morning he had transformed into a beautiful green pupa.
Now onto the sad news… The other monarch caterpillar who I named Dora the Explorer because she left the milkweed and crawled onto another plant to molt, was found DOA in the milkweed Sunday morning.  She had what appeared to be white threads hanging from her body which would indicate she may have fallen victim to a Tachinid fly.  In addition, I notice one of the freshly hatched caterpillars was dead, and I did not see any of the others (there were at least 3 brand new ones that had just hatched this week).  I’m hoping some of the others are still alive and I just didn’t spot them since they’re so tiny, but I’m not getting my hopes up.  
As for butterfly sightings this weekend, I saw the usual suspects; Funereal Duskywing, Fiery Skippers, Orange Sulphur and Cabbage White.  As for uniques, I saw a Common Checkered Skipper who I managed to get a photo of on the flowers in front of the house.  I’d never seen one this color before, and it’s body was a beautiful shade of light blue.  Lastly, I should make note that I did see what may have been a monarch flying around the courtyard Saturday morning as I was returning home.  I’m not 100% certain that it was a monarch though because it was a little far away and seemed to just be passing by without stopping by my garden.