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.