Monthly Archives: July 2011

Cape Ann TV video tour of our garden

Quickly posting as I am under several deadlines and determined to get all fully underway. I believe I mentioned that this past week, Lisa Smith and her Cape Ann TV After-the Beach Teen Video Club stopped by for a tour of my garden. Here’s a short clip, with a wonderful surprise visit by the friendly Question Mark butterfly, who very conveniently, stole the show.

The teens and Lisa did a great job and all very much enjoyed the beautiful creatures that flew in and out of our story. It is not easy to focus on tiny subjects using a heavy camera attached to a tripod. The full video of the garden tour and interview will air in the near future and we will keep you posted.

Butterflies of Massachusetts

July Butterfly Update

Great Spangled Fritillary Nectaring on Coneflower at Willowdale EstateGreat Spangled Fritillary nectaring at native Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Dear Friends,

Have you noticed the sheer numbers of our winged friends? Returning this evening from a swim at 6:45, I bumped into three Monarchs nectaring and a Red-spotted Purple (all in pristine, newly emerged condition). Early evening is an unusually late time of day for butterflies on the wing, especially when skies are slightly overcast. This, after a day of observing and shooting numerous numbers of butterflies, caterpillars and hummingbirds–and never leaving our garden. I work for a bit, but then the garden calls and I’m out the door with both video and still cameras. If this fabulously warm weather keeps up, I think we are in for another banner year with the butterflies, and skippers too.

Currently, we have 28 Monarchs, in various stages of development, residing in our kitchen, and seven Black Swallowtail caterpillars and chrysalids.

Black Swallowtail CaterpillarBlack Swallowtail Caterpillar–note the fine “girdle” spun by the pupating caterpillar. Attached to the stem by both the girdle and a silky mat in which his last proleg is hooked, the caterpillar is securely latched. The proleg becomes the cremaster during pupation.

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis newly formedNewly formed chyrsalis

Black Swallowtail Chrysalis The darkening chyrsalis–perhaps it will emerge tomorrow! After ten days, the silky girdle and cremaster continue to perfectly support the pupa.

I am often asked why I collect butterfly eggs and don’t simply leave them in the garden. Butterfly larvae have a roughly one in ten chance of survival in the wild. In our kitchen, the odds increase exponentially, with a ten in ten rate of survival. For instance, I have learned, that after observing a butterfly deposit her eggs on a host plant, to gather them up quickly. If I become distracted and wait even only an hour, they often disappear, usually having been eaten or parasitized.

Common Buckeye and bee nectaring at native Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)Common Buckeye and bee nectaring at native Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)

More detailed information on each species will be forthcoming. Much footage to edit…

Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice

Question Mark Butterfly and Patrice ~ My favorite photo of the season (click on the photo to see full size). Yesterday afternoon, Lisa Smith, one of the producers over at Cape Ann TV, with her After the Beach Video Club for Teens, were filming in the garden. While Patrice was interviewing me, this Question Mark alighted briefly on her shoulder several times. I was prepared the second time, with camera ready and adjusted to the appropriate settings. The Question Mark’s cooperation throughout the day’s shoot–nectaring, sunning itself, and taking long sips of sap through the chinks of bark in the weathered old pear tree–was very much appreciated by all; he was the true star of the day!

Oh Joyous July!

Yellow!

Dear Gardening Friends,

This past week I gave my Monarch butterfly program to the very interested and very interesting women of the Cape Ann Garden Club; next week I am presenting a simplified version to a group of pre-school children. It comes as no surprise to me that the beautiful life story of the Monarch is as equally enthralling to the young as it is to the young at heart!
Yellow–the color of summer–of sunlight, warmth, and joy. Did you know that yellow daylilies can be fragrant? If you are interested in creating a border of sequentially blooming species daylilies, read Chapter 16 in my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! where you will find the most comprehensive list of different species of highly fragrant yellow daylilies. I leave you with this photo of the fabulously scented–of honeysuckle and citrus–yellow daylily ‘Hyperion.’
Happy Summer!
Fragrant Yellow Daylily HyperionHemerocallis ‘Hyperion’

A Summer of Fragrant Yellow Daylilies

Hemerocallis ‘Hyperion’ at sunrise

Fragrant Yellow Daylily Hyperion

Emily Dickinson writes-

Nature rarer uses yellow

Than any other hue;

Saves she all that for sunsets, -

Prodigal of blue,

Spending scarlet like a woman,

Yellow she affords

Only scantly and selectly,

Like a lover’s words.

Good Harbor Beach Snowy Egret
 Feeding at Dawn

The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is easily distinguished from the Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) by its smaller size, plume of feathers atop its head, and bright, sunny yellow feet. The Snowy Egret is about 24 inches long and weighs approximately 13 ounces. The Great Egret is roughly 37-40 inches long and weighs about 35 ounces. Plume hunters for the millinery trade hunted both species of egrets to near extinction by the turn of the previous century. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Snowy is protected by US law and the population has rebounded.

The Snowy Egret’s diet is diverse, consisting primarily of shrimps, snails, small fish, frogs, and aquatic insects. Snowys stalk prey in shallow water, and in the video, you can see it flushing prey into view by shaking and shuffling its feet. While filming (see last half minute of video), the Snowy stepped out of the water, turned gracefully towards the camera, and stood for a moment–providing more than a quick glimpse of it’s substantial, bright cadmium lemon feet.

 

Luminous silvery light

No, that is not a Monarch caterpillar on your parsley plant.

I am often asked “why is that green, yellow, and black Monarch caterpillar eating my parsley”?

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillarBlack Swallowtail Caterpillar

Chances are, you will never see a Monarch caterpillar on your parsley. By far and away it is more likely that you have the caterpillar of the gorgeous Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes).

Caterpillars that are actively feeding are usually only found on their larval host plant(s), the plant they have developed a distinctive coevolutionary relationship with over millennia. Monarch caterpillars do not eat parsley and Black Swallowtail caterpillars do not eat milkweed, and if either attempted, they would not survive. Black Swallowtails were in the past commonly referred to as the Parsnip Swallowtail as their caterpillar food plants belong to members of the Umbelliferae, or Carrot Family. The diet  of the Black Swallowtail caterpillar includes the foliage and flowers of carrot plants, fennel, dill, parsley, Queen Anne’s lace, and parsnips.

Monarch CaterpillarMonarch Caterpillars

The Monarch caterpillar is yellow, black, and white. The Black Swallowtail caterpillar is green, black, and yellow.

Please see my Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly film’s website for videos and more photos documenting the butterfly’s life cycle.

Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillarMetamorphosing from this

to this…

Eastern Black Swallowtail ButterflyBlack Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes)

See Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly film website for videos and more photos documenting the butterfly’s life cycle.