Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Sphinx and a Swallowtail

Try this for camouflage! A Nessus sphinx moth (Amphion floridensis) was found resting on the emerging leaves of a pitcher plant, which I have kept potted until my pond is built. The moth is often active during the day and can be seen hovering around flowers as it sips nectar. Grape and Virginia creeper, of which I have plenty, are its larval host plants.

At this time of the year I love to discover the myriad of insects that visit flowers and plants in the garden. The gorgeous caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) devour parsley. They also visit the dill and can be observed passing through a couple of instars until they reach their prime and there are no more leaves to chew. Then they seem to vanish. Are they food for a hungry bird or is their shriveled, dark brown chrysalis impossible to find? I will continue to replace the pot of parsley, but not just for a culinary purpose, so I can feast my eyes upon adult swallowtail butterflies.

Leucanthemum daisy heads, now chest high, make it easy to view insect visitors. Yesterday evening I came across a rather large mosquito (Toxorhynchites rutilus) sipping nectar. Members of this group of mosquitoes do not require a blood meal for a source of protein. Their larvae devour the larvae of other more harmful mosquitoes. So there are some mosquitoes that are beneficial!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

House Wrens Raise a Family

A week or so ago sweet baby bird-chirping could be heard from the direction of one of the tiny nesting boxes that hang from the dogwood tree. The wren parents have been seen running relays to provide food for their offspring. They perch on the tree with insect in beak waiting for the other parent to emerge. As they enter the box in a quick flash the young ones can be heard chirping loudly and the whole box visibly shakes. The feisty birds fiercely defend their house. Their clamoring call has alerted me to a marauding blue jay as it tried to pierce a young chick through the box hole with its beak. My old felines get no peace when they lie on the warm stones on the terrace beneath. Soon the fledglings will depart and I will miss the drama, chatter and song of the little wren family.

Round-leaved pyrola

There are other small survivors that return to the garden every year and are surely remnants of the native woodland. Besides false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosa) defying the ivy, I have found round-leaved pyrola (Pyrola americana), growing amongst hostas.