Friday, September 16, 2016

Bivouac


At the height of the day the goldenrods in the meadow are abuzz with bees, wasps, flies and beetles and I hardly dare to brush against them. But in early morning I notice that the golden blossoms are dotted with dozing bumblebees. They are found clinging to stems and hanging onto the underside of inflorescences – whole motionless camps of them. These are the males that have emerged from the queen’s nest and whose sole purpose in life is to mate before dying off in the approaching cold season. They have nowhere better to go for the night than a plant bearing sweet nectar.

The tall plants in the meadow do indeed provide a good vantage point for viewing all kinds of fascinating visitors. A few weeks ago I noticed several yellow bear caterpillars attached to New York ironweed, munching away on the undersides of the leaves and unseen by birds from above. This is the larval stage of the Virginian tiger moth (Spilosoma virginica), a handsome white moth with black stripes and a touch of orange on its abdomen.



Friday, August 19, 2016

Spicing up the Garden

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) on Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Much to my joy I have seen many large black butterflies fluttering around the garden. I assumed they were black swallowtails as their gloriously striped caterpillars have consumed much of my potted parsley. But today I caught an image of a spicebush swallowtail sipping nectar from a hot red cardinal flower by the pond. The subtle difference between the spicebush and the black is easy to discern once the butterflies have come to rest. The tails on the spicebush are spoon-shaped and the upper side wings lack a post median row of yellow spots. The larvae feed on spicebush and sassafras, plenty of which grow on my property. I am also pleased to report that Monarch butterflies have been more numerous this year than in the past few summers.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)