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Butterfly Gardening Blog

Welcome! This blog is mostly about butterfly gardening, but other types of plants and gardens, as well as other wildlife is blogged about too.

May 5, 2008

My senecio is blooming nicely now

Filed under: Butterflies,Butterfly Garden — Butterflygirl @ 7:28 pm

I originally planted this plant, senecio obovatus (sp?) because I read it was the host plant for the Northern Metalmark. Then, I read that sightings of the Northern Metalmark in this area were probably mistakes. Apparently the the metalmark in this area is the Swamp Metalmark, which uses a plant I haven’t been able to find. I haven’t seen the butterfly around here either.

The plant though is really nice. It blooms early in the year with nice pretty little yellow flowers. After they die off the plant is very short and make a sort of ground covering. It can get a bit aggressive with spreading around though. I started this patch of it with just one little plant maybe 3-4 years ago. There’s supposed to be mostly liatris in that area. It will be interesting if it still comes up and blooms well this year or not.

Here are the flowers from a distance:

Here a little closer up:

Here a much closer up picture of the flowers:

April 22, 2008

First Monarch Sighting!

Filed under: Monarchs — Butterflygirl @ 4:38 pm

I saw my first Monarch just a few minutes ago! I couldn’t get a picture of it, it wouldn’t sit still, but was definitely a female looking for a place to lay eggs.

So I went and took a look at what little milkweed is coming up so far. And guess what? I found eggs on my purple milkweed and whorled milkweed! Unfortunately, I just started pages on those 2 plants recently too, so I can’t give you much information about them yet.

Last year, I found the first Monarch eggs in my garden on the 24th – so its 2 days earlier this year! And on Earth Day too!

Here is a picture of the purple milkweed – its just barely sticking out of the ground. I can’t wait tilll it blooms – its my favorite milkweed flower! The eggs aren’t visible, they were on the other side.

Purple Milkweed, just coming up.

On the whorled milkweed you might be able to make out the eggs if you click on the picture to see it bigger.

Whorled milkweed with Monarch eggs.

May 17, 2006

More baby butterflies!

Filed under: True Brushfoots — Butterflygirl @ 7:03 pm

Altogether I’ve now collected 4 eggs from the butterfly that laid some on May 7th. Three of them have hatched. Two on Monday and one today. I suspect the last will hatch either tonight or tomorrow morning.

It’s been really cold and rainy here for like a week or so, so I don’t have much gardening stuff to write about. No new pictures either – too wet and nasty out to take any.

These last two eggs I brought in from outside more recently, that is why they are hatching later – since its been so cold outside they were developing slower.

As soon as I get more pictures of something worth seeing, I’ll post them.

May 15, 2006

Update on eggs from hops

Filed under: True Brushfoots — Butterflygirl @ 6:29 pm

Following up on my post from May 7th about the Question Mark or Comma eggs: before I left for my mom’s I cut off two leaves which each had an egg on it – just in case they hatched before I got back. Well, on Monday those two hatched (after I was back home!)! One leaf was from the hops vine, the other the pipevine. Anyway, those two little guys (or girls) are doing just fine! I was concerned about getting them the leaf they were on quickly. The hops leaf was starting to dry up a bit, and of course pipevine is the wrong host plant and likely the caterpillar would have died if it had eaten any of it. I had to use a paintbrush to move one of them, but had no problems with it.

And no, I don’t have a picture of them. As mentioned before, my digital camera doesn’t have a good enough macro function to get a picture. I will have to take one with the film camera. I’ll post the pictures when I get them back.

Another detail worth mentioning – I said before that the eggs were laid on top of the leaves although I had read they lay them on the underside. Well, both of the eggs I could find that were laid on the hops leaves were on the top, but the two I found on the pipevine were actually laid on the underside of the leaf.

Oh – and one other thing – both caterpillars crawled over to the underside of the leaf right away to feed, and stayed there. One of the things that really fascinates me about these guys is how their is sometimes very predictable and obviously programmed into their genes. That fascinates me! Exactly how is behavior like that programmed into their genes and expressed like that?

May 7, 2006

More butterfly eggs!

Filed under: True Brushfoots — Butterflygirl @ 1:03 pm

I’ve been posting a awful lot about wildlife other than butterflies around our yard! Its still far from the peak season for butterflies around here – and all the other critters seem to be everywhere now.

I was quite excited however this Sunday when I saw what was either a Question Mark or Comma flying around the garden. I could tell right away it was female as she was landing briefly on various plants trying to find the right one to lay eggs on – and then she flew over to my hops vine!

We’ve had lots of Question Marks and Commas around here the past few years, but this was the first time I’d ever seen one looking like they were going to lay eggs.

I went and got a camera and luckily she was still around when I got back! I couldn’t get her to sit still for a picture and eventually started looking over the hops to see if I could find any egss. I couldn’t see one anywhere – then all of a sudden she comes flittering by and lays an egg right on top of a leaf just a few inches in front of me!

Of course, I couldn’t get the camera ready in time!

I did watch her lay some more eggs though too. I saw her lay one on a pipevine leaf, which is pretty odd. Pipevine should be toxic to any butterfly except Pipevine Swallowtails. The vine is growing right next to the hops – could that have confused her?

And according to James Scott (‘The Butterflies of North America’ 1986) both Question Marks and Commas lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves, the ones I found on the hops were all on the tops of the leaves. I know she laid some more on the higher parts of the vine too though, but I can’t get up that far to find them – perhaps some of those are on the undersides of the leaves. Apparently they sometimes lay them stacked in piles, but all I saw was singly laid eggs. I will have to check the plant again more closely.

At any rate she never did sit still enough for me to even be able to tell which she was – a Question Mark or a Comma. And the eggs are too small for me to be able to photograph with the digital camera we have. I took some pictures of them with a film camera though, so it will be a while before I get them back.

I did get one quick picture of her from a distance though – its too hard, for me anyway, to make out what species she is:

Question Mark or Comma butterfly.

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P. polyxenes or joanae?

Filed under: Swallowtails — Butterflygirl @ 12:43 pm

I posted earlier about some of the caterpillars I had seen on my Golden Alexanders and how I was curious about which species exactly they were.

Here are a couple other pictures – two different caterpillars, both eating Golden Alexander leaves:

Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating Golden Alexander leaf.

Another Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating Golden Alexander leaf.

The thing is, the bigger one that had been on the Yellow Pimpernel a couple days before seems to have moved over to the Golden Alexanders. I can’t be certain it was the same one though of course. But the large one was gone and suddenly a second large one appeared on the other plant that I hadn’t noticed before.

So are they Papilio polyxenes or joanae? I have not actually seen eggs on the Golden Alexanders yet, but did see an adult behaving as though she might ovi-deposit (sp?) there. Would only P. jonae lay eggs on Golden Alexanders? Or might P. polyxenes do it too? Or maybe all were laid on the Yellow Pimpernel and moved over to the Golden Alexanders? But why would P. polyxenes be interested in Golden Alexanders? Any insight into this would be appreciated.

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May 5, 2006

Interesting observations with Black Swallowtails

Filed under: Swallowtails — Butterflygirl @ 10:49 am

I found a Black Swallowtail caterpillar on my Golden Alexanders!

My understanding had been that if any Swallowtail in this area were to use Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) it would be only the Woodland Swallowtail (Papilio joanae) – but others sources seem to doubt that P. joanae is really a separate species anyway. Up until now I never saw any caterpillars on the plants. I did for the first time recently see an adult looking as though she was interested in laying on them however, but I didn’t find any eggs.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar on Golden Alexander.

Now, as I was trying to find a truly native host plant for Black Swallowtails, I bought a Yellow Pimpernel (Taenidia integerrima) plant last year for my garden. Earlier this spring I found an egg on it, and later a first instar larvae, which of course I would assume would be a Black Swallowtail (P. polyxenes). I didn’t really keep track of it to see how it was doing – but have been very excited to have found a native host plant for them that they will actually use!

Anyway, on Friday, I looked over at the Yellow Pimpernel plant, which incidently is right next to the Golden Alexanders, and saw two caterpillars on it! The larger of the two was towards the base of the plant and kind of hidden from view:

Black Swallowtail caterpillar on Yellow Pimpernel.

Then, I look up, and towards the top of the plant – on a stem that already had all its leaves eaten off I see another caterpillar! Only this one was in the process of molting. The first pictures I tried to take as it was actually molting were all out of focus. Apparently this camera had a hard time figuring out what to focus on and it doesn’t have a manual focus so there was nothing I could do. I eventually put my hand up behind the caterpillar and then it focused just perfectly! By that time it was done molting but it was still a cool picture – its head is still white and if you look closely you can see the dead skin behind it, mostly behind the stem it is on:

Black Swallowtail caterpillar just finished molting.

The whole thing left me wondering though – were the caterpillars on the Golden Alexanders P. polyxenes or joanae?

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Skipper on Pin Cushion Flower!

Filed under: Skippers — Butterflygirl @ 10:41 am

I just happened to be lucky enough to have the camera with me, get it aimed and in focus for the few seconds this skipper sat still on this flower! There still isn’t a whole lot of flowers blooming yet – I need to get more that bloom in April and May – but the Pin Cushion Flowers/Scabiosa are blooming really nicely now!

Skipper on Pin Cushion Flower.

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April 26, 2006

Black Swallowtail caterpillars.

Filed under: Swallowtails — Butterflygirl @ 4:01 pm

Here are a couple of Black Swallowtail caterpillars from the first batch of Black Swallowtail eggs I’ve had this year. They are feeding on fennel.

Black Swallowtail caterpillars.

April 20, 2006

short post

Filed under: Butterflies — Butterflygirl @ 8:13 pm

Quick post – saw a Spicebush Swallowtail and a duskywing today, both puddling on some new topsoil we bought.

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