Monthly Archives: July 2010

Beautiful Pale Blue Albino Lobster

Check out the beautiful pale blue lobster landed at Captain Joe and Sons. I also learned how to tell the difference between a male and female lobster. If you want to know about anything and everything that is happening in Gloucester, subscribe to Joe’s fabulous Good Morning Gloucester blog.

Beautiful Red-spotted Admiral Butterflies (Limenitis arthemis)

Red-spotted Purple and Marsh MilkweedRed-spotted Purple Nectaring at Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

One of the most elegant butterflies to grace our garden, the Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), is one of two races that comprise the Red-spotted Admirals, the other being the White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis). Red-spotted Admirals should not be confused with Red Admirals, which are a member of the Vanessa genus. I hope you are not totally confused at this point, but if you look at the binominal nomenclature, or scientific name (see below), it will help you see that, although distinctively different in appearance, both the White Admiral and the Red-spotted Purple are members of the same genus and species. For many years zoologists thought they were two distinct species. It is a wonder of biology that a single species has such different appearances for its survival strategies. With this delightful stretch of warm weather, almost daily, I catch a glimpse, or two, of this most richly hued and unusual of butterflies.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)Red-spotted Purple (Dorsal)

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)Red-spotted Purple (Ventral)

The average wingspan of the Red-spotted Admiral is approximately three inches. The White Admiral has a distinctive wide white band on both the forward and hind wings, and on both the dorsal (upperwing) and ventral (underwing) surface. In the Red-spotted Purple, the white band is replaced with a band of iridescent lapis lazuli blue scales. It has evolved to mimic the highly distasteful Pipevine Swallowtail. Red-spotted Purples are found in greater numbers than White Admirals in the eastern part of Massachusetts. The opposite holds true for the western part of the state.

Purportedly, Red-spotted Purples are seen feeding primarily on rotting fruit, sap, and dung— infrequently at flowers—however, I see them nectaring often, and for long periods of time, at flowers. They are particularly fond of butterfly bushes, meadowsweet, Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and Joe Pye-weed.

Hostplants for the Red-spotted Admirals are extremely varied. Both races use cherries, including Chokecherry (Prunus virginiaina), Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Pin Cherry (Prunus pennsylvanica), plum (Prunus), apple (Malus), poplars, cottonwood, aspens, willows (Salix), birches, (Betula), hawthorn (Cratageous), basswood (Tilia), Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), and serviceberry (Amelanchier). The female oviposits a single egg on the upper surface at the tip of a fresh hostplant leaf. Our postage-tamp of a garden is much too small for the aforementioned larger trees, and too shady to grow healthy Prunus and Malus, so I am experimenting with a multi-stemmed Shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis), which I plan to keep pruned to a manageable shrub-size.

Amelanchier’s common names of Shadbush, or Shadblow, are derived from the fact that they bloom at the same time of year as the annual spawning migration of the shad fish. One of the most beautiful sights of early spring is the lacey white blooms of the Shadblow dotting woodland and roadside. Amelenchier canandensis is also called Canada Serviceberry, because of its delectably sweet blueberry-sized berries. You would be lucky to actually sample a berry. In our garden, the bluejays, catbirds, and mockingbirds are first in line. Naturally occurring in moist woodlands, shadblow is highly adaptable to a variety of soils. It can tolerate some dry conditions, but only when once established. Keep very well-hydrated until very well-established.

I am off to Tanglewood, which is located in western Massachusetts, to visit our daughter. With camera in tow, I am hoping to see a White Admiral!

P.S. Although while in Tanglewood we did not spot a White Admiral , we did observe a Viceroy in a wildflower meadow. The Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) is one of four North American species of admirals in the genus Limenitis.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

Red-spotted Admirals

Kingdom: Anilmalia (Animal)

Phylum: Arthropoda (Arthropods)

Class: Insecta (Insects)

Order: Lepidoptera (Butterflies, skippers, and moths)

Superfamily: Papilionoidea (Butterflies, excluding skippers)

Family: Nymphalidae (Brush-footed butterflies)

Subfamily: Limenitidinae (Admirals and Kin)

Genus: Limenitis

Species: White Admiral: arthemis arthemis

Species: Red-spotted Purple: arthemis astyanax

End Note: I am organizing a new show for Cape Ann TV and will be appearing on the Cape Ann Report with Heidi Dallin on Wednesday, August 4th at 6:00 pm to talk about it. More information will be forthcoming.  Kim Smith Designs is my interior and garden design firm.  I am happy to respond to questions and comments.

Happy Summer!

Dear Gardening Friends

Butterfly Days are Here! This gorgeous stretch of warm weather has allowed myriad species of butterflies to thrive. Yesterday in our garden I filmed a Red-spotted Purple, Black Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, two male Monarchs, a Question Mark, Pearly Crescentspot, Red Admirals, Painted Ladies, many clearwing moths, and, at dusk, a female hummingbird. This is highly unusual to have so many and I will be posting photos to help you identify what you may be seeing in your gardens.

Our daughter Olivia was home from Tanglewood for the day last Sunday. We celebrated her 22nd birthday with fabulous lobsters fresh from Captain Joe’s. She was here with her friend and accompanist, Michael Sherman. While they were rehearsing for the beautiful concert they gave later that evening, I was videotaping a male Monarch in the garden. You can hear Michael in the background playing Maurice Ravel’s Jeux d’eau. I peaked in and captured Liv and Michael rehearsing Mozart’s Exultate jubilate.

Lastly, I am creating a new show for Cape Ann TV, about butterflies, gardening, gardening for the pollinators—I haven’t decided what to call it. Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Gardening for People and Pollinators, something like that. Donna Gacek, the director at Cape Ann TV suggested the series and I think it is a great idea. The beauty that surrounds here on Cape Ann has provided me with a million ideas. I will be writing, editing, filming, photographing, interviewing. What I need help with is finding one or two people, who on a regular basis, can help video tape the parts that I am in—the introduction to each segment as well as interviews on location. Please pass the word around if you know of someone who has this skill, or who would be interested in learning. More information will be forthcoming and we will be talking about it with Heidi Dallin on the Cape Ann Report, which airs August 4th at 6:00pm.

Happy Summer!

Little Wood-satyr (Megisto cymela cymela)

Dear Gardening Friends,

Although it may seem as though I have been  unplugged as of late, I am actually becoming more plugged-in than ever (is this a good thing?) as I am in the process of teaching myself how to edit  and combine my video clips and photos. To be sure, editing videos is easy for my techno savvy friends, but I find it time consuming beyond measure. The net result is that I will be able to passalong more good information. For example, the video below shows the ventral (underside) and dorsal (topside) of the Little Wood-satyr, as well as its light brown and tan forms. Hopefully, this will help us to better identify, and provide sustenance for, the beautiful pollinators that are attracted to our habitat gardens.

The fearless Little Wood-Satyr seen in the video stayed for several days. While photographing, he alighted on my camera and then onto my hand. As you can see, there wasn’t much remaining of his left wing.

Little Wood-satrys are found throughout the eastern United States (except northern New England) and southeastern Canada, Nova Scotia to Florida, west to Texas and eastern Wyoming, and north to Saskatchewan. The first of its kind to arrive in our garden, we more typically observe the Little Wood-satyr along the wooded edge of clearings and quarries. The body color varies from light brown to tan. The following photos show the light brown version and were taken at a quarry in Rockport where I noticed both tan and light brown forms. Little Wood-satrys are on the wing in the northeast from May through July. The females land on a blade of grass and walk down to the base where she deposits a single egg. The caterpillars feed at night on various grasses including Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata), Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis), Centipede Grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides), and St. Augustine Grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) (Cech and Tudor).

Kingdom: Anilmalia (Animal)

Phylum: Arthropoda (Arthropods)

Class: Insecta (Insects)

Order: Lepidoptera (Butteflies, skippers, and moths)

Superfamily: Papilionoidea (Butterflies, excluding skippers)

Family: Nymphalidae (Brush-footed butterflies)

Subfamily: Satryinae (Nymphs, Satyrs, and Arctic butterflies)

Genus: Megisto

Species: cymela

Happy Butterfly Days!