Category Archives: Essex County

LEMONDROPS – MORE BEAUTIES ON THE WING!

Fresh drops of spritely lemon flitting from flower to flower, the Clouded Sulphur is another beauty often seen drinking nectar alongside Monarch’s during the M’s epic migration southward.

At this time of year, late summer/early autumn butterflies find nectar at native asters, goldenrods, and non-native Black Mustard, along with a variety of garden flowers that have an extended blooming period. Clouded Sulphurs have a special fondness for Zinnia elegans, the straight species, not the over-hybridized, overly ruffled variety, where they may have difficulty finding nectar in the obscured center of the flower.

Clouded Sulphur caterpillars eat Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), White Clover (Trifolium repens),sweet clovers (Melilotus spp.) and vetches (Viceia, spp.).

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! Masks are required to be worn at all times while in the hall. For more information go here. Presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music.

SPUN SILK

My friend Lauren, who raises Monarchs, and who also creates beautiful and highly productive butterfly and songbird habitat gardens, shared this very cool photo of empty Monarch chrysalides. Thank you Lauren!

When a Monarch caterpillar is preparing to pupate, it first spins a silky mat from its spinneret. The silk is much like the texture of spider’s silk and extends over an area several inches in diameter. You can see in the diagram below where the spinneret is located.

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! Masks are required to be worn at all times while in the hall. For more information go here. Presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music.

VIBRANT TANGERINE ORANGE BUTTERFLY ON THE WING!

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! Masks are required to be worn at all times while in the hall. For more information go here. Presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music.

Orange Sulphur Butterfly on the Wing!

The vibrantly beautiful male Orange Sulphur Butterfly was spotted on our shoreline, flitting from flower to flower along a stand of Black Mustard. No other butterfly of New England flashes that beautiful shade of tangerine when in flight. The females are considerably paler with wings in shades ranging from white to buttery yellow.

The Orange Sulphur Butterfly is seen from coast to coast, from southern Canada to central Mexico. I most often observe them at the edge of marshes and in fields where clovers grow.

Male Orange Sulphur Butterfly

Orange Sulphurs drink nectar from many types of flowers including milkweeds, dandelions, asters, and goldenrods.

The caterpillars eat a wide variety of plants in the Legume Family, both native and introduced. Favorite host plants (caterpillar food plants) include Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), White Clover (Trifolium repens), and White Sweet Clover Melilotus alba).

MONARCHS MATING AND DEPOSITING EGGS IN SEPTEMBER!

Unusual, but not unheard of, every year during the Monarch’s annual southward migration, I come across a pair, sometimes two, that are mating. This year was no exception. The butterflies apparently did not get the 411 that they are supposed to be migrating, not mating! The Monarchs that eclose (emerge from their chrysalides) at the end of the summer are the Methuselah Monarchs, or a super generation of Monarchs. These Super Monarchs eclose in a state of sexual immaturity, or diapause. Rather than expending energy looking for a mate and egg laying, they spend all their days drinking nectar and building their fat reserves for the long journey south. They are often a bit larger than their counterparts that emerge earlier in the summer and they are biologically oriented to fly southward. Methuselah Monarchs live about eight months, nearly eight times longer than the spring and early summer Monarchs. They are called Methuselah Monarchs  after the Biblical patriarch who is said to have lived 969 years.

While joined together, abdomen to abdomen, the mating Monarchs flew into a neighboring tree.

Occasionally though individuals are reproductively active. I often wondered what happens to the Monarchs that mate in September. Do they lay eggs, will the eggs hatch, and will the caterpillars complete metamorphosis?

Female Monarch depositing eggs on Common Milkweed, September 13, 2021

The first question has been answered. A beautiful female, apparently newly emerged, with vibrant fully intact wings, arrived in our garden and laid dozens and dozens of eggs. I  placed many, but not all, of the eggs in our terrariums. Will these eggs hatch? We’ll know within the next week or so. I’ll keep you posted on these late September babes. If they go through their entire life cycle, they won’t be ready to fly off for another five weeks or thereabouts. The butterflies most likely will not make it to Mexico, but may journey as far as Florida, where they will spend the cooler months.

Four eggs on one leaf!

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! Masks are required to be worn at all times while in the hall.For more information go here.

DEER FAMILY MUNCHING ON FALLEN APPLES!

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! For more information go here.

Beautiful doe and two fawns find a treasure trove of fallen apples –

The two fawns were playful towards each other, stopping frequently to nuzzle and check out what the other was eating.

 

LOOK FOR AMERICAN PAINTED LADIES ON THE MOVE!

Please join us for a free live premiere of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Shalin Liu on Thursday, September 23rd, at 7pm. I hope to see you there! For more information go here.

The American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) is seen often drinking nectar alongside Monarchs during the late summer migration. She is one of four North American (of the 22 species found worldwide) Vanessa butterflies. The North American tribe also includes the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), and the West Coast Lady (Vanessa anabella). 

Some of the caterpillar’s favorite food plants are Sweet Everlasting (Graphalium obtusifolium), Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), and Plantain-leaved Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia). The caterpillars also feed occasionally on Burdock (Arctium), Wormwood (Artemisia), and Ironweed (Vernonia)

HELLO MONARCH ACTU 676! – WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A TAGGED MONARCH

Good morning Butterfly Friends!

I hope you were able to get out and enjoy the glorious weather this past weekend! We dropped off our daughter Liv at Logan on Saturday. It was a dream having her home during this broken leg period and I am so grateful for her kind and loving care. We’ll all miss her terribly but her work and beautiful California call and we understand.

I graduated from the giant boot to the mini boot several weeks ago and am now doing well hopping around with only one crutch, which means, joyfully so, I can carry my cameras with my free arm! While out in marshes over the weekend I photographed a living tagged butterfly. I don’t usually see living tagged butterflies, only dead ones. Unfortunately, in the past, I have been in a field after a bunch of children ran unsupervised in catching and tagging butterflies, without proper training. Many were killed and/or mangled. Fortunately, male Monarch ACTU 676 appeared just fine and was flying well.

Only a small fraction of the butterflies tagged are actually recovered at their wintering grounds in the volcanic mountains of Mexico. Some are spotted near to where they were tagged, some along the migratory route, and the ones recovered and recorded in Mexico provide a meaningful connection between the tagger and the recoverer.

If you find a tagged Monarch, alive or dead, please go to the official online tagging form provided by Monarch Watch. You can find the 2020 -2021 form here and it looks like this screenshot –
As you can see, it’s a basic form and there is a link provided to add a photo. By submitting your sighting, you as a citizen scientist are participating in a long term study, first developed by Monarch Watch in 1992.

Please join us Thursday, September 23rd at 7pm for the world Live Premiere of Beauty on the Wing at the Shalin Liu, presented by the Boston Film Festival and Rockport Music. For more information, please go here.

Happy Butterfly Days,

xxKim

A MINI- GLOSSARY OF LATE SUMMER BUTTERFLIES

A gallery of some of the butterflies most commonly seen during the Monarch’s southward migration.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) – wingspan 1.6 inches -2.9 inches

American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) – wingspan 1.75 – 2.40 inches

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) – wingspan 2.75 – 3 inches

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) – wingspan 1.5 to 2.75 inches 

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) – wingspan 3 to 4 inches 

Small White /Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) – wingspan 1.3 – 1.9 inches

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) – wingspan 1.25 – 2 inches

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme) -wingspan 1.3 – 2.3

Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) – wingspan 3 – 4 inches

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) – wingspan 3.1 to 5.5 inches

American Copper (Lycaena phleas) – wingspan .75 to 1.5 inches 

Silver-bordered Fritillary (Bolaria selene) – wingspan 1.25 – 2.25 inches

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) – wingspan 1 – 1.5 inches

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) – wingspan 2.25 – 4 inches

 

Beauty on the Wing Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly premiering locally on September 23rd at the Shalin Liu. For more information, please go here.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation (or becoming an underwriter) to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and here: Over the Moon

To DONATE go here.

Thank you!

Pearl Crescent Male (left) and Female (right). You can tell the butterfly on the left is a male because males typically have black-tipped antennae clubs

 

THE BEST NEWS FOR BEAUTY ON THE WING AND PLEASE SAVE THE DATE!

Good morning Butterfly Friends!

I hope so much you had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend. We on Cape Ann were treated to the magnificent Schooner Festival. The Schooner Festival committee, Maritime Gloucester, and the City of Gloucester create a magical last-weekend-of-the-season hurrah, all tied around the Schooner Fest, and each year more and more fun events and activities for the whole family are added.

I have fantastic news to share. As many of you know, all my in person film screenings and live film festival events were cancelled because of Covid. Beauty on the Wing has never been shown on the Big Screen. We have been accepted to the outstanding Boston Film Festival! Not only that, but Robin Dawson, the Executive Director of the Boston Film Festival, has created a wonderful event. We are going to have a live, free, in-person, fundraising, community screening and Q and A at the Shalin Liu!!!

Please save the date of September 23rd at 7pm. The film is 56 minutes long, followed by the Q and A. I think the standard for all Boston Film Festival live screenings will be masks and proof of vaccination required. Admission will be on a first come first serve basis I believe but will find out more about that. The Boston Film Festival, which runs September 23rd through September 27th is truly a stellar event and as soon as I know more about the lineup of films and full schedule, I will post that as well.

For my several new Butterfly Friends who are reading this, please go to kimsmithfilms.com or here and here to learn more about our ongoing fundraising efforts to bring Beauty on the Wing to PBS.

Monarch and Zinnia elegans

Common Green Darners on the move!

An added note of good news – with all the breeding Monarchs we have been seeing this summer, the butterflies are on the move and it appears as though we may have a strong migration. So many friends from around the Northeast are reporting many sightings and for we on Cape Ann, this is very early in the season. And from what we are observing empirically (not actual numbers counted) we are having a phenomenal dragonfly and darner migration, too.

Happy September Butterfly Days!

xoKim

With deep appreciation and gratitude for generous contributions to the following butterfly friends –

Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Joeann Hart and Gordon Baird, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Heidi and John Shiver (Pennsylvania), Marty and Russ Coleman, Joy Van Buskirk (Florida), Lillian and Craig Olmstead, Suki and Fil Agusti (Rockport), Janis Bell, Nina Groppo, Nubar Alexanian, Marguerite Matera, Claudia Bermudez, Thomas Hauck, Judith Foley (Woburn), Jane Paznik-Bondarin (New York), Paul Vassallo (Beverly), Stella Martin, Liv Hauck (California), Julia Williams Robinson (Minnesota), Cynthia Dunn, Diane Gustin, John Ronan, Karen Maslow, Fernando Arriaga (Mexico City), Holly Nipperus (Arizona), Kristina Gale (California), Maggie Debbie, Kate and Peter Van Demark (Rockport), Mia Nehme (Beverly), Chicki Hollet, Alice Gardner (Beverly), Therese Desmarais (Rockport), Jennie Meyer, Kathy Gerdon Archer (Beverly), Melissa Weigand (Salem), Duncan Todd (Lexington), Catherine Ryan, Linda Bouchard (Danvers), Elaine Mosesian, Paul Wegzyn (Ipswich), Catherine Bayliss, Alessandra Borges (Rhode Island), Jan Waldman (Swampscott), Carolyn Constable (Pennsylvania), Nancy Mattern (New Mexico), Ian Gardiner, Judy Arisman, Tom Schaefer, Margaret Thompson, Edward DeJesus (Maryland), Kim Tieger (Manchester), Mary Weissblum

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here. Thank you!

Threatened Birds Have a Defender on N.Y. Beaches: The Plover Patrol

Happy World Shorebirds Day!

Thank you to Piping Plover Friends Marguerite Matera and Mary Rhinelander who both shared the following wonderful article from the NYTimes

Threatened Birds Have a Defender on N.Y. Beaches: The Plover Patrol

A group of volunteers patrols beaches where endangered Piping Plovers nest.

By Daniel E. Slotnik

September 6, 2021

Piping plovers, dun-colored shorebirds that lay their eggs in tiny scrapes in the sand, are easy to miss as they dart over the beach. Chris Allieri is harder to overlook.

This past spring, Mr. Allieri started the N.Y.C. Plover Project, an organization dedicated to protecting the threatened birds on beaches in the Rockaways in Queens. He has recruited more than 50 volunteers who have spent most of the spring and summer patrolling the beaches to defend plovers from dogs and oblivious beachgoers.

Some interactions can be uncomfortable, like when Mr. Allieri intercepted a young woman carrying a small dog from her boat to the shore of Breezy Point Tip on a sweltering Saturday. Not far away a handful of fledgling plovers wheeled over the waves while at least three chicks scampered over the sand.

Mr. Allieri explained that the dog was forbidden. The woman said she understood and returned to the boat. But then a man stomped from the boat through waist-high water, asking Mr. Allieri, “You work for the government?”

Mr. Allieri said he did not but would call law enforcement if the dog set foot on the beach. The man said he didn’t like being told what to do. Mr. Allieri called the Parks Police before the man walked back to his boat.

Arguments like that are atypical, Mr. Allieri said, but days at the beach have not exactly been relaxing since he started watching over plovers.

Mr. Allieri, 47, lives in Brooklyn and owns a public relations company that specializes in clean energy and climate technologies. He saw his first plover as a child with his father, an avid birder, at the Jersey Shore. He said it was like seeing “a unicorn.”

Last year, Mr. Allieri was at Fort Tilden Beach at Gateway National Recreation Area in Queens when a plover appeared next to him on the beach. Then he saw another, and another.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

TINY CHRYSALIS OF THE SMALL WHITE BUTTERFLY

The mystery of the tiny green caterpillar found on one of my Common Milkweed plants has been solved (I think). The caterpillar wasn’t eating milkweed, but looking for a safe place to become a chrysalis.

The caterpillar pupated overnight and I believe it is the chrysalis of the Cabbage White Butterfly, also known as the Small White Butterfly.

Small White chrysalis

In a week or so, we’ll know for sure when it emerges. I wonder what it has been eating in my garden because I don’t see any damage to foliage; so curious to know!

The Sulphurs ,Whites, and bees adore this lovely lavender purple aster that blooms in my garden non-stop for nearly two months. Unfortunately, I can’t share the the specific species name because this beautiful wildflower is a happy volunteer. From where it came, I know not. Over the past several years the clump has grown larger and larger, is in a place I’d rather plant something else but because it is so attractive to so many butterflies and bees, I’ll  let it have its way.

BEAUTIFUL GREEN DARNER MIGRATION UNDERWAY!

We are currently seeing all along our shoreline an influx of the beautiful Common Green Darner. They are migrating southward and once there, will lay eggs of the next generation.

Common Green Darner heading south

Mass migration from “Science News”

At least three generations make up the annual migration of common green darner dragonflies. The first generation emerges in the southern United States, Mexico and the Caribbean starting around February and flies north. There, those insects lay eggs and die, giving rise to second generation that migrates south until late October. (Some in that second generation don’t fly south until the next year, after overwintering as nymphs.) A third generation, hatched in the south, overwinters there before laying eggs that will start the entire process over again. These maps show the emergence origins of adult insects (gray is zero; red is many) captured at sampling locations (black dots).

FAT FLEDGLING FEEDING AND IT’S SAFE TO PUT YOUR BIRD FEEDERS BACK UP!

While watching a young Mockingbird grooming its wings, the fledgling suddenly perked up as one of its parents approached with a mouthful of dinner. Mom and Dad Northern Mockingbirds both care for their young so the adult in the photos could have been either or. Mockingbird pairs are strongly monogamous and boldly defend their nests and nestlings from people, pets, and predators.

With their fluffy new feathers, fledglings of many species often appear larger than the parent. I sometimes wonder how baby birds ever get off the ground as they become plumper and plumper from the rich diet provided by their parents. Mockingbird fledglings and adults eat a wide variety of fruits, berries, and insects.

As you may or may not be aware, a statewide moratorium on feeding birds at feeders was declared because of an avian disease killing birds in the South. No cases have been found in New England and the mysterious disease seems to be waning in the South. Mass Audubon has announced it it safe to once again resume feeding at feeders. For the health and well being of songbirds, to help prevent the spread of any disease, it is recommended to clean bird feeders and bird baths about every two weeks with a solution of bleach and water, 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Thank you to Monarch friend Judy A. for sharing the update!

 

PETAL DANCERS

Your daily Monarch photo-Monarch and Black-eyed Susans

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here.  For the latest update with PBS, please go here: Over the Moon. Thank you!

MONARCHS (AND OTHER BUTTS) IN THE JOE-PYE!

Why do we plant Joe-pye Weed? Especially a plant with a common name that ends in Weed?

Because it is beloved by every pollinator in the hood!

Let me count the Ways – a nectar plant for Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, American Ladies, Monarchs, all manner of bees, and many more beneficial insects!

Joe-pye Weed is a native wildflower and wonderfully easy to grow. It does best in full sun, but will tolerate some shade and the blooms last longer in part shade. The plant does prefer average to moist soil, but if planted in dryer conditions, provide shade and water.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here.  For the latest update with PBS, please go here: Over the Moon. Thank you!

LUMINESCENT SEA SALPS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Piping Plover Ambassador Deb Brown shares that Good Harbor Beach is currently inundated with Sea Salps. Please write and let us know if you are seeing Sea Salps at other locations on Cape Ann. Thank you!

About six years ago, after a warm summer, and storm, they were everywhere on Cape Ann. Luminescent Sea Salps was filmed at night at a dock on Rocky Neck in the underwater lights of the FV Hot Tuna.

Sea salps are warm ocean water creatures, exploding in population during algae blooms. With beating heart, notochcord, and gills they are more closely evolutionarily linked to humans than to jellyfish. Sea salps are individual creatures that through asexual reproduction, can form linear chains up to fifteen feet long!

Salps are planktonic (free floating) members of the subphylum Tunicata. Tunicates get their name from the unique outer covering or “tunic,” which acts as an exoskeleton. The sea salp’s tunic is translucent and gelatinous; in some species it is tough and thick.

 

MORE MONARCH BABES ON THE WAY!

More teenies found in the garden!  I thought we had seen the last Monarch eggs but while cutting milkweed in the garden for the larger caterpillars, we found four more!  I can’t recall when was the last time I saw this many Monarchs in our garden and in meadows.

For your daily Monarch photo, today we have a range of Monarchs in our garden in different stages, from minuscule first instars to J-shapes readying to pupate to an old worn out boy winding down.

1st Instar

3rd Instar

J-shape readying to pupate

Chrysalis

Newly emerged zipping together proboscis

Female newly emerged drying wet wings and readying for take off

An old boy – note his tattered and fading wings

Please consider making a tax deductible donation, or becoming an underwriter, to bring our Monarch Butterfly documentary Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly to American Public Television. To Learn More go here and to DONATE go here. Thank you!

 

 

Wonderful press for “Beauty on the Wing” from Pennsylvania! From the Ground Up: Preserving beauty on the wing

From the Ground Up: Preserving beauty on the wing

I want to share with you an email that I received in response to my column last week in which I reviewed a new book, by Sara Dykman, titled “Bicycling with Butterflies.” (2021, Timber Press)

The reader wrote:

“I read your article today about monarchs. My wife and I recently saw a film created over a several year period by Kim Smith. It has won many awards as listed on her website. It was sponsored by local environmental groups and others for a local showing via Zoom. I thought I knew everything about the monarch, but her video of the life cycle was amazing, with incredible detail.” (The film is tentatively scheduled to air on PBS in February 2022.)

I clicked on the website link provided (see below), and discovered that it contains a short, free video designed for children, titled, “The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch.” The detail of the close-ups of the various stages of the monarch’s life-cycle is captivating, and a young child featured in the video demonstrates how easy it is to make a monarch habitat to be able to observe and help restore the number of monarchs in the wild. The message is that anyone can raise monarchs, even pre-schoolers.

As I mentioned in my previous column, helping monarchs is really as simple as planting monarch-sustaining milkweed plants, along with other native, nectar plants. Milkweed is the only plant that monarchs feed on. There are many species, and it’s important to plant the ones suited to this area. The best ones for the Delaware Valley are Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Swamp Milkweed has lavender-pink flowers and a lovely evening fragrance. It can grow fairly large, and works well in a stand-alone planting bed or in a naturalized border. With its bright orange or yellow flowers and more refined habit, Butterfly Weed is a knockout in any flower bed or container.

Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

A monarch “habitat” only really needs to comes into play if you want to go the next step — and if you want to get up close to nature. All that is required — in addition to some care and curiosity — is a large aquarium with a screen cover, some cheesecloth, a glass jar with a lid (make holes in the lid), and water. When you find monarch caterpillars on your milkweed, cut the stem they are on, and place it through the holes in the jar lid, so that the stem is in the water. Cover the aquarium with the cheesecloth and then the screen. Caterpillars can eat a huge amount for their size, so be prepared to add/replace milkweed stems as needed.

In his email, the reader also explained that donations are needed to enable Kim Smith’s film, “Beauty on the Wing,” to appear on PBS:

“[The film] has been accepted by PBS, but requires a fee for distribution to get it shown. She has a link for donations to reach the amount she needs. It is tentatively scheduled for February 2022. The web-site explains how to donate to get it on PBS. I recommend this highly and thought you might like to keep an eye out for it when hopefully it will appear on PBS. (https://monarchbutterflyfilm.com/)”

Last week, I discovered that monarchs are at risk not just from habitat loss in their breeding and over-wintering grounds, both here and in Mexico. The larvae are vulnerable to predation by stink bugs, both the nymphs and the adults. Sadly, we discovered this just last week in our own garden, with two of four monarch caterpillars killed by stink bugs. More incentive to “adopt” at least some of the monarch caterpillars, to keep them safe from these predators. I’ve done this with black swallowtails, and it’s a fascinating process.

Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to pamelacbaxter@gmail.com, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Share your gardening stories on Facebook at “Chester County Roots.” Pam’s book for children and families, Big Life Lessons from Nature’s Little Secrets, is available on Amazon.

HOVERFLIES EAT APHIDS! AND THEY ARE THE SECOND BEST POLLINATOR, AFTER BEES!

A beautiful female hoverfly (possibly Syrphus ribesii) spent the afternoon drinking nectar from the yellow florets of our Mexican Sunflowers. Also known as the Flower Fly and Syrphid Fly, hoverflies are members of the Syrphidae family of insects. As their name suggest, they hover over pollen-  and nectar-rich flowers.

Helicoptering hoverfly coming in for a landing

Hoverflies are a wonderful addition to the organic, pesticide-free garden. Hoverfly larvae are aphid eating machines and they are also the second best pollinator, after bees. Female hoverflies lay their eggs in the midst of aphid colonies. When the eggs emerge, food for the larvae is readily available. A single hoverfly larvae can eat 400 to 500 aphids during the two-week period before pupating into an adult.

When flies look like bees – Hoverflies look similar to bees, with large bulbous eyes and black and yellow striped abdomens. Their color and buzzing sound mimics many species of bees and wasps, which helps ward off predators. Hoverflies are perfectly harmless and neither sting nor bite. You can tell the difference between a male and a female hoverfly by looking at the eyes. The eyes of the male are holoptic, which means they touch, whereas the eyes of the female are separated.

We have a colony of aphids on our Whorled Milkweed. I hope she stopped by to deposit her eggs there!

To attract hoverflies to your garden, plant plenty of nectar-rich flowers. One study showed some species prefer white and yellow flowers. Although the ray flowers of the Tithonia are orange, the disc florets at the center of the flower from where she was drinking nectar are yellow. Native plants that attract hoverflies include Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Common Yarrow, and Purple Coneflower. Hoverflies also love blossoms of herbs such as oregano, dill, parsley, coriander, and fennel.

Image courtesy wikicommons media

 

FUN FREE FAMILY ACTIVITY AND PHOTO OP TODAY – SCHOOL STREET SUNFLOWERS AND DAHLIA FIELDS ARE OPEN TODAY BEFORE THE STORM!!

Good morning Friends!

With a broken leg unfortunately still preventing me from visiting my friend’s farm fields, Paul Wegzyn from School Street Sunflower and Dahlia Fields writes that despite the pending storm, the fields are opening today!!!

School Street Sunflower Field and Dahlia Field

Open Saturday, August 21st  – 9am until sunset.

16 School Street, Ipswich

With our sunflower field, we have lost over 50% of the field because of all the rain in July. With another 2.5 inches of rain yesterday, our sunflower field is very muddy right now. It looks like even more rain on Sunday and Monday with Tropical Storm Henri.

We still have thousands of beautiful sunflowers in bloom and there are some excellent spots for photos.

Usually we have an admission fee and don’t cut sunflowers in this field, but with the many sunflowers that were flooded, we will have no admission fee. We will be selling tickets for bunches of sunflowers.

Each ticket will get you one bunch of sunflowers (3 stems) and you can walk around and find the best spots to take photos.

You can buy tickets on: www.schoolstreetsunflowers.com

Our dahlia field is looking amazing and we will be open on Saturday. The location of the dahlia field is also on School Street. Almost across the street from the tennis courts at Ipswich High School.

There is no admission fee to the dahlia field and you can buy dahlias there.

We will have events throughout the summer and fall where Paul and award winning Dahlia grower, Bart Kellerman aka “Doc Dahlia” give talks about growing dahlias.
The hours for the dahlia field are still TBD, but you can find us there on the weekends and some weeknights.

For everyone that loves sunflowers, we have another sunflower field planted that will open up in Mid September! We are really excited to open up this field to the public for the first time and we will have more information in September.

See you Saturday!

Father and son School Street Sunflowers proprietors, Paul Wegzyn and Paul Wegzyn

Photo gallery from past years at School Street Sunflowers 

HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MALE AND FEMALE TIGER SWALLOWTAIL

Tigers on the prowl in our garden!

It’s very easy to see the difference between a male and female Tiger Swallowtail.

The female Tiger Swallowtail’s tail end of her lower wings are more vividly colored, with strongly pronounced cells of orange and a greater degree of iridescent blue.

Female Tiger Swallowtail drinking nectar from Phlox

Male Tiger Swallowtail. Note the very dark border along the tail end of the male TS lower wings, with very little blue iridescent scales

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail utilizes a large variety of host plants, mostly trees, such as wild black cherry, tulip tree, sweet bay (magnolia), cottonwood, ash, birch, and willow.

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PRECIOUS GEMS IN THE GARDEN!

Gems more precious than jade.

The pupating Monarch caterpillar spins a fine mat of silky threads, to which the little black post, called the cremaster, attaches during pupation. Thirty or so of these jade-like pendants are in the garden and readying to emerge.   

Twins!

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BLACK BEAUTY CAME CALLING

A stunning male Eastern Black Swallowtail spent the afternoon in our garden, mostly drinking nectar at the Butterfly Bushes, but also the Mexican Sunflowers.

Hooray for the warm butterfly days of August <3

Ventral, or under, wing view

Dorsal, or upper, wing view

TINY CATERPILLAR MOLTING

Did you ever wonder how a caterpillar fits into its new suit after shedding the old? The caterpillar in the photo has just shed its skin, or molted, and you can see its discarded and shriveled skin.

After molting, the caterpillar rests quietly for a bit, sucking in great deal of air, which expands the new suit. After molting and resting, the caterpillar eats its old skin.

The caterpillar feeds and feeds, expanding and growing into its baggy suit until it again feels a sense of tightening and will molt again.

Caterpillars molt four to five times and each stage is called an instar, for example, 1st instar, 2nd instar, 3rd instar, etc.

I haven’t seen a female depositing eggs for a week or so. Perhaps this is our last batch of caterpillars and these will grow to become the Super Monarchs, the Monarchs that journey to Mexico.