Category Archives: Home and Garden

MONARCH BUTTERFLY EGGS AND CATERPILLAR ALERT!

Monarch butterflies, caterpillars, and eggs, here there and everywhere!

This morning I went out to my garden to collect more milkweed leaves for our current batch of caterpillars. A female was flitting about and in addition to finding half a dozen newly laid eggs, these two beautiful freshly molted third instar caterpillars were forgaing around on the milkweed foliage. We are having at least a second brood of Monarchs this summer, helped greatly but the current warm stretch of hot humid weather. If you have been raising Monarchs and think you are done for the summer, look again on your milkweed plants because you may very well have a second batch coming along.

GROW NATIVE BUTTONBUSH FOR THE POLLINATORS!

North American native Buttonbush attracts a bevy of butterflies and bees with pretty and fragrant flowerheads. Buttonbush grows easily in moist soil as well as average garden soil, in full sun to part shade. In our region it grows to about six to ten feet and can be kept in check with an occasional pruning in early spring.

Monarch Butterfly drinking nectar from Buttonbush florets (Cephalanthus occidentalis).

WELCOME TO THE MARY PRENTISS INN POLLINATOR PARADISE!

The exquisite Greek Revival architecture of The Mary Prentiss Inn complements perfectly our lively pollinator paradise, bursting with blossoms and bees. We’ve layered the garden in an array of nectar-rich perennials and annuals that bloom from spring through fall and the garden has become mecca for neighborhood pollinators (including seed-seeking songbirds).

Plant for the pollinators and they will come!

Three-bee-species scene at The Mary Prentiss Inn pollinator garden.

The Mary Prentiss Inn Owners Nicholas and Jennifer Fandetti.

Perfectly lovely prior to turning the old garden into a pollinator paradise, but everyone agreed, it was time for a change.

Bee and blossom alike dusted in a fine golden shower of pollen.

KIM SMITH MONARCH BUTTERFLY PROGRAM FOR THE NORTH SHORE GARDEN CLUB WEDNESDAY JULY 18TH

Monarch Butterfly and native wildflower Joe-pye.

Please join me Wednesday morning for my lecture and slide program “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” at 10am for the North Shore Garden Club at St. John’s Church in Beverly. I hope to see you there!

Monarchs and native New England wildflower Smooth Aster

 

WHAT’S FOR BREAKFAST MAMA?

To and fro, to and fro, flying from the branches of the majestic old oak tree to the garden beds below, and then into the thickest part of the small shrub at the edge of the vegetable garden, then back to the sheltering oak above, a pair of Chipping Sparrow parents tirelessly fed their hungry brood of tiny hatchlings. Chipping cheer-a-ree cheer-a-roo all the while, despite a beak overflowing with worms, and every kind of larvae you can imagine.

Chipping Sparrows are easily identified with their rufous red beret-like cap and cheery chipping. Massachusetts is part of their northern breeding range. Come fall they will begin to flock together and migrate to the southern US and Mexico. Chipping Sparrows were once more of a woodland species but today, they have become well-adapted to human habitats and nest in gardens, parks, and farmlands.

Like all song birds, Chipping Sparrow young are altricial, which means they hatch semi-undeveloped and are blind, naked, and helpless, needing constant care and feeding by the parents. Species of Plovers, such as Piping Plovers and Killdeers are precocial. They are fully mobile and can feed themselves within hours after hatching. The adults are needed to keep them warm and to protect the chicks from predators. Birds in the tern and gull family, such as Least Terns, are semi-precocial. They hatch with their eyes open, are covered with downy fluff, can walk (and in some cases swim) but must be fed by the parents.

Chipping Sparrow Nestlings

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A BABY BUNNY NEST IN YOUR GARDEN?

I can’t tell you how often I have accidentally uncovered a bunny nest while in the garden. The nest is usually only an inch or so below the ground surface, tucked under a perennial such as lavender or asters, and only covered with a thin layer of the mother’s fur.

If you find a nest, do not disturb. If you have accidentally disturbed the nest by raking or tidying up, place the fur back on top of the babies.

If the baby bunny has been accidentally handled or touched, still return it to the nest. The greatest myth is that Mama Cottontail will reject the baby if handled by a human. This definitely is not true and the Mama will definitely want her baby back!

Eastern Cottontail mothers do not stay with the nest all day. Rabbits are a prey species, in other words, they are hunted, and she does not want to draw attention to the nest. Cottontail Mamas typically return twice a day, at dusk and at dawn, to feed the babies. She nurses the babies by straddling the nest, so you want to keep everything as it was when you found the nest.

If you are worried because you have not see the Mama return to the nest to feed the babies, lay two pieces of string over the nest in an X shape. If after twenty four hours the string looks disturbed and the babies look plump and well-fed, you can be sure that the nest is not abandoned.

EDITED: To our Cape Ann readers- for bunnies and other small mammals that need rescuing I recommend contacting wildlife rehabilitator Erinn Whitmore.

It has just been pointed out that Erinn Whitmore is away until the fall. Erin Parson Hutchings also does small mammal rehabilitation and she too is a Mass Wildlife licensed rehabber. You can contact Erin through facebook.

This tiny Eastern Cottontail was found today by Ari at Wolf Hill, in a nest located in some gravel. She accidentally uncovered the nest while tidying up around the plants.