Competition for the flowers

Hickory and I were doing some butterfly watching on a lazy afternoon this week.

We noticed these insects take every opportunity they can to feed, and we assume this Pearl Crescent butterfly was happy to find one Butterfly Weed in bloom when the rest are just buds. But then we noticed another insect coming in on the left.

See him, the green fellow?

That’s a Cuckoo Wasp–a wasp for the love of acorns! We backed away. But did the Pearl Crescent leave?

No.

Hickory flicked his tail from a safe distance. “Guess that milkweed nectar is better than most.”

On a leaf

The Common Milkweed plants are mature, and the Monarchs are finding them. But have you noticed that these native wildflowers attract tons of bugs? A few years ago we showed many of them, and here are three from our recent visit.

A Carolina Mantis on milkweed leaf–an immature one, his wings are just forming.

Milkweed Leaf Beetle

Pearl Crescent

And here’s that Milkweed Community post in case you’d like to see more!

Swallowtails

We just answered a regular reader’s question about the swallowtails we featured yesterday and thought perhaps we should show a comparison of all the swallowtails we happen to have photos of. We are by no means experts, and admit we have help from another reader–hi, Nancy!

The question was about the ‘dark phase’ being a Tiger Swallowtail. It is that same species, not a different one. The females are dimorphic, a biology term meaning they can have two forms, in this case, two colorations or phases. The scales that are normally yellow are a dark gray to black instead.

This should not be confused with Black Swallowtails, Pipevine Swallowtails and Spicebush Swallowtails, which are normally black. We should also point out that the dark phase here is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. From our research, we think it only occurs in the Eastern species. And, er, the the yellow ones we showed mineral sipping are Western Tiger Swallowtails. We were given those photos from our field correspondent in Colorado (remember Coney?) and actually didn’t put it together they were a different species. Sorry for any confusion that may have caused.

We won’t go into identification features here because it’s so complicated (which is why Nancy helps us) and there are better sites for that. We feel that if you know the possible names, you can look them up. So here we go with some comparison swallowtail photos, with names below the image!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Western Tiger Swallowtail from Colorado. Note it does not have the blue above the ‘tails.’

dark phase Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

female Black Swallowtail

male Black Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

Pale Swallowtail – also a species from Colorado

Dead Dragonfly

It’s funny what you’ll find leaping your way along human roads. Hickory and I were bought up short by a sparkle of gold.

One sniff said it wasn’t moving again.

“Too bad. The best part, eaten by a bird.” Hickory flicked his tail.

“Is that all you think about? Stuff as food?” I asked.

“Well, yeah. But if you want to look, don’t do it here or you’ll become crow food.” He gave the dragonfly a whack and sent it onto the grass.

I followed, because, yeah, I did want a closer look. “Dragonflies never sit still long enough to get a good look,” I grumbled over my shoulder.

The green eyes reminded me of the goggles humans wear at the pool, and below, his jaw was angled in the oddest way.

“Doesn’t look like he was too happy to be eaten,” Hickory quipped over my shoulder.

No, he didn’t.

 

Cabbage Whites

Those little white butterflies that we see flying about don’t attract too much attention. Until they do this…

Pretty cool, huh? They are gathered on this spot of wet mud–not too hard to find around here these days!–because they are sipping fluids, but also minerals, salts and other nutrients from the soil. It’s called mud-puddling.

By the way, these are cabbage white butterflies. They aren’t moths as some humans mistakenly believe.

Thirsty Thursday

Folks,

You don’t have to go to the shore to see giant wading birds. We have them right here in our woods!

The Great Blue Heron seems to be at home in even the smallest pond damned along the streams, as long as he can find fish. Or frogs, snakes crayfish and…yes, sadly enough, rodents.

Luckily this old squirrel is a bit well-padded, I don’t think I’d fit down his gullet too well.