Butterflies on your flowers means…

…caterpillars eating your their leaves. All around our neighborhood, we’re seeing eaten leaves.

On burdock.

On the coneflowers.

On pink turtleheads.

On dogbane.

And upon closer inspection, we found a few caterpillars, too.

The dogbane caterpillars were quite conspicuous in the protective webbing at the ends of the leaves. We’re not sure if this is Fall Webworm. They have the yellow body and the dots, so we’ll have to keep watch and see if they develop the hairs as the younger caterpillars grow and shed their skin.

Underneath a coneflower leaf, we discovered a clump of black spiky caterpillars hanging out.

After doing some looking around, Ms. Flora determined that they are likely Silvery Checkerspot caterpillars–which we’ve seen on the flowers! So that’s a good match. Check out Growing the Home Garden’s website for some photos of them as they grow.

Something concerns us though. Some of the flower gardeners who commented were ready to ‘get rid of’–kill–the caterpillars on their flowers. Sad. The way the insect populations are plummeting these days with pesticide use, nature needs every caterpillar out there. Many of these caterpillars never make it into their chrysalis because they are picked off by wrens and other alert, insect-eating birds to feed their young. We squirrels also, ahem, don’t mind a few insect snacks.

We hope a few more of you humans might be willing to accept a few bug-eaten plants to keep our world thriving.

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Coneflowers and Bumblebees

Last year we told you about the humans in our neighborhood planting more native plants in a common space, including coneflowers. Those are coming along and the additional flowers seem to be attracting more bumble bees.

Or maybe it’s that we are on the lookout for them more since hearing they are in trouble.

Anyway, here’s one that Hickory and I watched and then made a second stab at looking up on Bumble Bee Watch.

As we said before, you have to see the head, the thorax and all the segments of the abdomen to make an identification. And those bees move fast! Unless they are taking a nap…this one wasn’t. But he was very intent on getting his nectar so we were able to sneak around the flower.

We discovered that this one’s ‘black’ abdomen wasn’t.

See those two segments that are brownish-red? We think this is a Brown-belted Bumblebee, not only from our Bumble Bee Watch identification, but also from this poster put together by Pollinator Partnership.

It’s nice to see all of the bees in our area at once. On paper, we mean, not in real life!

Here’s the link to the Pollinator Partnership posters. They are out of this one, but it’s still there to look at and read more details about each bee to help with your identifications.

Happy World Snake Day!

Always secretive, the snakes in our woods are on the lookout for humans more than us squirrels…just as we are on the lookout for them.

Garter snakes are woodland and field inhabitants, but they will also take a dip!

Both to cool off and to hunt!

Garter snakes eat many small critters, including worms, salamanders, toads, frogs and fish, but include mice in their diet–especially the young mice for a smaller snake like this. Think of it–natural pest control, and a trap you don’t need to empty!

Please be kind to snakes, even if you humans do kind of fear them. They are part of nature’s food chain that we need to keep intact!

Have you seen a swallowtail?

No kidding, years ago, we’d see dozens of these big guys. This year, this tiger swallowtail is the first we’ve seen in this bushy garden. True, the these Joe Pye Weed flowers just began blooming, but the dogbane has been in flower for a month and attracting all kinds of bees… Just no butterflies.

What’s your swallowtail count?

On a Milkweed

Insects–including insect pollinators!–flock to milkweed!

Tiger Swallowtail

Monarch laying her eggs.

The caterpillars will feed on the leaves and the butterflies on the nectar.

Large Milkweed bugs, which look like this as juveniles and…

growing up…

and this as adults.

Skippers.

Silvery Checkerspot

Silver-spotted skipper.

Aphids, which draw in…

Ladybugs.

Not to be confused with the Milkweed Leaf Beetle, which eats the leaves, not their pests.

Of course with all this bug activity, you will see spiders.

And even ants!

Of course, the insect most humans are interested in these days: Honeybees.

But don’t forget the native bumblebees!

There is room enough for both on these hundreds of little flowers!

Plant milkweed as an anchor for insects your garden!

Happy Pollinator Week!

Yes, pollinators have the support of a week dedicated to them, just like squirrels do! (That shows you how important they are. Squirrel Week IX was back in April when we were doing out Blogging From A to Z Challenge, so we, um, missed it.)

Pollinator Partnership sponsors this activity to coordinate events and raise awareness about the need for pollinator health.

We’ve tried to do that here, without any coordination, and we trust that our human readers are interested in keeping our natural world healthy, not just squirrels activities. We put out a bee and wasp quiz after featuring bees in 2016. This is a fun look at our most common bees and was a lot of work for Hickory to collect for a Mystery post, so we will just post that here for you to return to: One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve — Bee Quiz.

Pollinators aren’t just bees…so maybe we will get together another post–quiz?– by the end of pollinator week. But for today, we have some bee identification resources for you.

In that bee quiz, we suggested using the Native Bees of North America on Bug Guide to identify your bees. We’ve found another site specific to Bumble Bees that is more detailed in breaking down each part of the bee that you need to look at to make an accurate identification: Bumble Bee Watch. You can even submit your bumblebee photos and go through the guided key to identify your local species.

We gave it a go, because Hickory and I have pretty good photos, right? Hmm. Take this group of the same bee foraging on a Purple Turtlehead.

We know the location, the date, the plant the bee is on. We have a great view of his side and tip of his abdomen. But the bee face is missing! And so is the very top of the bee’s thorax. And we can’t see how the yellow bands merge with the black ones, which can take many, many shapes. You need to have these bee parts to identify the bee!

Bumble Bee Watch has a very clear tips on how to photograph bees for identification. We get close enough–bumble bees are focused on getting their nectar and pollen supplies when they visit a flower, so don’t worry about being stung. But in the future, we will take more photos from different angles–especially if the bee is on the flower for as long as this one was!

Bumble Bee Watch has a nice gallery of dozens of bumblebees showing their identification features, flowers, and range. So even if you don’t submit a photo, you can learn a lot!

Have you tried to identify a bee? What resources did you use? We’re sure we haven’t found them all yet!

Firefly season!

The lightning bugs are out and lighting up our evenings, but we bet most humans recognize these beetles even in the daytime.

Did you know that fireflies are sensitive to light pollution? The flashes they give are signals to the opposite sex that they’d like to get together. But if they can’t see each other… No more fireflies. And like other insects, they also have to deal with pesticides and development of the fields and woods they live and lay eggs in.

Lots to think about these days. I keeps us happy to know that our readers are thinking of wildlife and working out ways to live alongside us and other creatures.

Bluebirds Return

We squirrels may forget where we buried our acorns, but it seems like our local bluebirds haven’t forgotten where the good eats are!

The Eastern Bluebirds were chased out of nesting in the backyard nest box they used last year by a pesky House Sparrow–here’s the guilty party.

The humans decided not to let the sparrows–or the catbird!–get a foot in the door and blocked the box.

Wherever the bluebirds reared their young must be close by. The parents have brought the young by to find food!

Maybe a pair will get a chance next year!