Monday, July 7, 2008

Interesting Insects

We have been getting some visitors in the garden. Most of them can even fly in to have a look around. Some even let us get close enough to snap a photo.
What colorful eyes he/she has. Maybe it was thought that the blue chair on the deck was water?
Many pictures were allowed, from any angle and so very close. This is not the norm for the woman with the camera and living creatures. As the careful quiet footsteps get closer and closer, trying not to frighten the object of a desired shot, just as we are close enough to get the little green box centered, off they go, flittering and fluttering randomly. But not this one, not today.
This larger one is another story. Many attempts were made to get close enough to macro, but this is the best that could be done, using the zoom. Pretty interesting, don't you agree? This appears to be a white tail dragonfly. I know there is a difference between dragonflies and damselflies, the wings being folded at rest on the damsel. For a good site to help with ID and see photos sent in from around the world, try
What's That Bug?

Ah, staying put if not holding still on the echinacea 'Bravado' is this Black Swallowtail. There are several butterflies with similar markings to this, but the darling green with yellow and black striped caterpillar was seen near this bed chomping on the parsley recently. Then it was gone, and a few days later, here is this beautiful butterfly. Nature at it's best.

This little Pearl Crescent is resting on an azalea leaf. This is one of the most common of butterflies, found near puddles and flowers. We aren't well stocked with puddles just now, but flowers we gots.

As far as the most common butterfly here so far this summer, this Great Spangled Frittilary wins hands down. The larva feed at night on violets. Finally, something that eats our overpopulation of violets. Welcome GSF, please have lots of babies, we can feed them all.

The most seen at one time on this clump of asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed was nine. We have been sowing seed of this plant every year to try and increase its numbers. Seed has been the most successful method of propagation, but it has taken three years to get the seedlings to flower. Gardening is all about patience, we know.

With their moth like bodies and hopping flight pattern, the skippers have a different appearance than the other butterflies. There are over two thousand kinds, with many being similar in coloration. We have many, but they all seem to be the same type. If anyone knows the name of this one, please feel free to let us know in a comment. The lantanas are a favorite of the butterflies as well as the humans with their bright colors and laugh in the face of the drought attitude. They are not hardy but are readily and cheaply available. This flower says summer with a capital S.

This is a hairstreak of some kind. They have a swift darting flight pattern and are attracted to flowers. This one is enjoying the blue veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'.

Uh oh. Even though a butterfly, and we love butterflies, this Cabbage butterfly is a true crop pest. The larva feeds on brassicas of all kinds as well as mustards and nastursiums. We have given up trying to grow any of the cabbage family plants in the veggie patch since we don't want to spray at all. Brussels sprouts, red cabbage and kale were all eaten to shreds by these caterpillars. We are growing ornamental kale this year and it too is full of holes, but since we aren't going to try and have a meal of it, it can be left to these guys. The flower shown is lavender Hidcote.

This page from the Knoxville newspaper hangs in the guest bedroom for quick reference. It helps narrow down the possibilities when we spot a new visitor.

On to others, this ladybird beetle seems to have different markings than what is expected. It may be the Asian species that is invading our homes. The site What's That Bug? had some helpful photos of both types of the
ladybirds in addition to the dragonflies.

This is what most of the ladybird beetles look like here. This one shows up well on a furry lamb's ear leaf.

This sadly is a common occurance. The landscape fabric that lines the paths around the veggie garden and the compost bin causes the spiny legs of these two inch long beetles to get tangled and they get trapped. I always try and free them but wonder if the threads still are binding them after they are tossed into the brush pile. They seem so large for a bird to eat, and I worry about the bird eating the fabric fibers too. Sigh.

We are in the process of adding as many echinaceas as can be afforded to the garden. Fancy ones or old stand bys, this is the flower that has the longest bloom period and is beloved by the insect world. There are baby plants at the base of several mature specimens that promise to enrich the summer into fall garden in the future. These two bumblebees are working so hard, luckily the E. 'Ruby Star' is a huge coned flower.

On the climbing rose Moonlight is a suspected spotted cucumber beetle. We are growing cukes here for the first time and don't wish any harm to be done to them. Why is this guy on the rose anyway, is the rose being eaten? Or is a little drink of nectar being enjoyed?

On the real cucumber flower, this green tinged fellow is bathed in the yellow light as the sun shines through the petals. This act should help insure pollination and more food for us.

On Helenium 'Mardi Gras' it looks like there are some small type of hornet. This large plant has been blooming for several weeks and is covered in these winged diners. They don't seem to be bothered by the camera wielding human but this photo was taken PDQ. Stings and attacks have occurred in this bed by the shed before. But those insects were larger than these. Still, we will do our best not to upset them.

Cover your eyes if you are the least bit squeamish, for we have come upon the bane of the summer garden, Japanese beetles, on a rose flower of course, About Face. Arghhhh! At least we did not enlarge and crop for a closer look to protect the sensitive among you.

Never fear, gentle readers, for Jersey the Mayfield dairy cow is rushing to the rescue with her yellow jug.

Filled with soapy water, the Japanese beetles will be knocked into the milk jug and will not come out alive. While all forms of killing are to be avoided, these beetle scouts will not be returning to their group, a sign to them that there is a dire fate at the Faire Garden waiting for any more of their kind who dare to show up here. We try and welcome one and all for a balanced system set up with brilliance by nature. Some losses are bound to occur and some leaves and flowers will have some holes. That can be tolerated for the satisfying knowledge that we are not poisoning the environment with bug killing chemicals. The birds can safely eat the insects of their choice. We can safely eat the food grown in the garden as we gaze upon the myriad life that shares the garden with us. It is good.