Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tail Spin

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. 
It is the one that is most adaptable to change. 
~ Charles Darwin

Look closely and you can see that this Anole has lost part of its tail. The tail is designed to separate from the body when attacked by a predator allowing the Anole to escape while the predator eats the tail. Replacement tails grow back in a few months. The downside of this survival technique is that lizards that loose their tails have a more difficult time establishing or maintaining dominance over a territory and lizards are highly territorial.

Anoles are also capable of changing color based on their mood or surroundings. Often they will turn from green to brown when they are stressed. I'd say loosing one's tail is a good reason for being stressed!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Close Look at the Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Y'all know that one of my  passions is gardening for butterflies. But take a look at this...never before have we had so many caterpillars on one plant. 

Twenty black swallowtail caterpillars on this bronze fennel!

Look closely and you can see that they are at different instar stages.

They start out black with a white band in the first instar stage.

They shed their skin as they grow revealing the second instar stage; larger and more defined markings

In the third instar stage more green stripping is evident.

and finally looking like this as a the full grown caterpillar.

Fortunately, I have more fennel and parsley close by so there is plenty of food for all these hungry caterpillars. Black Swallowtails like anything in the carrot family (Apiaceae) which includes dill, fennel, parsley, carrot, Queen Anne's Lace (wild carrot) and celery as well as plants in the rue family (Rutaceae).

When they are ready they will wander off to find a good place to pupate.
We found this one in the pre-pupa stage on the side of a raised bed.

Hopefully a handful of these caterpillars will successfully become butterflies.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

W4W: Harmony

When I garden my aspiration is to find harmony with nature. Plants and structures are chosen with a specific purpose in mind. They provide food, water, shelter, or a place to raise young. This applies to the birds, pollinators, insects and gardener alike.

Chipmunk, Squirrel and Mourning Dove living in harmony

The purpose of Mother Nature's design is survival. Each species has their own unique characteristic(s) that helps facilitate its survival. Color is one such characteristic that plays an important role in the survival of plants and animals.


Plants and pollinators have evolved together and have a symbiotic relationship. The color of a flower exists not for our pleasure but for the benefit of the pollinators who aid in the fruit production and hence the continued survival of the plant and subsequently the survival of the pollinators. They work in harmony.

Bee and St. Johns Wort

Most insects don't see longer wave lengths of light (red) at all or as well as they, see shorter wavelengths of light (blue, violet, UV).

Bees for example are attracted to colors on the blue end of the spectrum (violets, blues, yellows and whites). Blooms that look yellow to us appear blue to bees and bees are particularly attracted to the color blue.

On the other hand, bees can't see the color red. To them it appears as a black void. That is not to say that you won't see insects pollinating flowers that they can't see. Other characteristics such as the shape of the blooms or smell can also attract pollinators to the blooms.

Bee on Beebalm

Butterflies are particularly attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple.

Painted Lady on Yarrow

Pipevine Swallowtail on Lantana

But, color attraction can vary by species. The Zebra Swallowtail for example is especially attracted to white blooms.

Zebra Swallowtail on Heuchera
Some plants have evolved with patterns of contrasting colors with stripes or spots which pollinators can see. These patterns act as guides that lead the pollinator toward the nectar.

Unlike insects, birds are highly attracted to the color red. You will often see hummingbirds pollinating flowers that are red, orange, pink or purple.

Moths, bats and other nighttime pollinators are attracted to blooms that reflect ultraviolet light (whites & yellows). Night blooming flowers such as tomato blooms, phlox, moonflower evening primrose and buddleia work well in attracting these pollinators. The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth is a diurnal pollinator of this group.

Birds see the same color spectrum we do and their coloring is used for a specific purpose. The males are usually the more colorful of the species because their primary purpose is to attract a mate. The females on the other hand are more subdued because they are trying to blend in with their surroundings to protect their eggs and later their young.

Some species use their coloring to blend with their surroundings thus protecting themselves from predators. This anole can blend in nicely with the hosta leaves but can change its coloring to blend in with the plant hook too.

Color is important to the plant and animal world and nature has found a way for them to work harmoniously together. With this post, I am joining Garden Walk Garden Talk for Word for Wednesday: Harmony with Color. Be sure to visit Donna's blog to see more interpretations.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mating Beauties

When you are out in the garden you never know what miracles you may witness. This week while I was  inspecting the vegetables two Hairstreak butterflies landed on the radishes and began their mating ritual. (Luckily, I happen to have my camera with me albeit the wrong lens)

That is not a reflection but a male clasping onto a female.

Butterflies mate facing opposite directions with their abdomens attached.

After butterflies mate the female will have around 100 eggs inside her and a pouch full of male spermatozoa. When she finds the right host plant she can self-fertilize the eggs. The eggs are fertilized only seconds before she lays the egg(s) on the leaf of the host plant thus determining the sex of the butterfly.

Some butterflies lay their eggs individually and spread them out on the host plant(s) while other butterflies lay their eggs in clusters. Each species has their unique method that works best for their survival. Of all the eggs the female lays only 2% successfully become adults.

Male butterflies will mate several times during their short lifetime while females typically mate just once. Hopefully these two will be successful.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

GBBD: May 2012

May has been an idyllic spring nights, warm days and a fair amount of rain. The conditions are perfect for the plants. Unfortunately, the gardener has had a terribly busy schedule and not spent enough time in the garden.

Hence a quick walk through the garden this afternoon and a late Garden Blogger's Bloom Day post.

St. John's Wort is a bee magnet. Their open, yellow blooms are very attractive to these pollinators.

The day lilies have begun their parade. I like the concept that a single bloom only blooms for one day. With the heat we endure it is nice to have fresh, gorgeous color each day. Unfortunately, I don't remember any of the names of my day lilies.

The irises I purchased two years ago were moved away from the house to a sunny spot near our newly installed mini pond. Apparently, this is what they needed because they are blooming for the first time. I didn't even remember what color the blooms were suppose to be. Turns out to be a lovely yellow.

The Zebra Swallowtail butterflies have been feasting on the white Lantana in the Blue and White garden.

The violas are still going strong. Soon it will be far too hot for them and they will fade and reseed for next year. I find a lot of volunteers all over my garden from previous years.

The Variegated Fritillary also discovered these lovely blooms.  My son found two teeny tiny caterpillars on the violas. This is a first in our garden!!! Hopefully in several weeks we will see the butterflies.

The white petunias bring some cheer to the gardenia garden. A lone red bloom in the sea of white really pops.

In the kitchen garden the raspberries are offering their first picking of the season.

We started last week with a handful a day and today we harvested a big bowl full. Enough to eat with a little yogurt for breakfast or over ice cream for an evening dessert.

The blueberries are getting close. Looks like we will have a bounty harvest next month.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting each month. Be sure to pop over to see what is blooming around the world.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012