9/06/2010

Butterflies on herbs


Some catching up from the comments on the previous post: First, no, I wouldn't hire an exterminator and spray my garden with pesticides to get rid of the cucumber beetles (I think this may have been a joke from the person who posted the comment). I'm an organic grower, I would never spray my garden with pesticide. It would kill everything including the beneficial insects I want, and the butterflies, below. And no, I can't use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the cucumber beetles, but thanks for the suggestion. I probably didn't convey the enormous numbers very well in the posting. There are hundreds of thousands of cucumber beetles in the garden, it would take an army of 50 people with vacuum cleaners and they probably wouldn't make a dent. But thank everyone for all of the support, sympathy and suggestions. I love them all!

Thanks to my good friend, Chuck Voigt, at the Univ. of Illinois, who reminded me the spotted cucumber beetle spends part of its life in the soil, as a corn rootworm! (I'm so glad he reads my blog!) That explains the big explosion of the pests just as the corn was maturing. So, there it is, to control the spotted cucumber beetle, "all you have to do" is control the corn rootworm that feeds on corn roots! If it was only that easy. Unfortunately there are no simple solutions to that, either.

We had rain, about 6 inches over a couple of days and things have greened up a bit (I had to mow the lawn for the first time in 6 weeks). The cut flower bed won't return, nor will the tomato patch, nor the red raspberries for a fall crop. But other things have come back to life and the butterflies are everywhere. Here, a Skipper butterfly stares at a cucumber beetle, both wanting the same loofah flower nectar. (The butterfly only eats the nectar, while the cucumber beetle will eat the entire flower).


Butterflies are notoriously hard to photograph. I have spent hundreds of hours in past years with my camera, chasing them around the garden. I take hundreds of photos and occasionally get one or two good pictures. Today I was rushed, so these are all just quick snapshots of what's in the garden. Below is a Common Buckeye butterfly, having lunch on the chive blossoms.


The Clouded Sulphur, below, went from the turk's cap hibiscus to the cypress vine. Sulphurs evidently like red flowers. Maybe they taste better.




The Checkered butterflies, below, seem to visit all the flowers, including marigolds. Zinnias are a big attractor for all sorts of butterfiles but the drought did in the zinnias about 2 weeks ago.
Also in the garden today were a few Monarchs, Black Swallowtails and several others I couldn't identify. Every time I tried to shoot one of these with my camera, it would quickly leave the area. Butterflies are shy things, they see any large movement as a threat. The reflection of light from my camera lens, my shadow, movement, all makes them nervous and they move to another part of the garden. The trick to photographing butterfiles, is to pick a spot near the areas they are feeding, and just wait. The Mexican butterfly weed is a big attractor to all sorts of butterflies, including the Monarchs, but all I managed to catch with the camera were these little butterflies, below, that I haven't identified.

If you would like to identify the butterflies in your garden, here's a great site for doing that. There are thousands of photos with details about the area of the country where you will find each one.

Here's a shot of what the garden looks like today. Still some green but overall, it is looking pretty tired and end-of-summerish.

3 comments:

Steven Anthony said...

amazing photos ;)

Patsy Bell Hobson said...

Seems like there have been more butterflies than ever this year. I too have chased butterfies in the garden. Most of my pics are blurry shots of where the butterfly used to be.

Jane Hogue said...

Hi Jim!
Great to catch up with you on facebook! Your butterfly pics are awesome! This has been a summer of butterflies in NW Iowa. More yellow sulfurs than I can ever remember, an abundance of both yellow and black swallowtails, and now the monarchs are passing through - a sure sign that fall is here. We know all about the corn rootworm/cucumber beetles. They have chewed through our garden for several years but not a very big population this season - yet. Perhaps too much rain drown them out.
Please do stop and see us next time you are anywhere close by - we would love to see you again. Jeff and Sharon stopped by in May and it made us miss the good old days of IHA - herb friends and lots of conference memories!
Hugs to you and Josh -
Jane