Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wildlife - November 2014

I'm a few days late to joining into Tina's Wildlife Wednesday posting - that's what business travel will do to you, but I wanted to make sure to post my pictures from wildlife in my garden this past month.

Butterflies & Caterpillars
The highlight of the wildlife in my garden have been all the caterpillars and butterflies.  It gives me a sense of pride to know that I'm providing enough host and nectar plants to support these beautiful creatures in my garden.  I hope that I can continue to grow the variety and number of caterpillars and butterflies that I can host.

The monarchs have definitely been the stars of the garden this month.  I probably had around ten or so monarch caterpillars taking up residence on my milkweed.

After learning that only about 10% of monarch caterpillars make it to adulthood, I took matters into my own hands and reared three caterpillars to adulthood.

The bittersweet day came when I had to release my monarchs back into the wild.  I hope they will return year after year with their future generations.

So far, I haven't gone a day (except for one day when it rained) without seeing my monarchs in the garden.  Just yesterday I saw three of them hanging out on the milkweed.  I wonder if they are the same three that I raised?  It will be getting cold soon and they will be making their way to Mexico, so I'm savoring the moments that I get to see them flit around the garden.

Eastern Black Swallowtail
I also had a handful of swallowtails munching on my parsley this past month.  The caterpillars look like they are a different species than the ones that visited earlier this year.  These guys have more black than green on their bodies.  The mother swallowtail butterfly was too quick for me to take any snapshots, but here are a few pics of the different caterpillar instars that I was able to capture.

Second instar:

 Third instar:

Fourth instar:

I took in one of these guys to see if I could rear him to adulthood like I did for the monarchs.  I'll share my experience on that in a later post.

Painted Lady
I didn't see nearly as many painted ladies as I did monarchs or swallowtails, but she was still a welcomed visitor.

Queen Butterfly
I have a handful of Queens in the garden.  They can easily be confused with Monarchs, but a few ways I can tell that the butterfly is a Queen and not a Monarch is:

1.) Queens feast on the Gregg's Blue Mistflower while Monarchs prefer the milkweed
2.) When they open their hindwings, Queens don't have the black stripped veins like Monarchs
3.) Queens are a bit smaller in size than Monarchs

I haven't yet figured out what this little guy is.  Any thoughts?

I haven't snapped too many pics of birds this past month.  I've had fewer than normal at my feeders.  It is just the sparrows and doves that are generally hanging out at the feeders right now.  That probably means that the seeds and berries are plentiful right now, so the birds don't have to resort to my feeders.  While I'm happy they are finding other food sources, I look forward to their return to my feeders in a month or so when fresher food is more scarce.

Eastern Bluebird
I did see a few Easter Bluebirds, at least as far as I can tell.  Their color wasn't very vibrant, so it might have been several females that have more muted colors.  Or, maybe it was some other species that I just can't place.

While there have been a lot of beautiful and beneficial insects to my garden this past month, there have also been quite a few pests.

I found probably around 100 cutworms wreaking havoc on my cold weather vegetables - the nerve!

What did I do to get rid of them, you may ask?  I looked under every single leaf and picked them off one-by-one...then squashed them.  It was definitely effective, but not very efficient - so if you have any other organic solutions to preventing and killing cutworms in the future, I'm all-ears.

Here is the aftermath on my broccoli.  Hopefully I got rid of at least most of them so that the new leaf growth won't look completely munched through.

Squash Vine Borer
My arch nemesis is the squash vine borer.  I love squash.  It is delicious and (usually) easy to grow.  But the squash vine borers do not want me to have my squash.  No - they prefer to lay their eggs on my squash and have their larvae eat my squash vine from the inside out - bastards.  I've tried picking off all the eggs that I could find as well as cutting the larvae out of the vine, all with no luck.  The borer still wins and I end up with little to no squash.

Has anyone else beaten out the borer?  If so - please share your tricks!  I want to grow squash so badly, but if I continue to have these challenges with the borers, it is not worth the effort and space in my garden to try time and time again.

Red Wasps
My last group of unwelcome visitors for the month were red wasps.  They built their nest in the ceiling of my front entry-way porch - a nice cozy and cool spot for them out of the way of the elements.  Of course, I didn't want my welcomed human guests to get a nasty sting when they come to visit me, so the wasps had to go.  They got a decent spraying of a very non-organic pesticide which did the trick.  Bye-bye wasps.  If only the squash vine borer was as easy to get rid of.

Thanks for stopping by to check out the wildlife in my garden.  Be sure to visit My Gardener Says to see even more posts on garden wildlife.