Anoles Abound

They’re baaaaack! Lovers of the warm seasons in the southern United States, my resident Carolina anole, Anolis carolinensis, lizards have emerged from winter dormancy.

I rescued this guy from my boy cat, Nuri,IMGP6313.new

…who’s (thankfully) is not much of a hunter, instead preferring to carry anoles around in his mouth, yowling all the while.  It’s quite a trick caterwauling while transporting frightened lizards between his teeth and I’m not altogether sure how he creates those sounds while holding onto his little captives.  Nuri typically drops the not-really-doomed reptiles as soon as he sees that I’ve spotted him with his gift.  Of course, I have to compliment Nuri with a Good kitty! as I scoop up the panting prey to relocate to a safer, cat-free spot.

This smaller anole is brown-er on the trunk of a tree, IMGP6310.new

…but transforms to green before my eyes.

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He skittered off to an unknown hiding spot shortly afterward to complete his greening-up.

They would both like to remind gardeners to keep domestic cats indoors and to appreciate and foster a safe place for garden wildlife and on April 1st, no foolin’–get ready for Wildlife Wednesday.  Please post about wild happenings in your gardens to celebrate wildlife who need the gardens that we gardeners love.

Good wildlife gardening!!

Pressed “Resume”

In December, I took this photo,

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…of a newly pupated Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly, Papilio polyxenes.  I lamented that this insect hatched, developed through its instar stages as a voraciously eating caterpillar, and then pupated so late in the season. The winters here in Central Texas are mild, certainly compared to some, but would this lovely creature overwinter and emerge in spring?  All I could do was to wait, watch and hope.  Diapause is the mechanism that many in the animal kingdom use to survive changing environmental conditions, like those occurring in winter, including heavy rains and hard freezes.  Diapause includes hibernation and physiological slowing down (the swallowtail actually produces a kind of antifreeze against frigid temperatures) in order to survive until more favorable conditions arise, like warmer temperatures, longer daylight hours and increased food supplies.

Those conditions arrived earlier this week for my swallowtail.

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Beautiful.

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I kept a close eye on the chrysalis all winter, checking it once a week or so, as I managed to remember, and taking care not to damage it as leaves were raked and perennials pruned. The chrysalis remained a healthy iridescent green all winter.  At some point, I took the twig that the chrysalis attached to and placed it upright in the soil,

IMGP6400.new …so that I could find it easily, but other than that, I did nothing but await changes.  Last week the chrysalis darkened, which is a sign of impending butterfly emergence.  Or, death of the pupa. 

IMGP6396.new Thankfully, it was the former that happened–emergence of the adult butterfly.

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Butterflies dry their wings by alternately closing and opening them in those first hours.

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Look at that adorable face, looking maybe just a little nervous that it can’t hold onto the leaf of a Gulf Coast Penstemon, Penstemon tenuis.  I believe this is a female, because she has yellow dots above the blue band on the hind wings;  the males have more yellow topping the blue band.

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She rests, wings open, near her former food source and future offspring grazing grounds of Fennel (right top) and also her winter digs, to left side of her left wing.

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I’ve seen a Black Swallowtail all this week flying fast through the garden.  Is it the same one?

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I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter.  The blossoms are opening and pollinators awakening in response. Or is it the other way around?

The obvious ones, because of their beauty, IMGP6395.new

…get the most attention and photo/blog play.  But their oft ignored and unappreciated, but no less important plainer cousins such as flies, skipper butterflies, moths, and other insect species are the foundation for a healthy, abundant garden and overall diverse environment.

Good nectaring, pollinating, and breeding to all of them!

Bee Mama Missive: Scar Required Surgery, Recovers Nicely

Since the beginning of its existence as a honeybee hive, Scar has had, well, a scar across its front.

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The notable gash is a result of a table saw accident during construction.   The table saw operator was none other than Bee Daddy and he suffered injuries and a resulting scar, as well as some nerve damage on another finger.  Because Bee Daddy enjoys, um, let’s just say a quirky sense of humor, after he healed and we finally completed the hive construction, he opted to use the damaged piece in the final product.   The hive’s name, Scar, hails from that ignominious beginning.

As the hive was two years old before we hived our honeybees a year ago, the wood is now three years old and has been out in the elements for a bit of that time; it’s showing some wear. The hive is made of cedar, which weathers beautifully, but the wood piece in question, a practice piece of sorts, is pine and damage and warped.  It began to pull away from the box above it, potentially exposing the inside of Scar’s hive.  If not for the dutiful and exact work of the bees to seal any openings with propolis and my stuffing the on again/off again emerging crack with comb that we’ve harvested, our little Scar bees wouldn’t have been as cozy and safe in their hive during the last part of winter.

The time came that the comb-patch just wasn’t working anymore–Bee Daddy really needed to construct another piece to replace the disfigured and deformed front with a new, fresh piece of cedar–a honeybee hive facelift, if you will.  About two weeks ago, as part of our monthly hive check, we operated on Scar to replace the contorted front panel.

Suited up, smoker fired, bee surgical equipment at hand, we’re ready to go!

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Look at those bees and their early spring work.IMGP6025.new

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Pollen stores, capped honey,

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…and lots of brood.

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A closer look.

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Go Queen Scar!!

Unfortunately, sometimes as I pull the top-bars up and out for inspection,  the comb breaks.  Here you can see some newly exposed larvae (little white blobs) within a broken comb.IMGP6031.new

These larvae were large and probably capped, which is the last stage of development.  I don’t know if the nurse bees saved those particular larvae.  I always feel badly when I set the bees’ work back, but the Warre hives and top bars make the human part of the beekeeping equation tricky at times.  If the bees can’t re-cap the larvae, the hive consumes the protein and re-uses that material.  It sounds gross to us, but really it’s a remarkable use of their resources–they waste nothing and it’s all for the good of the hive.

As Spock would say:  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. 

Apologies for the geek-out.

Bee Daddy readied the drill and the deconstruction began. I thought the noise of the drill would annoy the girls, but they were well smoked and laid back.  The front came off with no problems.

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As I imagined this project and the steps required to quickly and efficiently remove one wall and replace with another, somehow in my head, I thought comb would be attached to the front wall.

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Of course it wasn’t.

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The bees build comb and attach to the top bar, occasionally to the right and left sides of the hive, and sometimes, to other comb.  But there was plenty of space between the first honeycomb and the front piece.  The new piece was placed, screws drilled in,

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…viola!

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Scar’s facelift is a success!  The operation only took a couple of minutes and we popped the top box and roof on and left Scar to calm itself and get back to the business of being honeybees.

I believe I mentioned the odd sense of humor my beekeeping partner has?  He decided that before attaching the new piece of wood to the hive, to recreate a scar in the wood.IMGP6044.new

After all, we don’t want to change the name, do we?

After that drama, we checked Mufasa too,IMGP6045.new

…and all looked good there as well.  Capped honey, capped and uncapped brood– spring is buzzing right along for both hives.  I feel a great sense of relief when we check our bees and all is as it should be. Mufasa’s bees clustered along the back and sides of the hive for a while, but within an hour or so, all returned to the hive, except for the foragers and the guard bees placed in front of the hive.

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The honeybees are off to a good start for their second spring.  I suspect that the next time we check Scar, we’ll add another box, as there was so much full comb in the first. And while Mufasa remains the smaller hive, the bees are producing brood, comb and honey.

As more plants enter their blooming time,

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…the bounty should continue for our honeybees. Last night, I could smell honey in the air.