Truthfully, it’s been a pollinator Wow! for this past month.
Loads of butterflies and many kinds of bees enhanced the garden and though I didn’t get as many photos as I would have liked, I have a few favorites to share this month. It’s Wildlife Wednesday and time to appreciate the wild critters who make the garden what it is: a dynamic, living space providing refuge and sustenance for wild things.
Monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, visited daily as they travel to Mexico for the winter.
Most days there have been four or five fluttering from bloom to bloom.
Two cool fronts pushed through recently, ushering in pleasant fall temperatures and providing wind for the Monarchs’ wings as they head south. I’ve seen some Monarchs since, but only one or two in my gardens. I’m betting more will show up in the next few weeks and am glad that I grow some of their autumn favorites like Gregg’s mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, Blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum, and Frostweed, Verbesina virginica.
While this photo isn’t great,
…I felt compelled to include it because this lovely Monarch was a meal for my resident male Neon Skimmer just seconds after the photo was taken. I was attempting a better shot, when the Monarch flew into the path of the Skimmer. The two tumbled to the ground, out of my view and behind some plants, and neither arose into the air immediately. After a few seconds, I walked to where I thought they’d landed. The Skimmer suddenly zoomed upward, Monarch in hand, or rather, claws. An excellent predator, Mr. Skimmer had caught himself a substantial lunch! As he flew around my garden, holding tightly to the hapless Monarch whose wings continued flapping, I yelled at him to drop that Monarch!! My verbal gesticulation didn’t change his mind, nor reduce his grip on the Monarch, and the Skimmer eventually took his prey to a neighbor’s yard (probably because I was being obnoxious and noisy) and I didn’t see either one again that day. Skimmers (and all dragons and damsels) are predators, usually eating mosquitoes–I certainly wish he’d chosen a few of those biting beasts for his meal instead of the Monarch.
Though the demise of one Monarch is sad, it’s a hallmark of nature–eat, or be eaten. It is especially sorrowful because of survival pressures on Monarchs, including habitat destruction, pesticide and herbicide use in mid-western agricultural states (where wildflowers once dominated), and the changing climate, which impacts every region. These are problems caused by people, not dragonflies, and have contributed to the decimation of the remarkable Monarch butterfly. Home gardeners and those who create school or public gardens can help mitigate Monarch decline by utilizing good wildlife management gardening practices such as refraining from chemical use and planting for pollinators with native perennials and annuals.
Relatives of the Monarchs, the Queen butterflies, Danaus gilippus, are also in full fall flight in my gardens and enjoy many of the same Monarch nectar sources. Queens do not migrate and are common in Central Texas throughout the year.
I didn’t take a photo of the Neon Skimmer this past month because I was pissed at him (I’m kidding. Sort of…), but a Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis, posed nicely on an almost-spent bloom stalk of a Big red sage, Salvia penstemonoides; I couldn’t resist her allure.
I think this one is a female because of the brown abdomen coloring. She also sports big, beautiful, blue peepers common in dragonflies.
There was more murder and mayhem the garden with this lovely scene:
I was attempting a photo of one of the many fast flying tiny orange butterflies common this time of year (and was unsuccessful) when I spied this Green Lynx spider, Peucetia viridans, who had one of my darling and pollen-sprinkled honeybees in pieces in the middle of a Rock rose flower.
I suppose that if the end is near, it might as well be in the middle of a flower, doing work you love. Again, this is another predator-prey situation and while it’s painful to witness, it’s the way nature works. Spiders must eat, too.
It’s a bummer for the bee, though.
…and oodles of Clouded skippers, Lerema accius.
Gray Hairstreak butterflies, Strymon melinus, are more numerous this year than I’ve ever noticed before.
Some of the larger, more dramatic butterflies regularly gracing the garden include Giant Swallowtails, Papilio cresphontes,
…Tiger Swallowtails, Papilio glaucus,
…and Pipevine Swallowtails, Battus philenor.
Flowers are pretty enough, but much more beautiful when these decorative and vital-for plant-reproduction winged jewels are pollinating the blooms.
Southern pink moths, Pyrausta inornatalis are sprinkling their pink selves on a variety of flowers this year, but I love this convocation of four on a Rock rose bloom. The bloom is about an inch in diameter.
There were five moths all in a circle, but one flew off as I approached to snap the pic; the others maintained their positions.
I wonder what they were talking about? Or were they knitting? Or, perhaps working on dance moves?
It wasn’t all butterflies and moths in the garden this past month, though. Many individuals of my favorite native bee, the Horsefly-like Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis, are still active and stealing nectar.
Love those snazzy stripes,
…and dreamy blue eyes!
I’m thrilled that American Bumble Bees, Bombus pensylvanicus, are in the garden this fall. I couldn’t get a good shot, but at least one bumble is in the garden on a daily basis and working hard.
Yellow Bells, Tacoma stans, is a perennial shrub which has attracted multitudes of pollinators this month, including several native bee species, honeybees, a variety of smaller skippers and moths, all of the large swallowtail butterfly species, and hummingbirds. It’s a pollinator plant for the win!!
Other charming critters honoring my garden are the ubiquitous Green Anole lizards, Anolis carolinensis.
This one had just caught and gobbled down something–I wasn’t quick enough to see what the prey was or to configure my camera into action, but I suspect the snack was a small bee or moth. Mr. or Ms. Anole was smacking its pleasure after the treat and looking smug.
Most of the Anoles I see in the garden now are juveniles and darn cute for teenagers. They’re dormant once our chilly weather arrives and I miss them during the winter months.
This Leaf-footed bug, Leptoglossus phyllopus, owns this space atop a Red Yucca seed pod (which they like to munch), and is serving as a mentor to some offspring.
Perhaps not as pretty as some insects, these have a certain panache and I don’t mind seeing them occasionally in the garden. They can be destructive (they’re sucking insects and damage foliage), but they’ve never proved a problem for my plants.
Pretty–or not, did wildlife visit your garden this past month? Please post for October Wildlife Wednesday. Share the rare or mundane, funny or fascinating, beneficial or harmful critters you encounter. When you comment on my post, please remember to leave a link to your Wildlife Wednesday post so readers can enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.