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.
Additional sightings of the Lepidoptera sort includes scads of Southern Broken-dash, Wallengrenia otho,
…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.
I really enjoyed this post, Tina. Such variety! Our yellow bells have just gone crazy, and the sunflowers and goldenrod finally are beginning to show themselves. I’ve seen more bumblebees in the past two weeks than perhaps I’ve ever seen — but then, I’ve been hanging out in places where bumbles would be happy — places covered with purple bindweed.
The reality of eat-or-be-eaten can be tough to watch, but I confess I became fascinated when I found one damselfly eating another. When it was over, there was nothing left but the eyes. I collected them and brought them home, and decided it was time for a macro lens after trying to photograph them. Sill, I have a photo that’s fodder for a future post — such an amazing world.
I love it!! A true wildlife fan, you saved the eyes for further study and photography! It is hard to watch the predator-prey drama, but it’s normal and how the wildlife dynamic is supposed to work.
So glad you’re seeing many bumbles. It’s been so many years since I’d seen even one, I feel like this year is the bumble bee jackpot year.
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You do have an amazing diversity of wildlife in your garden. As you say it is always sad when a butterfly is taken as a meal but even ugly insects need to live. My wordless Wednesday post is about wildlife in my garden.
It’s been a great year for the pollinators, Christina, for which I’m crediting the rainfall we’ve enjoyed–not complaining, though, as it’s been a good show.
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Tina que suerte tiene de ser el paso de las mariposas Monarca en su migración hacia México. Como descansan y comen en su jardín. Que flores más bellas tiene y que preciosas mariposas y abejas la visitan. Es Sr. Skimmer tenía hambre como la Araña verde. El lagarto Anolis carolinensis me encanta. Yo tengo una rana en el jardín, donde están las mangueras de riego y la tengo un pequeño charco de agua. Me gusta mucho verla. Saludos de Margarita.
It was a great month for wildlife, Margarita. I’ll bet your frog does enjoy the water.
Tina tenemos buena temperatura por el día. Las noches no son frescas, pero no frías. La rana cuando bajen más las temperaturas se enterrará y la veré con suerte el año que viene. El agua la tiene asegurada. Se me olvidó contarla que tengo una especie de abeja que se dedica a comer las rosas y las tengo muchos pétalos mordisqueados. Le gustan más las rosas amarillas que las rojas. Saludos de Margarita.
Beautiful and interesting pictures Tina, as always. The southern pink moths group is particularly cute 🙂
Sorry I won’t be joining this month, very busy with seeds and also having some ‘technical’ issues with the website.
Thanks! Those pink moths really are cute. Have fun with your seeds–I’m sure they’ll all grow up to be something beautiful.
This is wonderful. I am a bug-lover myself.
Thanks–bugs are boss!
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We never get quite as many shots as we’d like do we? For October I posted about nectar plants for monarchs. I’m impressed you got one on the frostweed, I haven’t seen one there yet and my frostweed bloom is fading.
That’s true and I just haven’t had much time recently, still, it’s fun so I don’t want to give it up. Interesting that your Monarchs don’t care for the frostweed–it’s a favorite every fall of the ones through my garden. They are beginning to go to seed.
Tina, you’ve got so many beautiful things visiting your garden I don’t know where to start. It is a shame that some of them are ending of as lunch for others, but it is equal fascinating seeing life happen. I love your butterfly pictures, but tops are those tiny pink moths. Cute to see them against pink. It certainly made me look harder!
Things are slowing down in my garden, but here is my link: http://wp.me/pM8Y1-39u. Sorry that I am late but I didn’t have time to finish yesterday.
Ha–it is a shame, but that’s part of the dynamism of a garden. Those pink moths are great, aren’t they? I’ve enjoyed seeing the abundance this year, though that particular view was fun–and a real find.
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Wonderful photos Tina. I especially love those gorgeous swallowtails and the southern pink moths are so cute! Here is my contribution for the month. https://mywildaustralia.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/wildlife-visitors-in-september/
Thanks, Sue. The butterfly show has been a great one these past couple of months. I’m very grateful.
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Loved this pollinator pow-wow! Our season is winding down, although there are still many butterflies and bees flitting around–probably until the first frost. It appears to be delayed a bit this year–yay! Your photos are fabulous, as always! 🙂
Thanks, Beth! Glad you’re still enjoying the warmth and the wildlife!
hello Tina, sorry to have missed wildlife Wednesday last month and late this month, I have just posted, here is my link,
it’s taken me longer than expected (don’t they always) and I can see you have a lovely long post, so I will be back this evening (UK time) to read your post with the care it deserves,
thanks as always for hosting this meme, Frances
No problem, Frances–always good to have you join in.
Just discovered you! Amazing diversity in your garden. So interesting to see which butterflies and bugs we share.
Thanks, Karen! It’s a labor of love to plant for wildlife, but a humbling joy and appreciation when they show up!
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Your wildlife posts are always wonderful, I love reading them. The photography is fantastic and what amazing butterflies and bugs you have. I love those pink moths.
Awe, thanks! The pink moths are a big hit!
you have so many butterflies and day flying moths in your garden Tina, I expect living where you do you would get quite a lot of migrating insects and birds, and life and death in the garden I imagine happens daily we just don’t see most of it, Frances
Yes, Frances, it’s been a boom year for the butterflies and moths–more than in the past few years. And you’re also correct that nature, in all its beauty and tragedy, play out fully.