I suppose there aren’t many bad pollinators, but I’ve certainly relished the good work of pollinators in my garden this autumn and, in fact, for the whole of this past growing season. Today is the first Wednesday of the month and time to appreciate those who require and benefit from our efforts as gardeners.
Gardeners garden. It’s what we do. Neophyte gardeners are first attracted to the multitudes of choices with blooms-n-foliage, as well as the endless arrangements therein as we delve into the joys of augmenting personal outdoor space. But sooner or later, we notice those who “visit” our gardens: pollinators, birds, mammals, reptiles. With greater observation and understanding, the notion of garden beauty morphs into more than an emphasis on the human-focused composition of plants to a recognition of the purpose of those plants, as well as the gardener’s role in promoting a healthy, diverse environment. For many gardeners, the drive to attract wildlife to our particular slice of the Earth spurs deeper learning about plants and the processes of wildlife gardening.
When I was traveling in October, a neighbor sent me a Facebook message with a photo attached, wondering what “this” butterfly was. I didn’t have time during my travels to research, but did take a look at on-line butterfly sources once I returned home. In my own garden, I observed this Tailed Orange, Pyrisitia proterpia, working blooms one afternoon.
I sent my Tailed Orange link to the neighbor and she delightedly affirmed that “my” Tailed Orange was “her” butterfly, too. Score! While probably not the same individual butterfly, clearly this was a species hanging around the neighborhood.
Tailed Orange butterflies are fast flyers, the adults nectaring on many flowers as they move rapidly from one to another. Tailed Orange butterflies prefer plants in the pea (Fabaceae) family as their hosts.
Another cheery autumn yellow butterfly common in Texas most years is the Cloudless Sulphur, Phoebis sennae.
Also utilizing host plants in the Fabaceae family, this butterfly graces my garden annually from the end of summer, well into early winter. I grow the native Lindheimer’s senna, Senna lindheimeriana,
…which is a likely plant (check out the species name of the insect!) in which these butterflies lay their eggs. In the future, I’ll need to keep a keener eye out for the larvae on the leaves and snatch a photo of the juveniles of this insect.
Queens, Danaus gilippus, which are year-round residents here,
The two black dots on the hind wings indicate that this butterfly is a male.
…and a few straggler migrating Monarchs, Danaus plexippus,
The lack of black dots on the hind wings indicates that this Monarch is a female.
…continued their regular visits, though I haven’t seen a Monarch since mid-November.
This little cutey, a Spotted Beet Webworm Moth, Hymenia perspectalis, rested on a Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea,
…while this Clouded Skipper, Lerema accius, contemplated a shuttered Rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala bloom.
Another skipper, a Tropical Checkered Skipper, Pyrgus oileus, was loathed to pose for a photograph in the bright Texas sun, but eventually, relented.
It enjoyed the bounty of a Rock rose flower, which is a member of the family (Malvaceae) that this butterfly requires as its host. The checkerboard pattern on the upper wings,
…and its “hairy” body were the keys for identifying this butterfly.
I often see Grey Hairstreaks in the garden but this past month I enjoyed a Mallow Scrub Hairstreak, Strymon istapa, as it visited several flowers in the aster or Asteraceae family.
Hairstreaks are such pretty butterflies, with subtle coloring and unique markings.
A Variegated Fritillary, Euptoieta claudia,
…a Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae,
…an American Painted Lady, Vanessa virginiensis,
…and a Southern Dogface, Zerene cesonia,
…all are typical butterflies which contributed to the mass of butterfly/moth activity gracing my November garden.
It wasn’t just about butterflies and moths this month, though. There were beetles–lots of beetles–in the garden this past month.
They employ some sipping of the nectar, but also cause a little damage leaves and petals during their feedings. Does that make them bad pollinators? Nah, I never met a pollinator that I didn’t love. Or, at least tolerate.
Additionally, native bees were out in force in the last weeks of full-bloom garden action. Throughout summer, I’d catch a glimpse of a stunning metallic green bee, but I was never fast or organized enough to document its activity–until this month!
Bee and beetle, working side-by-side.
I’m fairly sure that this gorgeous bee is a Green metallic bee, Agapostemon texanus.
Though rare, this species of wild bee are seen in this part of Texas. I was pleased to watch her work the flowers of a Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata.
Also enjoying fall-blooming Goldeneye, were two kinds of Sweat bees:
This sweat bee shares flower space with the Mallow Shrub Hairstreak.
…and Halictus tripartitus.
A Small carpenter bee, Ceratina sp., nectared and gathered pollen from a Rock rose.
Identifying native bees is tricky because there’s just not that much research on these important pollinators. To help me figure out what I’m seeing in my garden, I use a site hosted by an entomologist at The University of Texas, Professor Shalene Jha, who studies Texas native bees. The site focuses on native ecosystems and native bee sightings in wildlife preserves. The information on the native bees is local and relevant to Texas, the photos of these bees, remarkable.
Not a pollinator, but a regular contributor to Wildlife Wednesdays, this juvenile Anole lizard is most likely making his/her last appearance for a while.
I might spot one from time-to-time over the course of the next few months, but they’ll be nicely tucked in for our (usually) mild winter.
Did wildlife visit your garden this past month? Please post for December 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.