Summer is in sweaty swing and the garden accompanies that dance with a blooming boogie-woogie. Wildlife rely on the warm season’s bounty of summer flowers and resulting seeds and fruits. In addition to contributing to plant procreation and augmenting biological diversity, these wild critters–winged, feathered, furred, and scaled–add beauty, complexity, and life to the garden. Welcome to my garden and to Wildlife Wednesday for July!
Due to some travel and other distractions, I missed posting during the annual celebration of pollinators (Pollinator Week, June 19-25), but my garden certainly enjoyed its share of pollination pow-wow this past month.
I’m fairly sure that this female is a Black-chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri. There are at least two females currently visiting and I’ve also spied a male Black-chinned.
Butterflies ramped-up their presence in May and June, though recently I’ve only seen the smaller butterflies in my garden. In the following photos, do you detect a theme?
Purple coneflowers are boss pollinator plants. No pollinator garden should be without a few of these North American native flowers. If you plant them, they will come.
Evidence of a butterfly life cycle is apparent on the foliage of Zexmenia, Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida. Nourishing larvae of the Bordered Patch butterfly, Chlosyne lacinia, Zexmenia–like most native plants–provides a food cart whammy: the leaves are sustenance for the host-specific butterfly caterpillars; the flowers provide nectar and pollen for a variety of pollinators. Additionally, Zexmenia also feeds finches, warblers, and sparrows once the flowers go to seed. Zexmenia is a powerhouse wildlife plant.
Butterflies are important pollinators and beautiful to behold. To attract butterflies and moths to your garden, you must provide host plants, which attract specific butterfly species, so that the larvae, or caterpillars, can eat, grow and morph to their adult winged stage that we all desire for our gardens. Tolerance for munched leaves is a must when seeking to promote a healthy and diverse garden environment. Caterpillars generally do little serious damage to foliage. Rather than engaging in chemical warfare at the first sign of foliage problems or gooey caterpillars wiggling on leaves, it’s best to observe who’s eating what in the garden, as most insects are beneficial and not harmful to landscape plants. If you (or your neighbors) spray insecticides (even those labeled organic or natural), beneficial insects will be collateral damage. Insecticides don’t discriminate: they kill all insects, not just those targeted. A live-and-let-live attitude is useful for a wildlife gardener and the minimal damage from desired insects is usually short-lived: the compromised leaves slough off and new foliage grows in place, ready for a new cycle of life.
I’ve seen this bee on occasion and it’s usually on Purple coneflowers; I assumed it was some sort of carpenter bee.
I use several local native bee resources for identification when I spot an unrecognized bee, but have never figured out just what kind of bee this industrious worker is–until recently. I uploaded this photo to BugGuide.net and a nice, insect-loving bug guide pegged this yellow-legged critter as a Two-spotted Lorn-horned Bee, Melissodes bimaculatus.
So now I know! The Two-spotted belongs in the grouping of bees (like bumbles and miners) which are ground nesters, but I don’t know if that holds for this one. I’m glad to see him–the BugGuide person said the bee was a him–I didn’t peek. Regardless of gender identification, this dude and his girlfriends are welcome to my coneflowers anytime.
My favorite native bee is the Horsefly-like Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis, and there are plenty of them in my garden this summer.
I provide wood for these cuties throughout my gardens for their drilling and nesting pleasure and am rewarded with pollination action galore, as well as delighting in the charm of their dreamy blue eyes and groovy racing stripes.
I missed most of the short bloom time of my orange passalong daylilies because of travel, but was fortunate to catch some of its loveliness, along with the gorgeous metallic native bees who also appreciate these flowers’ orange goodness.
This shiny pretty is probably a Sweat bee, Augochloropsis metallica. These bees are common in my garden; I’ve noticed that they prefer flowers in the red-to-orange color range. While the daylilies were blooming, and if I was out before their petals unfurled for the day, I’d see these bees buzzing around the blooms, seemingly impatient for their breakfast spots to open for business!
Another native bee species active this past month are these tiny critters, probably one of the carpenter bees, Ceratina sp.
These itty bitty pollinators enjoy a variety of blooms, native and non-native alike.
I don’t pay nearly enough attention to moths. I’m intimidated by the sheer numbers of species and the ever-so-slight variations which differentiate those many species. Plus, I usually don’t see them that much–they hang out at night, I’m a day varmint. But in summer, I sometimes notice a few as they rest along the outside walls of the house, near a door I use, or along the framework of my back patio. I spotted this one resting one afternoon:
I searched several databases (local to Texas) and concluded that this was likely a kind of ‘underwing’ moth, but as I perused photos, I couldn’t find an exact match. I uploaded this photo to Butterflies and Moths of North America, and received a confirmation ID of a Agrippina Underwing, Catocala agrippina. The moth’s obvious beauty aside, my photo is one of five verified sightings of this moth. Woot!
Another gorgeous moth who chose a window shutter as his resting spot was this Black Witch moth, Ascalapha odorata. The moth’s wing-span is about four inches and you can see that a bit of one fore-wing looks like it was nipped. This handsome moth is a male, as the females have pink bands along the fore and hind-wings, which this fella lacks.
Pollinators rule the summer garden, but you know I’m going to profile a few birds for Wildlife Wednesday, right?
Surveying his realm atop the street sign, this Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, often serenades me when I’m in the front garden.
As the sunflowers, Plateau goldeneye, Zexmenia, and Purple coneflowers go to seed, Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria, show up for the seed buffet.
Mama Eastern fox squirrel, Sciurus niger, regularly thieves commercial sunflower seeds that I set out for birds, though I suppose I set the seeds out for her too, since I don’t prevent her from eating. She’s quite an adept high-wire artist, balancing along the wire that the bird feeder hangs from and skittering, unerringly, to the roof of the house whenever I step outside.
If you don’t have wildlife in your garden, it’s easy to plant for them and provide a welcoming home: they’re entertaining, beautiful, and necessary for a well-rounded garden. If you do have wildlife, please post for July Wildlife Wednesday. Share photos and stories of your garden wildlife; promote and appreciate your region’s natural habitat and diversity. 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.
Happy wildlife gardening!