Friday, December 31, 2010

“Crispy” My Last Monarch

I raised and released 81 Monarchs and 4 Queens. Most were released to the wild….17 were released at the Butterfly Encounter at Lucas Nursery….but 1 remained with me until she died today.

She emerged a few weeks ago…just before the 17 were taken to the Encounter. She had fallen from the empty Chrysalis before her wings were opened and dried. By the time I found her it was too late for them to be normal. The fluid from her body could not be pumped into them. They remained folded and were of no use to her.024cs

I took this a couple of days ago….031cs

My husband made a small cage…it would hold one plant and I could move it in and out at night.

I was feeding 20% honey and water. Every now and then she would be climbing around the cage as though on a mission….she had been in the main butterfly house with the 17 others for a couple of days and I wondered if she was trying to get to the milkweed plant so I put it in with her. She immediately settled down. I had two and alternated them every few days. Then I noticed a couple of eggs on one. It had been too cold for the Monarchs to be flying around …I started watching her….sure enough….each time she got “frantic” ….she would end up laying an egg.


Look closely at the photo…you can see two eggs. As soon as she was done laying…she would settle right down.


It was such a beautiful day today….I decided to put the her outside. There was a Monarch flying around.  I was hoping it was a male. I don’t know if Butterflies lay unfertilized eggs like birds or chickens will even though there is no male and they haven't mated.  I wasn’t able to find any information on it. So far, none have hatched. She struggled so hard to survive…I hope the eggs are good.

At least she passed away outside in the sunshine….where a Butterfly should be.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Painted Buntings…..they’re back!

Last year I saw them in early Nov. I did have one stop for a day or so but then nothing until a week ago.

These are the first pictures I was able to get. This is my new feeder in the backyard. I put a perch on it to get them used to it and to give the Doves a place to sit.021cs

A Greenie joined it for a few minutes. This little bird started using the feeder first. This is either a female or a juvenile.081cs

This feeder is in the front yard where they are used to feeding. I am trying to attract them to the backyard…I spend most of my time there.

2 Buntings 2

2 Buntings 4cs

The most I have seen together is 2 males and 5 greenies. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Butterflies and Bees

It is a beautiful day!! The sun is warm and there is just a light breeze. Sleeveless shirts and shorts weather.

Yesterday it was 25* before sunrise. I decided to take the Monarchs that had emerged the last few days (17) to Lucas Nursery and release them in their “Butterfly Encounter”. It is really a nice place. Lots of plants for nectar and heat.

They had all been feeding on the plants I had in my “little” butterfly house… a solution of honey and water.


I was surprised to see each start eating as soon as I set them on the paper towel. The honey/water is in the blue lid and the paper towel gives them something to sit on and not get soaked. As soon as they finished they started hanging from the side.


I was concerned about releasing them at home since we’d had 2 freezes and I wasn’t sure how many blossoms would be left in the area. But there were many species of plants that hadn’t been bothered by the cold. Many aren’t the first choice of the butterflies but they would feed on them if nothing else was available. On the ride home I took note of all the flowers left for them.

Today a Viceroy came in. I believe it is the one in my last post. It’s wings were missing pieces the same as the other one.002cs

It is so good to see it made it through the 2 really cold nights. I know….for most of you 25* wouldn’t even mean another log on the fire…but here it’s darn right cold!

It was willing to pose even though it’s not perfect.


A bit later another Viceroy came in and it’s wings were in perfect shape. Naturally that one wouldn’t sit long enough for a picture.

This little Yellow Sulphur stopped for something to eat.008cs

After I saw the Viceroys and a couple of Monarchs flying around, I released the 5 that had emerged yesterday afternoon. I have 2 chrysalis left. Then that will be it for awhile.

I am still feeding the wild bees. I had a couple quarts of sugar water already prepared. I decided not to feed on or in the hive so made this suspended basket to put the jar in. They have already finished this one….021

There are so many bees trying to get the last of the syrup that they’ve tipped it over. I lifted this one out and put another in it’s place.026cs

I removed the lid and sat the empty jar on it’s side for them to clean out. Good to the last drop! They don’t leave anything….inside or out. There are a few small yellow jackets in the crowd.024cs

I use folded pieces of paper towel on the birdbath for the bees to get water from. It is easier for them and I never find any drowned bees in the bath.028cs

I really enjoy watching these little guys….can’t wait to get a hive started….sure hope they remember there is an empty one here for them.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Monarch Butterfly update

I had 67 Chrysalis a few days ago. 7 Monarchs emerged on the 8th and 5 emerged on the 9th. Debbie had 3 that had emerged and we decided to take them to Lucas Nursery where they have a “Butterfly Encounter”. I would have preferred to release in the yard, but freezing temperatures were expected.

Yesterday 14 emerged and I released them in the backyard. I have a couple of Monarchs, at least one Viceroy …(it’s a bit ragged but the color is beautiful) that show up whenever the sun shines.043cs

There are several small Skippers, Zebra Longwings and at least one Gulf Frittlary that join them.060cs

Jim built this for me so I could wheel the plants into the shed at night. I had milkweed seedlings in small pots and after the freeze I added a few flowering plants to the collection.029cs I also have a wheel barrow full.

002csThere are at least 12 in large pots that I bring into the screen room when it’s going to be in the 30’s. I definitely get my exercise carrying things in and out. Maybe next year we’ll build a small greenhouse that can be opened for the bees and butterflies.003cs The tall structure is a trellis built over a tub with honeysuckle. I enclosed it with plastic on 3 sides and top…put several of the flowering plants on shelves in it and that’s where I put the newly released Monarchs. They can have something to eat…if they want…and leave whenever they are ready. It gives them a nice warm spot out of the wind to make up their minds.

When the resident Monarch flew in, it immediately took up with one of the released one.016cs

This male was enjoying the sun on a Buddleia plant and the Gulf Fritillary was determined to have the same spot. He’s the big blur.


The Monarch refused to leave and the Fritillary finally decided to settle for a spot nearby. Look how fast his wings go.

I released 2 more this afternoon and by 4 pm there were 9 more. It is supposed to rain tomorrow…. but if it’s not too cold I will release them. Otherwise I will have to teach them how to eat. This is the first one that emerged a few days ago. He had just had a meal of honey and water.


Here it is on a Marigold. Isn’t it beautiful?


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tersa Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

My friend, Debbie, found this caterpillar and brought it for me to see. It looks like it’s looking at me…but those are just spots on its back to fool predators.008cs

It’s head is tucked in so you can’t see it.


Once it started moving it took on a completely different look. Now it looks like it has a long nose…like an anteater or something.



In August ‘10, I posted 2 videos of a Hummingbird Moth. You can see by their actions why many of us mistake them for Hummingbirds when we first see them.

Pentas are one of their larval plants….I have a few and will be checking them for catepillars this year… that I know what to look for.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bee update 12.4.10

I received my new hood and  smoker for working with the hive. Jim took the pictures after I “suited” up to check it out.

Once the bees settled down a little I removed the empty super where I had been feeding and checked to see if the bees were doing anything. I was very disappointed to see there hadn’t been any work on the frames. No wax build up or honey storage. Nothing but a small clump of bees near the jar of sugar water.


I guess most of the bees that have been coming to eat are  “robber bees” from another hive, or there may be a wild hive nearby.  In my research I learned that “robber bees’ will sometimes kill the queen, and the swarm was too small to guard it and keep them out.

I practiced working with the smoker for a few minutes.



I am going to continue feeding the few that are left inside….I doubt they will make it. And of course,  the “robbers”. Maybe when their hive gets too large they will remember where this one is.

I will clean  it out when they are gone and get it ready for spring. Perhaps a swarm will find it and decide to move in.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Scarlet Bodied Wasp Moth

Last month Jim called me to bring the camera again….there was this beautiful Wasp like bug on one of the plants behind the tractor barn. It is feeding on the Brazillian Pepper Bush. One of the worst..invasive plants in Florida.  The Honey Bees love the blossoms and the Robins love the berries.  Once they have finished…we cut down all we can…But they grow right back.007cs

It has a beautiful red and blue body.  The photo doesn’t do it justice. The tail end of it is a very vivid blue. And the 3 triangles on it’s back are blue. ….and you can see right thru the wings.


When I realized the pictures hadn’t come out as nicely as I wanted….I went back but it was gone and I haven’t seen it since.

In my research, I found the larval plant is Climbing Hempvine.  I believe this is it.007csIt’s in a heavily brushed area and too high off the ground for me to check for caterpillars. My camera was zoomed out as far as it would go….and then I had to crop the photo to get this close.  Looks like an insect is feeding on it.

Perhaps I’ll be seeing the Scarlet Bodied Wasp Moth again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Bees 11.23.10

Our friends, Debbie & George gave us a call yesterday afternoon and asked if we were interested in a small swarm of Honey Bees that was in their tangerine tree.


It’s not much bigger than a large softball.


The Queen is in the middle of the mass somewhere. They protect her like this until they find a new home.


But what is really unusual is…..they do not sting when swarming. Hard to believe…but it is true. 

Debbie picked me up with her small pickup. We had the hive in the back and moved as close to the swarm as possible. She then gave me a small plastic bin….and a soft bristled brush. I swept the bees into the bin.


then gently dumped them into the hive. They stayed in a big clump and I brushed the stragglers in with them. Notice that I not wearing any beekeeping gear….no gloves or hood.


It was an hour or more before sundown and there would be “scouts” returning to the tree limb so Debbie made a pot of coffee and she, Jim and I relaxed and waited for them to come back. Every 15 minutes or so..we would check the limb….060cs

There would be several there and we’d sweep them into a bag and carry them to the hive.

Once it started to get dark, they all went down into the hive. Debbie had put some honey into the bottom for them to eat.

It’s hard to believe…but we were picking up stragglers that were in the bed of the truck, with our bare hands and putting them gently into the hive. No one got stung….not even once.

The dark section is the “super”…it will be filled with frames like the main hive and will be where they store the honey. The Queen  will remain in the lower portion and lay eggs. For now …it provides a place to put the sugar/water mixture that we will be feeding them.

Debbie drove me home . I rode in the back to steady the hive. When we got home,  Jim and I put the  hive on it’s stand in the back yard…then I prepared a 50/50 mixture of sugar and water in a jar with 3 holes in the top…..they had settled down by the time it was cool. We removed the top….set the inverted jar on a couple of flat sticks so the bees could get under it ….and left them alone the rest of the night.

We’d been in the house about 15 minutes when Jim said “I have a bee on me”….sure enough, a lonely little honey bee was walking down his arm and into his hand. He handed it to me and I carried it “home”.

It was so much fun working with “friendly” bees. It was a chance of a lifetime. The swarm was small enough for us to handle…….low enough in the tree for me to reach……and I may never get to work with a “friendly swarm” again. It was AWSOME!!!     Thanks Debbie & George.

We will have to continue to feed them the sugar/water mixture since they have no h0ney stored for the winter. We do have flowers and they will be  able to work those.  

There is still some work to do….I need to grease the legs of the stand so ants and other insects cant get to the hive. Jim will eventually make something so we can sit the legs in oil for a more permanent fix. Then we have to be on the watch for wax moths…they can kill a hive.

I am so excited….the hive is situated so I can watch them in the early morning sunshine.  They were still here this morning…I hope they like their new home.

I will have all the proper equipment on the next time I work with them. If they stay…..they will have a hive to defend…….and I will be an intruder.

I still can’t believe we had so much fun with BEES!!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

I’ve had a couple of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies in the yard the last few days.

I didn’t realize how much of this butterflies wings was missing until I saw the photos.066cs

What really caught my eye was it was feeding on my Bougainvillea. The color is striking with the butterflies colors. Normally I don’t see many butterflies other than skippers on it.


This one’s wings were in much better condition.

11.3.10 008cs

Their wing span is about 5”…they are a very big butterfly.  I love their bodies…they look so soft and are beautifully marked.11.3.10 010cs

There must be larval trees in the area……My neighbor, Patti, had an extra Magnolia, a small one, and I’ve planted that in the butterfly area. So ….maybe one day I will find a few Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars on it, that is one of their larval plants.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hag Moth Larvae / Monkey Slug

At least, I think that is what this is. I’ve been through all the caterpillar pictures on and this is the closest I can come to it.008cs

It was  on a cherry bush that my sister, JoAnne, gave me. I’m not sure what kind  of cherry it is.


It’s quite small…perhaps 1/2 to 3/4 in long.

I clipped the bush and put it in a container…..

I found this listed under “stinging caterpillars”….don’t think I will pet it to find out.013cs

The feet are like little suctions. Watch it climb up the inside of a jar.

After making the video, I put it back on the bush. 

I am amazed at all the different insects, animals and birds I see in my backyard, here in the Hammock. We have 5 acres but only about 1/4 is cleared and that is where most of my pictures have been taken. Guess I need to get out the hiking boots and the machete and see what I can find out there.

I think a digital camera would be a wonderful gift for a kid.  Encourage them to take pictures of every insect or critter  or unusual or pretty flower and then spend some time on the computer looking them up and learning about them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Great Golden Digger Wasp

My Tropical Milkweed plants are not just popular with the butterflies.  The Great Golden Digger Wasp has been busy most of the afternoon. I’ve seen two of them working hard on the flowers.001cs


The adults drink nectar.


They are a beneficial insect for the garden. They don’t have hives like other wasps…they paralyze an insect and put it in a burrow..then lay an egg in it. It becomes food for the young.

They didn’t seem to mind me taking pictures of them…they weren't aggressive towards me…

They are really quite pretty.