Tag Archives: Gardening

Welcome to My Caterpillar Ranch

I found this Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar crawling in the middle of my lawn and gave it a ride to this fennel plant, where it attached itself with a sling to a fennel stalk.  Some time during the night it shrugged off its skin and became a chrysalis.

I found this Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar crawling in the middle of my lawn and gave it a ride to this fennel plant, where it attached itself with a sling to a fennel stalk. Some time during the night it shrugged off its skin and became a chrysalis.

I used to freak out when I saw a caterpillar on one of my plants. Now, I’m disappointed when I don’t see them. And now how do I feel when I see them? So happy!

Here is a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar feeding on a dill plant.  The day after I photographed this caterpillar on the dill, it disappeared. I thought it had either died or crawled away to pupate. Then, I found it (I think) crawling in the middle of my lawn, far from any twig to attach itself to.  I gave it a lift on a stick to one of my fennel plants in case it needed a little more food.   The next day I saw it had attached itself to a twig and the day after that it was a chrysalis.

Here is a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar feeding on a dill plant. The day after I photographed this caterpillar on the dill, it disappeared. I thought it had either died or crawled away to pupate. Then, I found it (I think it was the same one) crawling in the middle of my lawn, far from any twig to attach itself to. I gave it a lift on a stick to one of my fennel plants in case it needed a little more food. The next day I saw it had attached itself to a twig and the day after that it was a chrysalis.

Many of the plants in my garden are members of the carrot family, which are the food source of Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars. I’ve planted bronze fennel, parsley and dill, plus there’s wild Queen Anne’s Lace nearby. So far, the BST butterflies have only laid eggs on the fennel, so I was happily surprised when I found a large caterpillar on a dill plant, which is fifty feet from the rest of my butterfly garden.

The next day the caterpillar was gone, another casualty or was it pupating somewhere? Then I found a caterpillar struggling to crawl in the grass in the middle of my lawn. Where was he going? If he was from the dill plant, he’d already crawled more than 50 feet. I gave him a lift on a stick and stuck him on a fennel plant.  Then he pupated there.

I'm giving a Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar a ride on a stick.  I found him in the grass in my lawn far from anywhere to pupate.  Although BST caterpillars can travel a long way, I was afraid he'd be stepped on.

I’m giving a Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar a ride on a stick. I found him in the grass in my lawn far from anywhere to pupate. Although BST caterpillars can travel a long way, I was afraid he’d be stepped on.

About the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

What do Black Swallowtail Caterpillars eat?

I'm amazed that I saw this Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar crawling through my lawn.  If he was from my dill plant, he'd already traveled more than 50 feet.

I’m amazed that I saw this Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar crawling through my lawn. If he was from my dill plant, he’d already traveled more than 50 feet

This is one of the few times I've seen this orange gland on an annoyed Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar.  Usually, the caterpillars are fairly easy-going and don't mind me puttering around.  The black swallowtail caterpillar has an orange "forked gland", called the osmeterium. When in danger, the osmeterium, which looks like a snake's tongue, appears and releases a foul smell to repel predators. I didn't smell anything, so I'm lucky.

This is one of the few times I’ve seen this orange gland on an annoyed Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar. Usually, the caterpillars are fairly easy-going and don’t mind me puttering around. The black swallowtail caterpillar has an orange “forked gland”, called the osmeterium. When in danger, the osmeterium, which looks like a snake’s tongue, appears and releases a foul smell to repel predators. I didn’t smell anything, so I’m lucky.

Here's a Black Swallowtail Butterfly egg on the left.  To the right you can see a spider in its web.

Here’s a Black Swallowtail Butterfly egg on the left. To the right you can see a spider in its web. Butterflies have many predators at all stages in their development.

A Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar rests after a day of eating fennel. It's amazing that a caterpillar can survive and thrive on only one plant.  The orange blobs in the background are cosmos flowers, which the adult butterflies get nectar from.

A Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar rests after a day of eating fennel. It’s amazing that a caterpillar can survive and thrive on only one plant. The orange blobs in the background are cosmos flowers, which the adult butterflies get nectar from.

Here's one of the early instars (or stages) of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars. Below you can see a tiny spider in its web.

Here’s one of the early instars (or stages) of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars. Below you can see a tiny spider in its web.

I placed the Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar on this fennel plant after I found him in the middle of my yard.  He seemed exhausted from his travels.

I placed the Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar on this fennel plant after I found him in the middle of my yard. He seemed exhausted from his travels.

Below is a beautiful adult Black Swallowtail Butterfly, which I photographed on a coneflower in my garden. In addition to host plants for caterpillars, you also need many nectar flowering plants to attract and feed the adults. Bonus: Nectar flower plants are also beautiful!  From Monarch Watch: Tips on how to start a Butterfly Garden.

Click on any photo thumbnail below to see it full-size and in a slide show.

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Filed under Butterflies, Gardening, Insects, Nature, Photography

Sixth Annual Strawberry Photograph

These are the first strawberries to ripen in my garden this year (2013).  This is more than two weeks later than usual.

These are the first strawberries to ripen in my garden this year (2013). This is more than two weeks later than usual.


This year’s (2013) first strawberries to ripen were the latest since I planted them more than six years ago. This year, I picked my first strawberries on June 6th. Usually I start picking in mid-May and by the end of the first week of June, the strawberries are done. In the Kansas City area, we had a cold, wet winter, and it’s wet and cool now. In May, we got 8.70 inches of rain. The average is 5.41 inches.

The rain has really helped to produce lush foliage, even if all of the plants are late to develop. Our neighborhood butterfly garden is prospering. Now, all we need are butterflies!

Click here to see last year’s post, a photograph and recipe for a strawberry walnut and blue cheese salad with balsamic vinegar dressing. Fifth Annual Strawberry Photograph.

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Filed under Gardening, Photography

Bite Me!

I’ve been harvesting a small bowl of raspberries every day for more than a week. The first day, I counted four chigger bites. You’d think that would be a warning, but no! Day two, I picked up 100 chigger bites. I’ve finally wised up by wearing bug spray, changing my clothes and scrubbing my skin right after each picking session. A big price to pay, but the raspberries are delicious!

I don’t take my own advice.  Another year of berry picking, another year of chigger bites.  I don’t like to cover myself in chemicals every time I pick a few berries on my raspberry bushes and thought I could handle a few chigger bites as a result of going unprotected.  So much for that flawed plan.  Now, I’m covered in chigger bites. I’m about to go out of my mind with itching, even though I’m taking prednisone and smearing on cortisone cream. So I didn’t avoid chemicals, after all.

This is a chigger, enlarged about 1,500 times. Chiggers are red until they are engorged, when they turn yellow. They feed on our dissolved skin cells, not blood. (Photo — Dr. W. Calvin Webourn, the Ohio State Acarology Laboratory.)

My son claims he doesn’t get chigger bites, or at least he’s not allergic to their bites. The allergic reaction is what causes the welts.  I look as if I have measles! Can’t scientists find a way to make me less tasty or less allergic to chigger bites? Maybe I should have made that my life’s work.  My son is very allergic to poison ivy, though, while I seem to be immune.  Poison ivy has invaded my raspberry bushes, so at least I don’t have to worry about suffering from that scourge. (I’m stopping here to knock on wood.)

This is an earlier post I wrote about my struggle with chiggers. You’ll wonder how I could have forgotten this terrible ordeal and not protected myself.   All about Chiggers.   And being victimized by fire ants Ouch! That Hurts!

Poison ivy flourishes in the berry patch. You can see it in the lower center of the photo. I’ve sprayed it with herbicide. But the poison ivy just grows even more luxuriantly! To add insult to injury, it may even be hosting chiggers.

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Filed under Entomology, Gardening

Fifth Annual Strawberry Photograph

This is one of my favorite salads. I tossed together walnuts, blue cheese crumbles and some strawberries from my garden on several varieties of lettuce.

The size of the strawberries in my strawberry patch were smaller than usual this spring — probably because I didn’t water enough, and we didn’t have much rain. Remind me next April to water my strawberry patch! I did get enough strawberries to enjoy each morning with a bowl of cereal. I also like to toss strawberries in a salad, such as the one pictured above with blue cheese and walnuts. The dressing is a dash of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of vinegar, sprinkled with garlic salt.  I usually use balsamic vinegar, but I was out so I used rice wine vinegar.  Here’s a link to last’s year’s strawberry photo: Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt

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Filed under Food

Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt

Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt Postcard postcard

Late May and early June bring strawberries in the Kansas City area. After the long, cold, dreary miserable winter we had, I was thrilled when the first ripe strawberries appeared in my little patch every day. This year I’ve made some changes in my diet, avoiding refined sugar in everything, so I’m satisfying my sweet tooth with more fruit.  I’m very grateful for my abundant strawberry crop, even if I have to squat and stretch  every day for half an hour picking through the leaves to find these tiny red jewels. It’s kind of like yoga, except my back aches when I stand up.  (Ok, maybe it’s only 15 minutes a day, it just seems longer.)

Every spring, my maternal grandmother made strawberry rhubarb pies and sauces. She grew the plants in her huge garden, and my cousins and I would also find it among the grass and weeds in the old abandoned garden plot, where rhubarb and asparagus plants were all that remained. The rhubarb plants seemed eternal to me then, although I’ve never had any luck keeping any alive in my own gardens. When I saw some rhubarb for sale at a country market, I bought about ten stalks. Rhubarb isn’t palatable without sugar, though, so I’ve added some no-calorie sugar substitute, which is also a no-no, but I’m not giving that up fake sugar entirely. What is life without rhubarb?

I chopped the rhubarb, cooked it in about two cups water, cooled it and then added a cup of fresh strawberries. Then I added some fake sugar to taste. I added some of the sauce to nonfat Greek yogurt. Yummy!
Here’s what I’ve written in the past about my strawberry passion.  Third Annual Strawberry Photograph

Of course, I have to link to a downer article from the New York Times about how sugar is very, very, very bad for you.  Is Sugar Toxic?  Below is a related video that will cause you to weep.   I’ve been hearing this for years, but chose to ignore it, but now I’m trying to avoid sugar completely except in fruits and vegetables.   After watching this video, it sounds as if I need to cut back on fruit, too…

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Filed under Diet, Food, Health

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Life Cycle

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Life Cycle Postcard postcard

I’m currently suffering from wedding derangement syndrome (my daughter is getting married in less than a month), so to try to achieve some sanity I escape to my garden. (Where I discover lots of weeds, oh well…)

A couple of days ago, I saw black swallowtail butterflies fluttering like crazy around my bronze fennel plants.  I dashed to get my camera and then fluttered around madly myself to get some photos as the butterflies briefly paused to lay eggs.  I also found a chrysalis hanging by threads from a fennel stalk, the first chrysalis I’ve ever seen in my garden!  I put together some of the photographs in the above collage.  The eggs are in the upper left photo in the collage.  A butterfly is laying eggs in the upper right photo.

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Filed under Butterflies, Entomology, Gardening, Humor, Insects, Kansas, Life, Nature, Photography

Third Annual Strawberry Photograph

 
 
 
 
 

One of my favorite meals of all time -- Cereal with strawberries from my garden!

 

This is one of my favorite times of year.  Every day for two weeks, I pick strawberries from my strawberry patch, more than enough for a daily bowl of cereal.  This year we had so much rain that the strawberry ripening was delayed for several days. Oh, the waiting was agony!  But now the bliss!  The mint is moving in on the strawberry plants, so the little berries sometimes have a tang of mint. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a bowl of strawberries and cereal awaiting me.

Read more in my post, Second Annual Strawberry Photograph. From there, you can click on the link to the first year’s photograph.

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Filed under Agriculture, Food, Gardening, Humor, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Nature, Photography