Batty About Birds, Bees and Butterflies

Soon after it was hung, hummingbirds appeared at this feeder at the Grand Lake of the Cherokee, Oklahoma, in mid-September.

Several ruby-throated hummingbirds appeared at this feeder almost as soon as it was hung at a waterfront home at the Grand Lake of the Cherokees, Oklahoma, in mid-September. Hummingbirds are territorial so they all fought to make it their personal feeding station.

 

In 2007, there weren't many bees in my garden, but this year they've swarmed to my basil plants. I have both honey bees and carpenter bees.

In 2007, there weren't many bees in my garden. This year, a "swarm" of honey bees appeared, along with carpenter bees, in my basil plants.

My enthusiasm for bees sky-rocketed last year when I discovered that I wasn’t getting any squash, because I had no bees to pollinate them.  I had to do the job myself with an artist’s paintbrush.  My harvest? Ten squash.  I’m a terrible match-maker! It’s easier to attract bees to do the work.  They know what they’re doing. They’re like match.com for fruits and vegetables. 

Pollinators are essential to our food supply, and not just in our backyards.  Eighty percent of the world’s food crops depend on some kind of pollinator.

I already miss the ruby-throated hummingbirds and butterflies that passed through our yard or made it their home this summer and early fall.   The bees are still busy in the basil flowers, so I’m waiting to cut the plants for pesto.  I’m also lazy. 

My husband took down the hummingbird feeder a few days ago after not seeing “our” ruby-throated hummingbird for more than a week.  The tiny bird has left Kansas City and is on his way to southern Mexico for the winter.  Adios!  I loved watching him come to the feeder at the window.  Occasionally, a visiting hummingbird would stop at the feeder, and there would be a “dog fight” in the air as the resident bird dive bombed and chased the intruder.

I didn’t see as many butterflies this year as last.  We had a colder, wetter spring, which reduced their numbers.  Hopefully, their numbers will bounce back after our lush, wet summer resplendent with flowering plants. 

A male carpenter bee on a basil flower.

A male carpenter bee on a basil flower.

What I really want to show you are my photographs, including those below.  Don’t miss them!  Be sure to click on them to get a better look. For my other posts and photographs on ruby-throated hummingbirds, butterflies, caterpillars and bees, use my search box.

Here’s a list of useful websites:

A Monarch butterfly fid nectar in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.

A Monarch butterfly finds nectar in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.

A Zebra butterfly flutters in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.  I saw a Zebra flt through my yard this year. It flashes by so quickly I almost thought it was a hallucination -- or at least wishing thinking.

A Zebra butterfly flutters in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. I saw a Zebra flt through my yard this year. It flashed by so quickly I almost thought it was an hallucination -- or wishing thinking.

There are 3,500 species of skipper butterflies, and they seem to be be everywhere.  They're not very flashier, however, so you might not even notice them.  This mating pair of skippers is making a spectacle of themselves, however, so you have to take a look.  This took place in front of the Monarch Watch building at the University of Kansas.

There are 3,500 species of skipper butterflies, and they seem to be be everywhere. They aren't very flashy, though, so you might not notice them. However, these mating skippers are making a spectacle of themselves in front of the Monarch Watch building at the University of Kansas. You can't not look!

I was so excited when this female hummingbird stopped by our backyardfor a few days to visit the cardinal flowers I planted to attract her.

I was so excited when this female ruby-throated hummingbird stopped by our backyard for a few days to visit the cardinal flowers I planted to attract her. She and butterflies pollinated these flowers, which are already forming seeds that I can plant next year to continue the cycle.

A Cloudless Sulphur butterfly is just a blur on an aster as it flits from flower to flower in the native prairie on the Sprint World Headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas.  Sixty percent of Sprint's 240-acre campus is devoted to green space, including 60 acres of prairie grass and wildflowers and seven acres of ponds and wetlands.  It's a wildlife paradise.

A Cloudless Sulphur butterfly is just a blur on an aster as it flits from flower to flower in the native prairie on the Sprint World Headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas. Sixty percent of Sprint's 240-acre campus is devoted to green space, including 60 acres of prairie grass and wildflowers and seven acres of ponds and wetlands. It's a wildlife paradise.

Here's why this beautiful flowering shrub is called Butterfly Bush.  These butterflies are int he butterfly garden at Powell Gardens in Lone Jack, Missouri, east of Kansas City.

Here's why this beautiful flowering shrub is called "Butterfly Bush." These butterflies are in the butterfly garden at Powell Gardens in Lone Jack, Missouri, east of Kansas City.

Text and photographs by Catherine Sherman, all rights reserved, October 2008.

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8 Comments

Filed under Biology, Bird-watching, Conservation, Education, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Humor, Insects, Kansas, Life, Natural History, Nature, Photography, Science

8 responses to “Batty About Birds, Bees and Butterflies

  1. Catherine: These are magnificent pictures!! How you took a clear photo of a hummingbird just baffles me. What you have here can only be imagined in my neck of the woods. I don’t think I’ve come across a real hummingbird here. I look forward to seeing your fall foliage. Also, just added your blog to my Blogroll.

    Arti, I’m using your method of responding to comments! My husband said that when he stayed at a fishing camp in northern Minnesota, there were hummingbird feeders at every cabin and hummingbirds coming to each one. Is that anywhere near you? We didn’t even know we had hummingbirds in the neighborhood (Kansas City) until we hung a feeder.

    It took me a while to get the knack of photographing hummingbirds. I had to focus on the feeder. Now they’re gone until next year.

    Thanks for adding me to your blogroll. I’m working on fall foliage photographs now.

  2. elissestuart

    Catherine:
    I love your hummingbird posts and your photos. I especially love the one of the humming bird feeding by the Cardinal flowers. I loved the comment – “They’re like match.com for flowers and vegetables.”

    You never realize how important something so commons as insects are until they’re not there when you need them. Even though I studied botany, I still took pollinating insects for granted. Now when I see bees, I think I’m rich and successful! Bees and other pollinators truly are matchmakers.

    I’m glad you liked my photos. I’ll look at them in the winter to warm myself up.

  3. The sad thing comes when the weather changes and migrations patterns and cold weather make you see them less and less until they’re gone. But the bright side is: You’ll have next year to look forward to and start all over again with a new group.

    If you had a green-house or some kind of warm enclosure, you could keep them year-round.

    BTW, the first photo with the honey-water in the feeder is so appealing.

    Yes, I’m already planning for next year. I’m going to have the reputation of the nutty bird, bee and butterfly girl. I’m glad you liked the top hummingbird photo. It was one of my favorites, too.

  4. There are more bees this year and I didn’t cut the flowers from my hostas which made the bees linger. Last week, I finally glimpsed the last hummingbird but alas! the camera was in the basement. You are the “cowboy” photographer with your quick flick!

    I don’t get much gardening done because I’m always running back into the house for my camera. Usually, my tiny subject has moved on by the time I return. The bees do hang around, though. They’re always ready for their close-ups.

  5. Carolina Maine

    Your pictures are so beautiful. It makes me wish I had a house and a garden.

    Carolina, Thanks. Have a great time in Vermont. I hope it’s peak leaf peeping time there and that it’s very inspirational for poetry-writing.

  6. What a beautifully stunning post to come back to. The photos are extraordinary and again give me the feeling of being personally shown around your neighbourhood. I was also interested to hear your remark to Arti about not knowing hummingbirds were around Kansas City until you fixed up a feeder!

    We also have buddleia – the butterfly bush – which again attracts many butterflies, though very, very different from yours; ours would be mainly red admirals, peacocks and painted ladies.

    A joy to look at and read – thanks Cathy!

    ps loved catching up on your other posts too…

    Paula, Thanks! Your photographs of the moths are what inspired me to start posting and shooting more photos of butterflies and other flying creatures, as well as any other animals that will hold still. Your posts make me feel right at home in your neighborhood, although the fact that I dropped the “u” would give away that I’m new to the neighbourhood……

    I look forward to seeing your photographs from Scotland.

  7. alwaysjan

    Your photos are stunning (but you’ve heard me tell you that many times over). Those hummingbirds that you think are headed for Mexico are really headed MY way. We have hummingbirds year-round in Southern California (but I don’t have the patience to photograph them).

    Last year for Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), there was a beautiful ofrenda for the bees at The Folk Tree. It really made me realize how we take so many things for granted – until they’re gone.

    Thanks for the praise. I’m all puffed up. And yeah, yeah, rub it in that you Californians are hummingbird top-heavy year-round with many species. I’d love to see some photos of them and also the parrots in your backyard, too.

    Our ruby-throated hummingbirds are unique to the eastern half of the country and never venture to California…..They make a very impressive long migration to Mexico to escape us every winter!

  8. Oooh, I forgot to say I must try that simple scrumptious three minute chocolate cake…but drat, I don’t have a microwave! Maybe the best excuse I’ll ever have to get one…or borrow one?

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