Monarch 200903

Spent a while watching butterflies on Saturday. A big monarch seems to have claimed the yard for her own. At least I think it was a she. She would patrol from one end of the garden to the other and back again, looping around the butterfly milkweed plants to make sure there were no interlopers.

There was also a cabbage butterfly and a couple of what I think were hairstreaks, but I didn’t get close enough to see them clearly.

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The monarch left the smaller butterflies alone, but when a gulf fritillary wandered into the yard it promptly got chased back out again. I think it’s larger size and orange and black colors make it too monarch-like. It was an immediate target.


I was glad to see a good number of bees. When everyone stopped watering everything the bee population seemed to take a real dive. There were days in the beginning of the year where there’d be only one or two in the front yard and none at all inside the gates. Now there’s a good mix of pollinators, bees, butterflies and hoverflies. It was a good day for bugwatching.

Stealth Butterfly


Found a caterpillar eating blossom of my gaillardia. It’s probably a moth, which I think of as stealth butterflies. I spent some time poking around on the web to see if I could find out what exactly it was, but “moth” covers so much ground I wasn’t able to narrow it down. I thought about removing it, but wildlife here has had such a hard time for the last couple of years, I just left it.


The gulf fritillary larvae are doing pretty well. I moved them from the vine that they’d eaten all the leaves off of to another one.

My garden is really small. I have a long, narrow patio and postage stamp front yard. I used to think of my garden as this little cup of life in the desert of suburbia. Most of the houses around us have yards that are aimed at being the least possible maintenance. But lately I’ve come to realize how much the cup overfloweth. The things that I put in the garden are only a part of what happens there. There are the bees that come and drink the water from my water pot. The birds that come for both food and water. The bugs that eat the plants, the lizards that eat the bugs, the rat bastard squirrel that ate all my macadamia nuts last year.

There are a few who have yard like that in my neighborhood and I wonder how much wildlife depends on these tiny oases. How many creatures pass through every day? I get the feeling that spaces like these are going to be more important at more people are squeezed in and everything else is squeezed out.

Butterfly weed


The monarch larvae have stripped this plant of all but a few flowers and a couple of seed pods. The aphids have moved in. I’d never seen aphids in any other color but green until I started growing butterfly weed. Normally I just wipe the aphids off using my gloved hands, but I could see that there are a couple of aphid predators on this plant so I left it alone. I’m going to cut the stem back later. Between now and then I’ll keep an eye on this group of aphids and if it gets too big I’ll manually reduce it.

Banner Year in Butterflies


I was sitting on the patio, taking advantage of the wonderful weather we were having, when I looked at the passion flower vine and thought that it looked a little spiky. I got up to take a closer look and found that it wasn’t the vine that was spiky. This one vine had six gulf fritillary larvae on it.

After the drought and the severe cutbacks in landscape watering the bugs finally have something to eat again and if the number of caterpillars in my yard are any indication, it’s going to be a banner year for butterflies.

Sunny Saturday

Went a little nuts this weekend. It was the first weekend since before Thanksgiving where it was both sunny and I didn’t have anything else that needed doing, so I spent quite a bit of time outside.

I tend to buy plants and hang onto them for a while before planting. I’m waiting for better weather or trying to come up with the perfect spot for a particular plant. I end up with up with a lot things in plant limbo; waiting for permanent homes. With the break in the rain I decided to just do it. Stop ruminating and get on with it.

I’ve been collecting succulents with interesting foliage colors for the past year, trying to get some color in the yard even when nothing is blooming. Crassula campfire is going to have a big part in the garden. It’s colors are so vivid I ended up getting several plants. I bought some at the local nursery that were very overgrown for the pot they were in. While they weren’t very pretty the way they were, I was able to cut them back and use the cut stems for more starts.

I took advantage of the sun and the extra day off and got almost all of my plants-in-waiting planted. I wandered around the yard deciding what I wanted to put where and when I made a decision grabbed my Japanese gardening knife, dug a hole and planted. The plants I managed to get into the ground before Thanksgiving encouraged me. They’ve more than doubled in size since I planted them. With all the rain we’ve gotten and are continuing to get, there isn’t going to be a better time to plant. Things will have time to develop a good root system before the heat of summer comes along to challenge them.

I spent a lot of time pulling up hardy geranium seedlings in the front yard. Until this year it had been fairly well behaved. It had come up from seed in a few places, but it was pretty easy to get rid of if it showed up someplace I didn’t want it. This year it’s coming up everywhere. It would smother everything if I let it. I’m not nearly done trying to tame it, but at least I cleared enough space for a few other things.

As I worked around the yard I noticed that I have a positive infestation of monarch larvae.


I’m delighted. These guys are the reason I let the butterfly weed grow where ever it pops up.



Freaks me out


The eyes really freak me out. That and every time I think I’ve found them all I find another one. My poor tomato plant is practically denuded. That has not, fortunately, prevented it from producing a prodigious quantity of tomatoes. I’m hoping to actually get some of them since our mouse population has been discouraged by feline intervention.