Sunday, August 25, 2019

Io Moth

This week I am bragging about finding this Io moth caterpillar, Automeris io. This awesome caterpillar is about 2.5 inches long. It has a pretty pink-and-cream stripe down its side and is covered with bundles of branching spines. Click to enlarge.
I hear that the sting from these spines is painful, so if you are lucky enough to find one of these beauties, don't touch it. The tips of spines that penetrate your skin can break off and release irritating venom. Ew.
The caterpillar was eating leaves of a buttonbush shrub, Caphalanthus occidentalis, also called button-willow or honey-bells. The buttonbush is native to eastern and southern North America. Io moths are not picky about what they eat, though, and can be found on a variety of other host plants.
The name Io is from a Greek myth in which Io, a priestess of Zeus' wife, Hera, got in trouble when Zeus became romantically interested in her. After many adventures, which included being turned into a white cow to hide her from Hera, Io bore children with Zeus who were ancestors to all kinds of famous people including Hercules and Perseus.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Butterfly Weed Works

This is butterfly weed, Asclepia tuberosa, a native milkweed that is a host for monarch butterflies. I raised some from seeds and planted the seedlings in my yard to see if I could attract monarchs. Click to enlarge.
A monarch like this one (on another kind of milkweed in this photo) found my small stand of butterfly weed and laid eggs on it. Yay!
They grew like crazy, eating leaf after leaf. Here are two of them tag-teaming a leaf. But then it became clear that they were eating at such a pace that they would soon run out. I think I'll have a bigger supply next year after the plants spread, but this year I'm limited.
So I gathered them up with some leaves for the trip and took them to a spot I know where there is a lot of milkweed. Did I mention there are 7 caterpillars? Can you spot them all?
Here's where I took them -- a big butterfly garden with lots of common milkweed to eat.
Here they are spreading out in their new digs.
Seven more of these coming soon.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

And The Winner Is...

I played a game of creature contest yesterday. Here are the rules: take a walk in a park, photograph everything interesting, choose a favorite. The eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly above is the winner. Ta Da! Click to enlarge.
Congratulations eastern tiger swallowtail! See that band of blue spots? It identifies this one as a female.
This perky little summer azure butterfly is the runner up, ready to step in and fulfill the duties of winner if the tiger swallowtail is unable to do so. Congratulations summer azure!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

My Orchid Trophies

Now that summer has settled into the dog days, I'm reminiscing about all the cool spring afternoons I spent hunting for orchids in the New Jersey pine barrens. I found all four of the flashy pink ones that I had hoped to see this year by scouring the edges of bogs like the one pictured above. The photos are my trophies. Click to enlarge.
This is the dragon's mouth orchid, Arethusa bulbosa. I took this picture in mid-May.
These are pink lady's slippers, Cypripedium acaule. Also seen in May.
These are rose pogonias, Pogonia ophioglossoides. This picture reminds me of these words from Confucius:  "An orchid in a deep forest sends out its fragrance even if no one is around to appreciate it." This picture is from June.
Here's a closer look at the rose pogonia, also called the snake mouth orchid.

This is the complex and beautiful grass pink,
Calopogon tuberosus. Another June bloomer.
I am resting on my orchid laurels inside in air-conditioned comfort today. Are they not lovely?