Monday, October 31, 2016

Crimson patch

First one I've spotted in several years! Crimson patch (Chlosyne janais)

Two heath aster species?

HELP! Between trying to ID moth species and keep track of butterfly varieties, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed trying to figure out if we have one species of white heath aster or two. The photo above and the next four are of an aster I discovered growing close to the street in a bunch of grass. Could it be Symphyotichum ericoides?


And then there's this heath aster (next three photos) that grows in our Meadow and that I've observed in years past. To me, these two asters look different and grow differently. Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country isn't much help.....

Be gone, evil bur

We've just about eradicated grass bur (Cenchrus spinifex) from the Meadow. I found one of the last survivors a few days ago and yanked it up. I also searched the ground for its evil seeds and threw them all in a paper bag. Then later, I BURNED them in our chiminea. 

Grass bur and I go WAY back. I distinctly remember sitting on the street curb of our home in Corpus Christi, crying because I had a sticker bur stuck in my foot. I HATE this stuff. Alas, yes, it IS a native. And according to, a song bird by the name of pyrrhuloxia somehow eats the seeds. But we don't have that bird around here so I feel A-okay pulling this dastardly grass.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Paler diacme moth

Paler diacme moth (Diacme elealis)...landed on my butterfly guide while I was shooting photos.

Monarch or viceroy?

Yesterday morning, Blanco Middle School teacher Pam Meier and her ecology class walked over from campus to visit our Wildscape. One student asked about the difference between monarchs and viceroys. I said I wasn't sure, but I thought that we didn't have any viceroys.

Just to double check, I took a lot of photos a while ago so I could find out. The answer, we have no viceroys, just lots of beautiful monarchs and queens, too.

How do I know? The viceroy can be identified by a black line across its hind wings, which monarch butterflies do not have. The viceroy is also a bit smaller than the monarch. See comparison photos below on the National Wildlife Federation's blog.

Now here are my photos....monarchs (female left)
Monarchs (male, right, with black scent spots on hind wings)

Monarch, female

Monarch, female
Monarch (sulphur nectaring below)

Queen, female
Queen, male (with black scent spots)

More butterflies

Funereal dustywing (Erynnis funeralis)

Cloudless sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
White-striped longtail (Chioides catillus)
MONARCHS! We're still having a lot nectaring in our gardens. Female on left, male to right.
Male has a small black scent spot on each hingwing.

Friday, October 28, 2016

New moth species

 Salt marsh moth (Estigmene acrea)

An execution

We sometimes have volunteers that pop up here and there in our Wildscape. I often like to let them "go" until I can figure out whether they're desirable or not. In other words, are they native? Well, this plant appeared this past spring. I figured out what it wasn't–a ragweed. But what? One expert I often query was perplexed. So last week I asked @sambiology on iNaturalist. Bingo! He nailed our plant! This is a paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), which is native to Japan and Taiwan. Here in the States, this plant is considered to be invasive. 

So the mystery is solved. Now an executive must be staged. 

Never give up

Awhile ago, I was in the back yard, getting some fresh air and looking to see what might be going on around the fragrant mistflower. Somewhere nearby, I could hear something like wings beating against the ground. I walked around and found a southern yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa) wrestling with a big moth. I pulled out my little camera from my pocket and tried to get some shots. Even with the flash on, the images were blurred, but you can make out the two bodies....

Then I decided to take some video.....

 Just a few seconds after I ended this video....

I was stunned.
 So, if you, too, right now are struggling with your own yellowjacket.....

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Putrid scene

Upon finding this scene, I at first thought poop? Then I remembered the yucky piece of banana that James set out last week. Boy, oh, boy, were these guys happy happy happy! A couple of yellowjackets and some assorted flies (like common green bottle) were certainly fine dining. Yum!

Treasure in the street 2016

Two years ago, I was so excited to find this little wildflower species––parralena (Thymophylla pentachaeta)––growing nearly in the street. I marked them with rocks but then lost track of them. A few days ago, I was excited to find them again, thanks to the little bright yellow-orange flowers. I marked them (again) so here's hoping I can keep them in my sights now.

Spider moms

Whenever I give my spider presentations, I always mention how some species are especially good mothers. Like wolf spiders and nursery web spiders. Another is the green lynx, which guards her egg sac until death. This evening, I observed behavior that further confirms what devoted moms spiders can be. While trimming salvias, I spotted a green lynx dining on a bee beneath her egg sac. Little orange spiderlings had already emerged and were moving about within the webbing around the sac. I pulled out my little camera from a pocket and moved in closer for photos. My approach sent the mama lynx hurrying upward, where she settled atop her sac. Scroll down through these photos, and you'll see, too.

Also in the salvias, I found a crab spider in her "lurk and pounce" position. Oh, my, she was DEFINITELY "with children." She's bound to be laying her egg sac SOON!