Monday, June 25, 2012

Great Spangled Sex

I've been watching dozens of Great and Variegated Spangled Fritillaries in our back field for the past week or so. They're amazing to watch - fast moving, flashes of bright orange against the green grass. I've only seen them come to rest a few times.

Today I came across this hidden in the grass. I had the uncomfortable feeling of being voyeuristic as I peered through trying to figure out exactly what it was.

Yep, Great Spangled sex!

This photo makes me chuckle. I love what looks like an "expression" on the left butterfly:

In the above photos you can see the gorgeous silver spangles on their underwings. (they flash bright metallic silver in the sunlight) 

This photo shows the two connected by the male's claspers:

In the next few weeks we can expect a decrease in female Great Spangled sightings as they go into hiding before laying their eggs in late August/early September. She'll lay approximately 2,000 eggs (wow! most butterflies lay 100-200) on various violet plants. The eggs will hatch 3-4 weeks later and the first larvae will drop to the ground where they'll  hibernate over the winter without eating (and hopefully without being eaten).

When the larvae emerge from hibernation in April, they're at the base of young, succulent violet plants which they voraciously dine on until they become a spiny black caterpillar nearly 2" long. Here's a post from earlier this spring on the Great Spangled Fritillary larva I found in the garden under a clump of violets.

(note that most of the technical information was gleaned from books and various respected sites, one of which is the lovely blog Springfield Plateau. Just a heads-up, you'll want to be careful Googling "butterfly sex!")

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Juvenile Hairy Claims Suet Log

It's been fun to watch the Donwys and Hairys learn to use our suet logs. They've been coming to the feeders for about 8 days now and in the last couple they've started to defend their territory on the feeders.

Wonder what switch gets thrown in their heads to go from all piling onto the suet log together to defending it against any other bird that comes to it, including this innocent White-breasted nuthatch.

(the nuthatch flew off before the Hairy had to spread its wings)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fairy Bubbles on Irises

Apparently tiny garden fairies were blowing bubbles in our Siberian Irises last night. They were beautiful this morning: all jeweled with teeny tiny droplets of water from last night's nasty storm.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Melting Flowers

How hot was it yesterday? Apparently  hot enough to melt these tiny pink flowers in one of my front planters. (they really are a pale pink - this was taking early this morning in low light)

Yesterday morning I noticed the first blooms on the plant. Late afternoon I noticed the blooms were gone and thought something had nipped them off. I looked closer and no, they had melted.

The melting created this cool bright purple droplet of water though!

I live in Minnesota. We're not supposed to have melting flowers.