New Butterfly for Donna

by Donna Lewis

It was a great day last week for seeing new things in my garden.  It’s a reminder that to see these beautiful living things, you must always be looking for them.

So after I saw the new Black Swallowtail caterpillar , I walked around in my garden and a fast moving butterfly landed right in front of me. I looked down to find something I had never seen!! It was a Julia male butterfly. They are a brush-footed butterfly (Nymphalidae).

Julia Heliconian (Dryas iulia)

This group of butterflies occur worldwide except at the polar ice caps. They are generally some shade of orange, which is  why they are sometimes mistaken for a Gulf fritillary (my second photo), which was on a zinnia at the same time the Julia was. They were both just a foot apart. Lucky for me I was outside with a camera.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Brushfoot butterflies all have reduced fore legs that are useless for walking, hence their name. Butterflies in this group include: Admirals, Fritillaries, Checkerspots, Crescentspots, Anglewings, Leafwings, Painted Ladies, Tortoisehells, and Longwings.

The Julia caterpillars feed on passion flower leaves.

I will look for their caterpillars, now that I have the adult butterfly here.

Keep your eyes peeled Master Naturalists, it’s all out there.

Caterpillar Surprise

by Donna Lewis

Believe it or not I just found this beautiful caterpillar this week, on October 14, 2020.

Eastern Black Swallowtail  (PAPILIO POLYXENES)

It’s not really the time of year I would expect to find it, but here it is.

Also, if you notice this is not the normal color of this species.  It would most often be more green with white stripes and yellow spots.  

It’s black!

Since it was on a fennel plant in my garden, that gave me a hint of what it might be. When I looked it up, it was noted that once in a while this butterfly’s caterpillar is black. I have never seen this myself in my garden. Interesting!

The Pipe-vine caterpillar is the only other species that has the two colors on a regular basis in my area. So the lesson we have here is that the plant has a lot to do about identifying a species. 

I have to say, it’s pretty neat that this caterpillar has the ability to have two different morphs.

Nature has so many surprises.

Kim Gets Dirty at the Wildscape

by Catherine Johnson

I went to the Wildscape to care for an ill and loyal garden cat.

Kitty not feeling well

Master Naturalist Kim went too. After caring for the cat, I found Kim at the frog pond which was very dirty and dry and snakey.

Fixing up the frog pond

She got it back in shape.

Kitty inspects Kim’s work!

A lot of plants are blooming.

Email me for hours, plants, or go visit Friday or Saturday morning!

Amazing Things in Nature

by Eric Neubauer

Finding a funnel web a couple of feet off the ground is unusual, and more so when it uses a knot hole as a focal point. This shows nearly as much “intelligence” and behavioral flexibility as using something in the environment as a tool.

Funnel weaver nests are usually on the ground, above a hole

So, where does that “intelligence” reside? I can see two main conclusions: First that intelligence is no big deal after all, and second that intelligence must reside outside the physical being. However it seems logical that the expression of “intelligence” would be subject to the limitations of the physical being.

Here you see the spider peeking out of the knothole it’s used for a “hole.”

As far as intelligence residing outside the physical being, one of the unique characteristics of life is its ability to act with purpose which is something that lies outside of the laws of physics anyway.

Why I Love the Wildscape (Plus Acorns)

by Carolyn Henderson

If you like to work amid a plethora of flowering native plants while guineas, turkeys, chickens, and kitties hang out with you, the Bird and Bee Farm Milam Wildscape is the place to get some volunteer hours for Texas Master Naturalists. Several members of El Camino Real Master Naturalist started the place, with the help of the property owners. They have planted mostly Texas native flowering plants, and with the help of donations from the birds, it has bloomed galore in the one and half years it’s been going. It has grown so fast (bird poop is effective) that it requires tending and controlling. 

At the invitation of Donna Lewis, I went out a few weeks ago to be introduced to it with a few other chapter members. It was an amazing thing to see. Cathy Johnson is the primary contact person, and she and other chapter members have held some teaching events for kids over the last year. They also staff it some Saturday mornings for anyone from the public who’d like to stroll through it. 

Malabar spinach before

It does need care. I took on an attempted control of a Malabar Spinach vine that is taking over a metal archway. The arch is meant to be walked through, so some pruning is called for regularly. It’s a beautiful plant with dark green leaves and pink flowers. It’s also edible. I haven’t tried it yet. I’ve included some before and after pictures. Other jobs include turning on the sprinklers and turning them off while you get some pictures, or dead heading plants among other jobs.

That plant is way more in control now.

It also is an excellent place to repurpose things. For example, many of the borders around the different beds are old rain gutters. I used an old wicker basket for decorative purposes on the pruning of the spinach vine. The bottom of it was rotted and no longer usable for its original purpose. It’s also a great place to get photos of butterflies and bees.

Doesn’t the basket look nice?

Contact Cathy or Donna if you’re interested in lending a hand and earning volunteer hours. It is located on CR 334, Rockdale, 76567. 

As for Acorns

Holey acorns

On an unrelated topic, I have attached a picture of some acorns with holes. The students and members who attended our last class Thursday, October 1 may appreciate the find after hearing the video by Dr. Doug Tallamy and his love of caterpillars and moths.

I found them in my flower bed. They have been there a year. Every single one had the holes in them that indicate nesting, as Dr. Tallamy explained.