The Queen Butterfly in December

by Donna Lewis

This week I had so many butterflies everywhere here on our property in Central Texas. Sulphurs, Gulf Fritillary, a Swallowtail, Queens, and numerous tiny little butterflies too quick for me to get a good look at.

Queen in happier times when the flowers are blooming

Of course, we also have had one freeze that took out most of any flowering plants I still had. It has been warm, so the plants have not died down completely. The Coral Honeysuckle is blooming proficiently, and all the butterflies are swarming around it. This is also the Hummingbirds favorite plant in my yard.

The Queen Butterfly was really unexpected. Poor things were flying everywhere in my garden trying to find those special plants that I have for them, mainly the Purple Mist Flower. They really love that plant in particular.  The Mist Flower usually shows up late in the summer when it is dry and very hot. Right now, it is dead as a doornail. Really sad.

Not looking very helpful to butterflies.

I see all these butterflies with nothing to nourish them, and I know the first big freeze is on our doorstep. I wish I could help them.  Many of these little guys should be asleep in a chrysalis for the winter months. But the weather has tricked them into waking up and thinking it’s springtime. 

But this is how we learn about nature.   We observe her and learn lessons. Mother Nature is a great teacher.

Gulf Fritillary Arriving on Planet Earth

by Donna Lewis

On the morning of September 4, 2021, I got to witness a miracle. 

 On our front porch, a new Gulf Coast Fritillary butterfly hatched. After a few hours it had pumped its wings up and was waiting to dry enough so it could take its place among the other pollinators that are here in Milam County.  What a neat way to start the day.   

New life!

We will need many more of these and other pollinators to help feed the world, and provide beauty for all of us.

Passion flower

The Gulf Fritillary uses the passion vine for its host plant. The female will lay her tiny eggs in the tendrils of the vine. When they hatch, they will eat the leaves and buds until they are ready to go to sleep in a chrysalis and awaken to become the beautiful butterfly we know.

Orange and silver, they are easily recognized. The new butterfly will spend its winters in the most Southern states and in Mexico. It can not survive freezing weather.

While the passion vine is its host plant many of our common summer plants are its nectar choices: butterfly bush, coneflowers, lantana, zinnias, and salvia to name a few.

On a zinnia

So enjoy them while the weather is warm.

Surprise at the Wildscape

by Catherine Johnson

While I was watering and checking milkweed at the Wildscape, I discovered for the first time, Monarch caterpillars. 

Wildscape caterpillar

So many creatures can kill them, and the fowl were roving (it is, after all, a chicken farm). I decided to take them home and raise them in my house. I have done much research on this topic and also took home milkweed stems.

They stayed in a covered container with damp paper towels in a warm bedroom.  I have since received an enclosure and vials.

The enclosure

One baby from my house was added to three from the Wildscape.

Three from the wildscape and the “baby.”

One night the Wildscape Caterpillars formed J’s . Next morning, only one was alive and shaking. My baby was ok. I saw head parts in the paper towels and was relieved to see they had shed their skin for the last time and were now a green chrysalis. I left about 20 minutes and missed seeing the last one turn! 

Shed skin and chrysalis
Chrysalises, through their screen

Baby is still going thru instars. Right before they emerge, I will space them out so they can spread their wings, dry and be released back to the Wildscape. We hope to release hundreds in the future.

Vials and chrysalises

Interesting fact: bigger caterpillars will eat babies emerging from eggs.

Butterflies Are Still Here

by Donna Lewis

Can you believe it is almost what us Texans would consider the end of summer? It is HOT!!! I would like to know when the humidity will go down and the temperatures lighten up just a tad.

Gulf Coast fritillary

For those of you who don’t know me, I hate cold weather. But now that I have matured (a nice way of saying I’m older),  I do like it to be in the middle somewhere, say 70 to 80 degrees with no humidity.

Today as I walked through my garden, there were so many butterflies everywhere trying to find the last flowers of summer that  were still blooming.  I have sulphurs, queens, pipe vines, Gulf Coast fritillaries, black swallowtails, tiger swallowtails and an assortment of small skippers.                             

Common buckeye (by SA Kendall)

The zinnias are tired and ready to go back  to Mother.  The salvia are looking ragged. The cosmos, mist flowers, sunflowers, daisies , coneflowers and lots more are just pooped out.  Now, the vines are at their best.  Passion flowers, cypress vine, coral honeysuckle, and others like it hot. The milkweed also likes it hot and dry.  I still have some of it, just no monarchs right now. I guess my little beauties will be with me to the end.  I hope they are here a little longer, I love them so.

Drink a little nectar and carry on.

Hot Outside and the Butterflies Love It

by Donna Lewis

I was only able to catch two species because the rest were too fast for me.

The first is a Sulphur ( yellow) butterfly. It’s either a Cloudless Sulphur or a large Orange Sulphur.   Pretty hard to tell.  For sure it like’s my zinnias.

Sulphur butterfly

The next beauty is one of my favorites, it’s a Tiger Swallowtail, the yellow version. Notice it’s on a zinnia also.

Tiger swallowtail on a zinnia blossom

So…I wonder what would be a great nectar plant to put in your gardens? ZINNIAS.  They are so easy to grow and everyone likes them. How easy is that?

Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Roy would have loved this.