By Carolyn Henderson
The annual Texas Pollinator BioBlitz is on! Participants search for, photograph and post photos of all pollinators and what they pollinate during the month of October. There are a few places to post the photos, but the primary location is iNaturalist – my media of choice. Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist and other studiers of pollinators and their source of food use the data to assess the viability of the insects.
I started my quest on Sunday. I was headed out to some friends’ place to check the Green Antelopehorn Milkweed which was abundant in May. I stopped at the Triangle Garden in front of Cameron Elementary School because it was full of a variety of blooms. The garden was started and is maintained by the Little River Basin chapter of Texas Master Gardeners. Because it is cultivated, I can’t use the flowers as post of pollinator food, but I can use what lands on them. I felt like I had hit the motherload of butterflies.
I was surrounded by Monarchs (at least 10), Queens, Gulf Fritillary, Pipevine Swallowtail, Fiery Skipper (or Southern Broken Dash – I’m still not sure), Painted Lady, and even a few Giant Tiger Swallowtail. Add in Eastern Carpenter Bees, plenty of honeybees, a few Bumble Bees, and something I think is a Snowberry Clearwing. I’m also pretty sure a saw a couple of Hummingbirds, but they moved too fast to identify. I took many, many photos. And none of them worked. I was upset. It was my fault. I’d done something wrong with my new fancy camera. They were all washed out. Of course, I didn’t know this until I got home.
To make it worse, when I arrived at my friends’ place, the Antelope horn Milkweed was gone. The total lack of rain and excessive heat had done them in this summer. I did get photos of Great White Egrets, Greater Yellowlegs, and thousands of American Bullfrogs. The Bullfrogs are hanging out in mass around the edges of a rapidly shrinking small lake. They look like little balls of mud from a distance but move in mass when startled. One verifier on iNat even gave them a “Wow!” for the sheer number of them. I did get a photo of “Swamp Smartweed” which was covered by honeybees. It’s a source of pollen on my quest.
Not to be deterred, at lunch on Monday, I went back to the Triangle Garden, and all the butterflies had waited for me to come back and take photos of them. I got most of them, but not all. On Tuesday, most of them were still there, and the Pipevine Swallowtails were getting full, I think, because they actually sat still for a few seconds at a time, so I could get clear pictures of them.
If you want all these butterflies to stop at your place next fall on their southern migration, I advise planting Gregg’s Mist and maybe a little Tropical Sage. The Queens, Gulf Fritillary and Skippers stayed only on the Gregg’s Mist. The Monarchs also stayed there mostly. One was interested in a lantana. The Pipevine Swallowtails like the Tropical Sage and Gregg’s Mist. The bees were less picky. Of course, if you want Monarchs to lay eggs at your place, you’ll need milkweed. That’s the only thing their caterpillars eat (according to current general consensus).