Sunday, May 20, 2012
Feeding Frenzy on the Prairie!
Boy, was our butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) living up to its name today! You could hardly see the blooms for the huge number of butterflies feeding on them. These butterflies are pearl crescents, Phyciodes tharos. The larvae eat the leaves of plants in the aster family and, in fact, I had a dilemma with similar caterpillars feasting on a couple young Echinacea plants several years ago. By the time I figured out what the caterpillars were (and had decided to let them be), they had dispersed. The Echinacea plants recovered without issue and bloomed beautifully just weeks later. By the next year, with no treatment, the plants were huge and well established.
Even though it looks like this blossom is filled to capacity already, another latecomer is still flying in to join the crowd.
If you look beyond the blooms of butterfly milkweed and the pearl crescents feeding as deeply as they can, you'll see the red foliage of the pink evening primrose. The pink evening primrose was covered with blossoms a couple weeks ago and finished blooming about 10 days ago. The leaves started turning red as the blooming ceased, and the color has increased almost daily. I don't remember noticing this in years before, so I'm watching to see what happens. It's not flowers, but it sure is colorful!
A last note.... If I had treated my yard with Bt, an organic product often used because it "doesn't hurt the environment and wildlife," I wouldn't have these butterflies. Bt is a bacterium that produces a toxin which, when ingested, will kill butterfly & moth larvae (Lepidoptera), as well as flies & mosquitoes (Diptera), bees, wasps & ants (Hymenoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), and nematodes.