Butterflyweed

I don’t feel right not posting a blog about the butterflyweed  (Asclepias tuberosa) in my garden, even if it is past bloom.

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These pictures were taken between June 19 and July 6.

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Butterfly numbers have been much lower this summer.

 

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The butterflyweed would normally be a hub of activity.

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A large milkweed bug or two stayed among the flowers.

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The caterpillar numbers remained low too.

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Predators were present too.

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The hornet apparently found plenty of small insects to feed on.

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The butterflyweed was reduced to this by July 6.

A New Snake

My truck took me for a drive to check the Eagle Mountain Road — They had actually worked on it! I still wasn’t sure if I could drive the whole road yet. (My husband and I found out later that the road is downright dangerous!)

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Anyway, there in the road was this brown snake. I didn’t remember seeing one like it before. It stayed frozen in place, even after I drove off. I’m waiting for my oldest son to identify it for me.

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Keith saw my pictures and said it was an eastern hognose. It had apparently just shed. A small patch of the old skin remained on the side just behind the head. What had me confused was its lack of pattern.

Horace’s Duskywing Skipper

They don’t call them skippers for nothing.

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There are spread-wing skippers, like this Horace’s skipper,

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and there are foldwing skippers. This one is probably a sachem. I need to see the underside of the hindwing to be sure.

A checklist of Illinois butterflies lists 54 species of skippers! Needless to say there’s a lot of similarities among them.

Well Dressed

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This little caterpillar goes by the name camouflaged looper.

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Camouflaged loopers are an inchworm, and they attach pieces of the plant they’re on to camouflage themselves.

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They change their attire nightly.

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I think this one could definitely be classified as flamboyant. They are the caterpillar of the wavy emerald looper moth (Synchlora aerata). They prefer composite flowers and change their “attire” nightly because the petals wilt. I don’t have a picture of the moth in my files. The moth is lime green with two thin white wavy lines.

A Chrysalis

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I found this chrysalis on the side of our garbage container on August 10th. Its shape and design would make such a nice pendant for a necklace. I admired it every time I passed. Then, it was an empty shell on the 16th.

Its identity remained a mystery … until this afternoon. I just found out it’s the chrysalis of a hackberry emperor butterfly.

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We have several hackberry trees in our yard.

Hackberry butterflies lay their eggs in hackberry trees, and the caterpillars feed on the leaves. The adult butterflies prefer feeding on rotting fruit. They also visit moist places, fermenting fruit, tree sap, and animal droppings.

Oak Vein Pocket Galls

This was a new one for me …

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Oak vein pocket galls apparently result from the larval stage of small flies called gall midges.

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The tiny maggots move to the leaf vein and begin eating. This causes gall tissue to form and to cover the feeding larvae in a few days. Adult gall midges are teeny flies that grow to 3mm.

Thorny Caterpillars

Question mark butterflies lay their eggs in hackberry and elm trees.

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I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to spot these caterpillars on the underside of an elm leaf.

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The spines would definitely be a deterrent to predators.

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Question mark butterflies have a silver question mark on the underside of their hindwings. Comma butterflies are similar in appearance and have a comma on the underside of theirs.

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Question mark and comma butterflies both have a summer and a fall form. This is the fall form of the question mark. The picture above of the darker one on the rock shows the summer form

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This shows the question mark on its hindwing.

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This picture shows the fall form of the comma butterfly. I couldn’t one that showed the comma on the underneath side.

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