Archive for September, 2015

Ironweed and Two Skippers

The checklist of skippers in Illinois includes 54 species — 17 of the spread-wing  and 37 of the fold-wing ones. Similarities make many of them difficult to identify.

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Ironweeed (Vernonia baldwini) grows to 4 feet tall and will bloom into September. It’s always been a favorite of mine, especially because it’s a butterfly magnet. I realized earlier that the 3 plants in my butterfly garden were slowly dying. Why?  I didn’t know. So, I planned to be on the lookout for seeded plants later.

And then … and then I found two plants blooming in an unexpected area of the backyard!

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And a skipper was nectaring on the flowerheads. I’m 98 percent sure it’s an eastern dun skipper (foldwing). The faint pattern is on the male and not the female.

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Then there were two. I assumed one was the male and the other a female.

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They don’t stay in any one place very long. They can even  dart away without being seen leaving.

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The dun skippers’ wingspread measures 1 1/3 inches wide.

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Our butterfly numbers have been so low this summer and are only now increasing.


I used to have a children’s garden here and had families and groups visit. The kids got excited when I’d net a skipper and put in it a jar. Then one of the kids would slowly stick his/her finger in the jar. The skipper would usually walk slowly up the finger and start “sipping” the sweat through its proboscis.


A Change of Seasons

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These black-eyed Susans were the hub of activity much longer than I expected.

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This small spider apparently thought it was well camouflaged back in early August.

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Today, September 6, shows a dramatic change in the flowers during the last two months.

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Another spider had staked its claim for any remaining possible “live” food.

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 This spider picked a unappetizing-looking flower-head. At least the sedum behind it would attract insects.

Tobacco Hornworm

“Parts” on this tobacco hornworm aren’t what they appear to be.

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What looks like an eye is actually a fake eye.

There are four teeny tiny eyes just above the three thoracic legs — the white legs with black bands. They are very hard to see.

The larger black spots along the side of the body are actually spiracles where the caterpillar breathes.

This was the only hornworm feeding on my tobacco plants (nicotina sylvestris).

The moths have a wingspan up to five-and-a-half-inch. The adults visit tubed flowers at dusk.

A Cypress Swamp

These are pictures from September, 2008 when I took a friend of mine to Heron Pond, a cypress swamp. I live on the east side of southern Illinois. Heron Pond is about 45  miles southwest from my house.

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The Cache River (obviously not a river) meanders through the wetland area of the Cache River State Natural Area. The trail leads to a floating boardwalk that zigzags out into the swamp.

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Duckweed covers the surface of the water. The curvy trail shows where a snake swam through.

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This is one duckweed plant. Duckweed has the smallest flower known — 0.3 mm.

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Frogs call in swamps. An occasional duck might call as it flies in or out of the swamp.

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Frogs jump with a splash. Turtles occasionally a turtle slides off a log into the water.

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These pictures were all taken on the same trip. The swamp differs with every season and type of weather.

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The sunlight came and went.

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The swamp has a silence all its own.

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It’s a place where I would just sit on the boardwalk and become totally immersed in the experience.

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On one visit my best friend and I followed the trail to an Illinois state champion cherrybark oak.

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This sign gives all the information on the tree — 22 feet 6.5 feet circumference, 100 feet tall and the crown spread of 113 feet!

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I’m on the right and by best friend on the left. It was hard for us head for home. It was a special day. Any day in the swamp can be special.


My husband took me and the boys to Heron Pond one cold winter day. We sat on the boardwalk, eating lunch. The water had been much higher, and a strong winter front froze the water four to five inches thick. The weather then moderated somewhat. The water level dropped, leaving ice tables clinging to the trees. The four of us sat on the boardwalk, eating our lunch. Occasionally an ice table fell off a tree, the crash echoing through the swamp.

Later we drove to another part of the swamp and walked down to it. We walked around, staying where we could see the bluff. Keith, my oldest son, was always investigating. Ron saw him just in time to holler at him … he was a step away from a cotton mouth … mouth open, showing the “cotton.” Davis rode on my husband’s back the rest of the way back to the vehicle.



A Cobweb Skipper

I usually go out two or three times a day to take pictures. This morning I just happened to be in the right place at the right time!

Wingstem, and its underground runners, have taken over most of my spring wildflower garden.

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My morning walk-about started with my spring wildflower garden.

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A little spread-winged skipper and

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a monarch butterfly both fed on the winged crownbeard.

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My mind kept saying “cobweb skipper,” even though I’d never seen one before.

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Well, my mind was right. It was a cobweb skipper.

I took ten pictures in two minutes before the skipper “skipped” away.

It gets even more exciting … I knew from past years of extensive butterfly watching, that the cobweb skipper (Hesperia metea) was not in our area.

Come to find out, it’s on the Illinois state endangered list. It’s only known as a permanent resident in an eastern county in the middle of the state along the Mississippi River. There used to be three locations near the one the Mississippi river too. It was first collected in Illinois in 1978.

I will report the sighting to a state heritage biologist and will be anxious to hear what he has to say.

A Tachina Fly

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These tachina flies were numerous


back when the butterflyweed was blooming the end of June.


Three of these tachina (Trichopoda pennipes) flies also stayed in the area.

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This half-inch one mates near flowers and attaches its eggs to medium-sized and large true bugs. Its larvae enter the host to feed. Some pupate in the host and emerge in the spring.  Other tachina species pupate in the soil emerge in the summer or fall.