Posts Tagged ‘nectar’

Two Tawny Emperors

 The more studying I do, the more confused I get.


 Tawny emperor butterflies lay their eggs in hackberry trees.


The butterflies sip nectar from flowers and will also feed on rotting fruit.


Hackberry butterflies will land on me for the sweat.


Both are “sap-flow” butterflies too, meaning they also feed on rotting fruit.

Both the tawny emperors and hackberry butterflies lay their eggs on leaves in the hackberry trees.

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Now for my problem. When I found this caterpillar on the side of the house, I thought for sure it was a tawny emperor caterpillar. Then I started researching it.

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Seems they’re hard to distinguish them from that of the hackberry butterfly.

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  Their pattern changes as they grow.  Two stripes along the body turn yellow. So, since they’re hard to distinguish one from the other, I’ll just enjoy each encounter.

Tawny emperor butterflies visit flowers.


Hackberry butterflies go more for the rotting fruit, and other things like, ugh, animal droppings. I smash rotten bananas on the cistern where I can watch the activity from the picture window by my computer. The large tree in the picture is a hackberry tree.


Buffy and I took some time to visit Glen O. Jones Lake for an easy hike. It was sunny, windy with a comfortable temperature. The water level was still low from our drought, and the bare sides of the lake had grown up with thick vegetation.

Jewelweed ( Impatiens capensis) grew in a large sprawling clump near the water’s edge. It’s an annual and is also called touch-me-not, because of the ways seeds scatter when a seed capsule is touched.

Up to 3 flowers bloom on drooping pedicels on the upper part of the plant. The flower are 1 inch long.

Insects would have to go into the flower to find the nectar. This way they pass a cluster of stamens underneath the ovary at the mouth of the flower.

Only the head and thorax of this bumblebee fit inside the flower. With stopping at several flowers, it would pick up and deposit pollen with each one it visited. Butterflies and hummingbirds also visit jewelweed.

Jewelweed grows in moist shady areas. There’s a less common yellow one that I’ve seen growing in swamps. The plants have a weak succulent stem that breaks easily. The juice from the stem helps to relieve itching from poison ivy.

Cute … for a Spider

I chuckled when I saw this crab spider “staring” back at me. There’s the “hat” design, its face and even suspenders. The hat and face are on its abdomen and the suspenders on the thorax.

How cute!

It was patiently waiting for insects to visit the thistle flowers for a nectar meal.

I’m sure prey wouldn’t see any humor in the situation.

Climbing Milkweed

Monarch butterflies only lay eggs on members of milkweed family. This includes the climbing milkweed (Cynanchum laeve), which commonly grows several places in my yard. I didn’t plant it. With the drought like it is this summer, I’m leaving all the nectar sources for the insects. (The orange on the stems is aphids.)

Climbing milkweed is also called honeyvine. All milkweed species have a toxic milky sap.

 The structure of these flower resembles all other milkweed flowers.

These flowers are only 3/16 inch long.

In nature all bright colors are warning colors. The monarch caterpillar eats the milkweed leaves, and the milky sap makes it toxic to predators.

After eating a monarch caterpillar or butterfly, and getting sick, the predator probably wouldn’t eat either of them again.

A Cooperative Hummingbird

A bright sunny morning, temperature only 76 at 10:30, windows finally opened. It was a good day.

So, I headed out with my camera.  Three recent rains prompted flowers to bloom.

I first saw the ruby-throated hummingbird visit flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sp.). It flew before I got it’s picture.

 It visited red salvias next.

Then it spent a lot of time on the butteflybush. 

After all that vigorous activity, it landed on the wire to the barn.

I didn’t see its tongue until I got this picture in the computer.

And then it was gone.

I did a little online research since I’d never even thought about a hummingbird’s tongue. They don’t sip nectar like drinking through a straw. The tip of their tongue is divided into two parts, and each is fringed with extensions knows as lamellae.

The two tips are held flat together. As the tongue goes into the nectar the two forks separate, and the lamellae unfurl. When the hummingbird begins to withdraw its tongue, the lamellae roll inwards to trap nectar and deliver it into the mouth.


I’ve waited a long time to photograph a hummingbird, just so I could tell this story.

Years ago I was working in the garden one evening. A kestrel (a small falcon) began squawking like it was being mortally wounded. It squawked and squawked … a hummingbird was chasing it! It continued squawking as it flew around, with the hummingbird in quick persuit. The hummingbird chased the kestrel off and perched in the very top of the dead pear tree, looking so triumphant!

I still chuckle over that one.

Yellow Jackets

Yellow jacket nest entrance -- Where?

Can you find the opening to a yellow jackets’ underground nest? It’s not the small hole in the middle of the picture near the stick. I obviously wouldn’t have found it either if I hadn’t been stooped there taking flower pictures. I kept on taking pictures and then had to hunt to find the tunnel opening to photograph it. I didn’t find it until the yellow jacket came back out of the nest.

Entrance to nest, with yellow jacket coming out

The arrow in the picture (left) shows the head of the yellow jacket coming out of the nest. Today’s Tuesday, April 17. This blows my mind. On Monday, April 9th, Buffy and I were hiking here at my rural property too. We were walking up the trail in woods toward the barrens, when a yellow jacket flew in, landed and went into the hole to its nest. In all the years I’ve hiked, going back over 30 years to when my kids were young, I only saw 1 yellow jacket nest. The yellow jacket flew from its nest. There I was, and it stung me right below the elbow. That was when I found out I was allergic to them.

This other picture is one I took several winters ago when I found a nest that had been dug out by either a skunk or raccoon. Bears will dig them out too, but we don’t have them here in southern Illinois.

Yellow jacket nest dug out

Yellow jackets are 1/2 to 5/8 inch long. They live in meadows and edges of forested land, where they usually nest in the ground or at ground level in stumps and fallen logs. Adults eat nectar. Larvae are fed insects pre-chewed by adults.

Yellow jackets overwinter as fertilized queens. The queens become active in the spring, when they gather nesting materials and start a small nest. After she makes a few hexagonal cells and a covering around them, she lays an egg in each cell. The eggs hatch in a week, and the queen feeds the larvae small bits of prey for 10-12 days.

The larvae then pupate in their cells for another 12 days. The adults emerge as sterile females and start working for the queen. Late in the summer, the queen lays eggs that develop into males and fertile females. These mate. The fertilized females overwinter, and the cycle begins again.

I do hope my luck goes back to not seeing yellow jackets going in or coming out of their nest.