Butterfly At The Pool

The thing about gardening is that you have a lot of visitors.

Through the years, I’ve been visited by various reptiles, more lizards than I can count, insects, and other neighbors.

Both two and four legged.

This morning, going out to inspect my nursery pots and see how my bougainvillea cuttings are doing, I noticed that there were literally dozens of monarch butterfly caterpillars happily eating my milkweed down to pegs.

As a gardener it is at once frustrating and pleasurable.  I would love some seeds from those milkweeds, but courtesy of a neighbor and friend here, I have a cage that I could put the plants inside so they would go to seed.

As one who enjoys nature, that is why I plant the milkweed.  It’s there so the butterflies come to my yard.   It is a rare day that I don’t see a number of those Monarchs on the wing, floating around, coming to a landing somewhere.

To paraphrase:  If I build it, they will come.

Home (plate) I guess is in my backyard.

I don’t wander around aimlessly back there, there’s a purpose.  Usually I’m being herded back to the back door by my boy Rack the McNab SuperDog(TM) after only a few minutes, so standing at the back door and taking one last look means I am trying to think if there is anything that needs to be cared for.

I let him back inside because I realized I needed to deal with a visitor.   This Butterfly was perched, resting, on my sad little Hibiscus that so often is ravaged by Iguanas.

Yes, we have herds of those beasts running around.  The Iguanas turn the neighborhood into something reminiscent of Jurassic Park, and usually result in my thinking “I hope there will be a solid cold snap this winter”.

Their muscles can’t function below 45F, and if it gets into the 30s it will kill them.

Good.

But this Butterfly seemed to be enjoying the rest and watching me go about my own stupidity.

Good.   They’re welcome here.    One of at least five different daily visitor species here.

If you’re seeing Butterflies in the yard and want more, the next step is to leave a little fruit out there for them to find.  The Fairchild Gardens in South Miami does exactly that in their butterfly house.  A little banana or orange goes a long way to help these beautiful creatures survive.

As for the Iguanas?  I hear they’re good in a Curry Sauce.  Chicken of the Trees!

Welcome to Florida, we have overly friendly wildlife.

The first time wildlife encountered me was in my very own backyard.

I’ve been fascinated by the various lizards that roam around the place here.  Standing in the yard I spotted a rather common lizard.  Something scared it.

Might have been me, I have that effect on some people, and some wildlife.

Might not have been.

The lizard ran onto my shoe, then right up my leg.

And up the pant leg.

I’ve heard of ants in my pants but never a lizard on my lizard.

I’ve had posionous toads hop onto my foot while I was picking up after my dog.

I’ve had more Iguanas turn up in the Bougainvillias and Hibiscus in the yard than I care to count.

Nasty creatures, Iguanas.  No reason for them to be here at all.

Seventeen Ducks making more ducks on my front porch.

This was a much more gentle encounter.

A normal five in the evening Dog Walk.  It’s been really quite intensely hot.  90 to 95 in brilliant sun.

Walking around the block and heading toward home, a “something” fluttered around my head and landed on my friend’s arm.

A rather beautiful Butterfly.  Mostly black winged, some iridescent blue spots.

Basic Black.  Everyone looks better in basic black.

Being a butterfly, it was completely harmless, and it paid a rather long visit walking around my friends T-shirt, up one arm, down the other and hanging out.

As soon as it started it was over when the little creature went on its way.

I guess it wanted a bit of a rest.

Monarch Extinction or Fake News and a reason to keep your adblocks up to date?

Here I am.  In the South Eastern portion of a state named after Flowers.

I just saw a Monarch butterfly float past the window.  It’s February and I do see them daily, I didn’t think much of it.

The other day I was sitting in my Jeep.  I was at Pompano Airpark in the south eastern parking lot.  Putting on my inline skates for a workout.  A Monarch butterfly floated between me and the next car of to do whatever it was that butterflies do.

They are here.  But in a state named after Flowers you would expect that.  Lots of nice Nectar to drink, places to visit, fields to float through.

Along with my favorite Monarchs are Swallowtails and others, flashing black and yellow in their own dazzling display while floating on the breezes.

Then I get home and am confronted with a rather frightening news story screaming that their numbers are Below 1% and Heading towards extinction!

Pretty shouty and frightening titles if you ask me.

Except.

 

Those two links I have above?  Almost Word For Word copies of each other.  If you click on the links, expect to have more shouty advertisements for bogus things that you were not interested in popping up on you shilling some nonsense that you will never follow through with.

Any time you find that the majority of the search of a specific phrase, pick your search engine, I have been using Duckduckgo.com lately, are identical in a search – think fake news.

Those who support that sort of … prank have been busy in recent years.

At any rate, any time you see something like that, it’s a red flag.   Keep your antivirus programs and your ad blockers up to date, someone has a farm of web pages, none of which really are all that worthwhile.

If you are in the west and are witnessing a drop in the numbers, plant butterfly weed and milkweed.

Even if you aren’t, it’s a good idea.

As for me?  Any time I get a web site throwing up a nonsensical pop up urging me to sign onto their newsletter list, I immediately go in and start blocking things.

It’s a sure sign it’s not really worth bothering with.

And plant some milkweed, ok?  After all the Monarchs really could use our help.

Finally, A Decent Mexican Milkweed Harvest

This rather scruffy looking pile is a lot of hard work.

It’s a bit of a story as well.

You see, I have a bit of a problem with my Mexican Milkweeds.  They’re a little bit of an obsession.

I plant them simply because the Monarch Butterflies like them.

A bit too much.  Quite a lot, actually.  It’s their main food here.

I’m also a short walk from a little pocket park that is devoted to Native South Florida Plants, M.E. DePalma Park.  There are a lot of flowers planted there that belong there.  You know it’s native because you are told – most of the flowers are not at all showy like you’re used to seeing at the garden center.  Walking past that park, you actually can HEAR the difference since all the local insects and animals are happily living in what they’ve adapted to – native species.  In fact, the Mexican Milkweed flowers are one of the larger ones there by virtue of them being a cluster of flowers.

They’re also very tasty to Monarch Butterflies.  We have quite a few of them flying by the house as a result.

The butterflies know they are there.  I’m not certain how, but if your main food plant is important to you you will learn how to pick them out.

And that would be the crux of the matter.  I normally can’t keep them growing here.

I have since found that when the Monarchs lay their eggs there, they will eat from the nectar of the flowers,

leave and the caterpillars will com out a few days later.  Those caterpillars will eat the plant to sticks.

You can propagate those sticks if you take a finger length cutting with one or two leaf buds on them, and stick them into moist soil.

This time though, I was able to get a couple plants to grow to maturity.  The Monarchs did not find them.

It seems that the trick is that if your Milkweed is growing in a sheltered area, the butterflies can’t really find them.

As a result of all that dancing around … I finally have seeds enough for myself, the people who have been supplying me, some to return to the park, and a few to hand out to friends.

The seeds grow quickly and flower fast, but only if they are not seen.  The plants don’t have any evil smell to them so they would grow indoors in a bright window, but you can’t grow indoor plants in South Florida.  Ants would find them and all the sudden you have a colony living in your living room.

Nope.  No indoor plants here.

So my seeds?  They’re happily drying out in my living room.  I’ll be taking a pod with me on one of my many walks.  I can go back to being Johnny Milkweed Seed.  I may even get some more since there are a few pods that have yet to ripen.

But … we won’t tell the Monarchs that, will we?

Friendly Random Butterfly

You get used to this sort of thing.

When I had the flu, like most of the Western World, I sat in my chair and looked out the window.  There wasn’t much more that I could have done since I truly didn’t have the energy, moan, coughing fit, curse, swear, moan again when will this be over.

Yeah it was that bad.  Literally.  I was listening to a podcast from Armin van Buuren and they were talking about the “Flu Making Its Way Through Holland.” at the same time I was coughing up a lung.

Freaky.

I watched the sun come up.  I watched the sun set.  I watched the same people walk down my block at the same time of day.  Watched the dog walkers including the guy who carries the Chihuahua who looks like its dead since it has melted over his arm.

Really, dude, the dog would be happier walking on the ground, trust me.

But it seems the wildlife here was the bright shining star in the nighttime that the flu induced.

We have ducks that visit.  My neighbor calls the ones that look inside the front door that is more than a meter, 6’6″ of security glass, Peepers.  There is a triple of ducks that visit every day.  The largest has a droopy right wing, and two smaller ones.  I figure it is a family.   Just don’t colonize under my Jeep, you’re leaving a smelly mess.

I eventually convinced them to relocate to my neighbor’s island of flowers.  The constant hosing down of the carport was a bit much.

I was noticing that the butterflies here are thick on the wing.  I would watch as my Monarchs would glide past looking for the Mexican Milkweed I have in the backyard for them to eat.

There’s a black and yellow striped Zebra Longwing that flies past occasionally.  That pattern will strobe as it flies past.

The point is we’ve been lucky.  Due to the efforts of the neighbor and the various parks in town like M.E. DePalma Park, we’re seeing more varieties of butterflies.

I have been out in the yard puttering around more than once while cleaning out my irrigation lines and had to be told to stand still as there were butterflies on my back.  Plural, as in more than one.

In the case of the orange one, I have never seen those before.  It wanted to see me.  I was over by the pool and the bougainvillea looking around aimlessly, and this little beauty landed quite at my feet.  I moved away, it got up and followed me.  For a good ten minutes.

Ten minutes is a long time to be On Guard, I suppose, but I was entertaining this little creature in the whole time.

I moved to the trash can spilling water as I carried the basket from the pool skimmer, and it followed.  I guess nobody wants to drink pool water except my dog.

I decided that the best course was to enjoy the encounter and go about my business.  Eventually it did fly away off to find more flowery fields.  All a part of being in the great outdoors.

Butterflies and Mango Trees

Walking out to the backyard, nature will present itself.  Always take a camera.

Mind you, opportunities to take a picture of nature in South Florida are common.

I didn’t expect just how common it was when I made the decision to pitch it all in Philly, and fly to Florida for a new home.

Having had Black Racer Snakes in my Florida Room, more lizards than I can count on any given wall both inside and outside of the house, and spiders that are larger than a small car in the eaves, I have grown both amused and expectant of the creatures.

After all, I ran a Frog Hotel for quite a few years until the Impact Windows got put in.  The frogs left and I am disappointed that they haven’t come back.

This particular afternoon, I was being dive bombed.

Oh sure, there were Monarchs everywhere as usual.  After all there were two caterpillars turning one plant into sticks at the same time.

This was something different.  This Orange and Black creature was not a Monarch.  It was a different kind of Florida Butterfly.  It was insistent that I follow it.  After all, it was orbiting my head like stars after a cartoon character gets hit in the head by an anvil.

No, I mean literally orbiting my head.  Round and round as I walked past the spa.

I got about half way down the yard and it left me.  The silly creature fluttered over to my Mango tree and parked itself there.

The Mango was a tree that was imprisoned in too small a pot for years until I finally freed it by chopping the pot away from its roots.  On a very hot day, I dug a hole in the yard and stuck it into the ground.  They say it is a Condo Mango and won’t get more than 10 to 15 feet tall or so, so I’m hoping.

The Mango immediately showed its appreciation by dropping almost every old leaf and then following with a complete coat of deep green leaves.  It’s a very happy plant that went green almost in a day.

Overnight.

The butterfly decided it liked it too.  It was there, on a Mango leaf and I swear it turned its head to watch me.  Reaching into my pocket, I was able to get exactly one picture out of the encounter.  Then the little orange and black creature fluttered away.  Over the house and into the beyond to live out its fluttery existence.

“One is all you get” it seemed to say.

Wildlife encounters are best when the wildlife insists on a selfie before it goes.

Monarchs in the Ruellia Rescue Pot

The easiest plant I have found to propagate is the Ruellia.

Mexican Petunia.

They are also considered invasive weeds by some. 

One of those things I guess, the butterflies and bees love the flowers, but the plants get out of control and will grow just about anywhere in the South.  Zone 8 to 11 if you’re taking notes.

I guess I shouldn’t propagate them, but since my entire property line on the East side is covered with them, they aren’t going anywhere.  I get an almost 100 percent propagation rate from cuttings stuck in damp soil, and they make for a rather nice display in a pot.

Like I said, the butterflies like them and I’m all about making the butterflies happy.

I had this pot, one of my Rescue Pots where I was planting all sorts of stuff to see if it takes.   When I got a care package of some Mexican Milkweeds, I tossed the seeds into this pot and waited.

Nothing.  Nothing took.  That was back in March. 

Shrugging, since I needed to trim back the Mexican Petunia a couple of lawn mowings ago, I simply saved the cuttings and stuck them into the soil of that pot, densely.  Now the pot has this giant tuft of purple flowers and green leaves.

In the middle of that pot there was one odd ball Mexican Milkweed.  I could tell it was that because the leaves were not as dark as the Ruellia.  The leaves are almost identical, but it looked faded.

With my puttering in the garden each day, I thought it odd that my Milkweed had grown back healthy after being eaten back to sticks by all the Monarch Butterflies we have here.

Then it happened.

Momma Butterfly found my lone plant in the strawberry pot.  She missed the one in the Ruellia.

I shortly had three little baby Monarch caterpillars munching my plant to sticks.  “Oh Well, That Is What It’s There For!” I said, promising myself to watch after my tiger striped pets.

A couple days later, they grew so big that they ate themselves low on food.  One of the caterpillars got hungry enough to try to escape the strawberry pot.  I saw it on the outside of the pot looking lost.  It immediately climbed onto an offered Sea Grape leaf that I picked up from the ground.

You guessed it, it went into the pot with the Ruellia.

So now I have caterpillar number 3 getting fat and happy with the Ruellia, which it seems to have a taste for too, as well as the other two back on the lone Mexican Milkweed that now is almost leafless.  

Good luck creatures, long may you fly!