Category Archives: Pest Controllers & Pollinators

It’s a boy!…Monarch that is…

 

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Beautiful male Monarch on my Asclepias!  The spot, circled in yellow, is mirror-imaged on the other wing, and indicates this to be a male.  Photo courtesy of neighbor, Jamie Simmons, who also watched this specimen flitting in his yard.

We’ve been blessed with the presence of an authentic Monarch butterfly in the garden this last week, following my sighting of 3 more out in some pasture lands on the outskirts of town.  The Monarch is a relatively rare butterfly to see in this area, and I can’t remember the last time I saw one: with the overall decline in their populations over the last decade, I was surprised and delighted to see these, especially in a short amount of time!  Almost didn’t trust my eyes! I grew up with them as very commonplace yard visitors, and missed their numbers up here in western Oregon.  Even though I’ve grown a type of milkweed for many years (a non-invasive cultivar), it hasn’t hosted very many caterpillars in its lifetime, nor is it the favorite of the monarch.  However, more people are planting various types of milkweed in the area, and perhaps it is paying off.

He is not always present on a daily basis, but one afternoon and evening he was a visitor for several hours, flitting about, around to neighbors, and back, and alighting on the butterfly bush, which is loves for nectar.  The frequently visiting Swallowtail was also cruising through the yard, and there were some near collisions at the Buddleia bush.  Jujubes have shown up, too, jumping and whirling themselves about in little frenzies, which didn’t phase Mr. Monarch.  Such a delight and blessing to see them all active and energetic.  I did have to remind little Juni-cat that she should not even think about trying to capture our visitor! She has caught a Swallowtail before…grrr.

Our first bounty of beautiful yellow crookneck squash was picked a couple of weeks ago, and a ripening tomato can be seen from certain viewpoints in the yard.  However, most of the tomatoes are green; our intermittent pattern of 3-days cooler than average, then 3 days normal summer heat, is not conducive to speedy tomato ripening.  There might be green tomatoes at season’s end this year, depending.

Spaghetti squash is being true to form and pumping out its fruit, (with bees’ help, of course), and at last count last weekend, I saw about twelve softball-sized squash.  Five days later, some of them are now almost full-grown for this variety, like a good-sized canteloupe.

We’ve had very, very, very, very bad deer this year, in spite of extra netting.  They have learned to walk on netting and bite through it for their highly-desired bean leaf sprouts, and then they won’t leave them alone.  There will be absolutely no bean harvest this year; I leave the stems to torment them!  Always one day (no, one night!) ahead of me, they demolished over half the lettuce crop.  It appears we might get some lettuce re-growing though as summer cools off a bit.  And they harass some of the melon and cucumber seedlings, too, when least expected, so we’ll see how those do.  Tomatoes are protected enough now that they can’t do too much damage.

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Early July deer damage.  Forget any bean harvest this season, and only a bit of lettuce escaped sabatoge.  The day after this photo shot, they munched the rest of the lettuce, and proceed to keep it mowed.

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That’s what happens when you leave town for a few days…all of a sudden it is a massive crookneck jungle! May have to do some disciplining/removal so the hidden melon plant can see more sun!

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Spaghetti squash interloping with tomatoes. At least deer don’t like the prickly leaves at this point.

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Squash fruits galore, running all over the place.

 

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Musings during another heat wave

We are having our share of heat waves this summer, interspersed with quick blips of cooler temps and a day of badly needed rain a week ago.  Hooray, no watering for 3 days!  But that was about it.  We are nearing the height of summer, and it’s nice to take a few moments out from the incessant yard chores, to finally sit and watch the jujube skippers and cabbage moth loopers flitting about on the zinnias.  Three turkey vultures are catching heat currents and soaring high above the nearby forest, and above all this the cloud sylphs are shape-shifting.  The Stargazer lilies are in peak form, releasing their exquisite perfume.  There are even a couple of roses open, having survived a few deer nibblings.  Weeds are happy, too, but I am just letting them stay in place for awhile longer.

These cloud-sylphs demanded my attention by literally taking on the shapes of jellyfish in the space of 2 minutes.  As they passed over the street, they retracted their "tentacles" after another 5 minutes.  I think they were having too much fun!

These cloud-sylphs demanded my attention by literally taking on the shapes of jellyfish in the space of 2 minutes. As they passed over the street, they retracted their “tentacles” after another 5 minutes. I think they were having too much fun!

Actually taken in June-2013; lots of chemtrail action overhead.  An eerie combination of a chemtrail and a sundog that came into formation after the jet flew off.

Actually taken in June-2013; lots of chemtrail action overhead. An eerie combination of a chemtrail and a sundog that came into formation after the jet flew off.  The sun above caused a shadow below the chemtrail.

Snakefly!  A treat to see one land outside my patio door.  This is a female, with that long ovipositor at the end.  These are some of nature's natural pest controllers.  She is about 1.5" long.

Snakefly! A treat to see one land outside my patio door. This is a female, with that long ovipositor at the end. These are some of nature’s natural pest controllers. She is about 1.5″ long.

When an artichoke thistle flower resembles a lotus flower.  Nature's magical geometry.

When an artichoke thistle flower resembles a lotus flower. Nature’s magical geometry.

Beautiful Icicle radishes...hassled by a swarm of flea beetles, but they only bother the leaves.  We try to eat the radishes faster than they can.

Beautiful Icicle radishes…hassled by a swarm of flea beetles, but they only bother the leaves. We try to eat the radishes faster than they can.

Entering the peak season of maturity: lettuce overlapping with bush beans, squash blossoms, baby zucchini, and green tomatoes!  July 23-2014

Entering the peak season of maturity: lettuce overlapping with bush beans, squash blossoms, baby zucchini, and green tomatoes! July 23-2014.

Hope everyone is enjoying summer in some manner!

 

The ladybug hatchery is hopping…on the hops

For whatever reason, the hops plant outside the front door, whose vines screen the patio area from direct street view became a designated ladybug-generating factory.  This also means that there was an aphid attack.  The plant has never had insect problems before, but like my apples and some other plants that normally never get visited by aphids, this is the year of infestation, in spite of a very cold winter.

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The hops ladybug hatchery and nursery.

Normally, the honeysuckle serves as the garden’s aphid residence, and the rest of the plants are spared any infestations.  The stalwart honeysuckle starts to look very shabby by the end of June, its new buds barely able to blossom forth before being smothered by aphid larvae, but it has no problem surviving.  I remain grateful to it for its sacrifice in this way.  Ladybugs hang out on it also, but don’t ever seem to gain the upper hand in controlling the aphids.

Never before have I seen so many immature ladybugs in so many stages of development,on a single plant, and I have no idea where the adults came from.  Perhaps some neighbor released a packet of several hundred, and, typical of these creatures, they left their original release area in search of food elsewhere.  It’s a blessing to have so many of these beauties around, contributing their assistance to the bounty!  And they always bring smiles to people’s faces.

Various stages of ladybug beetle larvae.  The dark "spots" are eggs that eventually "hatch" into the larvae, of which there are several sizes here.  Once they molt 3 times as larvae, then they become pupae (like the one closest to center), before they transform into the adults we are more familiar with.

Various stages of ladybug larvae. Eggs are typically a yellow-orange color, that eventually “hatch” into the larvae, of which there are several sizes here. Once they molt 3 times as larvae, then they become pupae (like the one closest to center), before they transform into the adults we are more familiar with.

A beautiful picture of two non-adult ladybugs.  The one on the right is almost an adult, but still has no wing differentiation; it is the pupal stage, occuring just after the larva on the left molts 3 times.  The youngster larvae are voracious eaters. Adults also eat plant pests such as aphids, but are designed more for their beauty, ability to fly off elsewhere, meet other adults, lay more eggs, and ensure the survival of the species...;-)

A beautiful picture of two non-adult ladybugs. The one on the right is almost an adult, but still has no wing differentiation; it is the pupal stage, occurring just after the larva on the left molts 3 times. The youngster larvae are voracious eaters. Adults also eat many aphids, but function more as re-locators, flying off elsewhere, meeting other adults, laying more eggs, and ensuring the survival of the species, all in the general time frame of 1 month…;-)

 

In between the gaps…a gallery

A glimpse into the menagerie of the community garden and general house yard through fall and winter 2013/2014.

Always like to show off what our browsers can do when they put their minds to it.  Push down that netting to get the delectable bean leaf tips! They've developed finesse so they don't get their teeth caught in the netting...

Always like to show off what our browsers can do when they put their minds to it. Push down that netting to get the delectable bean leaf tips! They’ve developed finesse so they don’t get their teeth caught in the netting…

Apologies to our beautiful praying Mantis, who is probably eyeing an insect or two under the netting.  What a beaut!

Apologies to our beautiful praying Mantis, who is probably eyeing an insect or two under the netting. What a beaut!

Tasty greens sprouting for fall crop.  Mature beets further right even overwintered well under the snow pack.

Tasty greens sprouting for fall crop. Mature beets further right even overwintered well under the snow pack.

The typical way we keep the squash, melon, and tomato harvest aired and dry during the mild, not-too-rainy days of fall....stored under my eaves.

The typical way we keep the squash, melon, and tomato harvest aired and dry during the mild, not-too-rainy days of fall….stored under my eaves.

A record-setting snow-then-freeze episode the very first weekend of December 2013, followed by a record-setting snowfall in early February 2014, made us very aware of how little we can predict anything anymore, or when our gardens are tested to the maximum adaptability, and how miraculously resilient plants can be.  The witnessing of when a healthy, mature plant “decides” it will not struggle to survive the next year, but yield to the new energies of the next generation of seedlings.

Where's the bench seat?!

Where’s the bench seat?!

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14″ AFTER the snow has packed down for 3 days…

The birds had to learn to eat snow on their feeder for a few days.  Thank goodness for seeds on the old flower stalks, although the snow buried a lot of those.

The birds had to learn to eat snow on their feeder for a few days. Thank goodness for seeds on the old flower stalks, although the snow buried a lot of those.

And spring brings the energy of renewal…

2014-Kiwi Arbor-a

Kwan Yin being sheltered by a bower of the Siberian kiwi vine.

 

They really exist!

Thanks to one of our natural pest controllers, who decided to quit being so shy, we had beautiful bounty, even if the tomatoes are still slow, and the summer squash are slowing down!

An elusive friend mantis making a brief appearance

September bounty:

  • Basil: 6.5
  • Bush beans: 2.75
  • Cucumbers: 6
  • Grapes: 2
  • Charantai melons: 16
  • Margarita melons: 8.75
  • Delicata squash: 8.5
  • Spaghetti squash: 6.5
  • Spinach: 2
  • Swiss chard: 2.25
  • Summer squash: 26.75
  • Tomatoes: 41.25

Month’s total: 125 pounds (rounded)
Season total: 400 pounds

Spaghetti squash near harvest

Ladybugs…workers and slackers

There’s a reason there are a few hundred ladybugs in a bag when you purchase them.  They don’t like to stay in one area, even with a food source; some don’t survive; and some refuse to go to work, even if presented with a banquet.  I think a bunch of mine had other ideas in mind.  It’s always fun checking around to see where they might be hiding after being released last evening, scattered over some roses, lavender, Jerusalem sage, and particularly upon a honeysuckle smothered with aphids.  For some reason, this is the mother-lode plant for aphids this spring.  Perhaps it is offering to serve as the prime bait plant, so as to lure them away from other plants.

While one worker has more than enough aphids to contend with, another two have "other ideas"...

Must be the feel of real spring in the wind! Irresistible to ladybugs who have been squashed together in a mesh bag for weeks. Maybe they decided they needed to generate more troops to contend with more aphids…..hooray!

Lavender is a great place to party....without aphids. Shhh....don't ask!

First blush

February held our area in a uniquely extended pattern of lovely, mild weather, which encouraged many trees and perennials to start blooming 2 to 3 weeks earlier “than average”.  Fruit trees, rosemary, pussy willows, maples, and, alas, allergies are all ahead of schedule!

We love the beautiful first signs and color blushes of plants awakening with quickened life energy, no matter when they show up!

The signs of late winter.......when the euphorbia blushes.

Colors of spring showing up

The new mason bee nest is now charged with some straws with eggs; perched a few feet above.....

the dwarf peach in full bloom.....

One gets itchy fingers for planting when the temperatures rise to 60° on a weekend! But, not everything can handle the near-freezing night temps yet, so patience!  Instead, it has been time to prune roses, clean up dead plant stalks where they give way to easy tugs, pull up umpteen weeds that have had too much of a good thing, set up the mason bee nest, and take walks.