Friday, March 30, 2012


The series Flower Hill Farm Butterflies  (all sightings and most photos are from 2011 with exception to a few from other years) along with a few other Lepidoptera . . . comes to its final metamorphosis . . . and end . . .  just as many buds are beginning to unfurl and reports of 2012 butterfly sightings begin. 
My knowledge and respect for these butterflies and moths has grown over the last fifteen or so posts. It was lovely spending all of January, February and most of March editing photos of these magical creatures, while learning more important facts about their life cycles. 
Our Flower Hill Farm gardens, blueberry fields, wildflower fields and forest do attract many more species of Lepidoptera. I have yet to capture but these few butterflies and moths (plus a few more not included in the collage above) in our wildlife habitat.
In Massachusetts alone there are hundreds of species that might live in our gardens, fields and along the forest edge. I now realize that I may have made it hard or impossible for other butterflies to survive here due to my stewardship practices.
I vow to never destroy an egg or caterpillar that I have not explicitly identified as an invasive pest. Gypsy moth eggs and caterpillars must still BEWARE! 
As I mentioned in the various posts in this series, many butterflies and moths overwinter in either egg, larva/caterpillar, pupa/chrysalis and a few even in adult butterfly stages. 
With all the best intentions, we go out into our gardens and fields to 'CLEAN UP' to prepare for the following season's glory. What we do not always realize is that by being so fastidious we are possibly killing or exposing creatures to predation or the elements. 
For many years I have hired a neighbor to mow the fields in November, now I will protect certain parts of the fields where host plants for different butterflies thrive.
A messy garden is a happier garden . . . for wildlife and me too!
I wish you all boundless butterfly sightings for 2012!
Another Friday already and so I send all my butterflies over to Sweden to join Katarina's Roses and Stuff.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Hummingbird clearwing Hemaris thysbe, also known as Hummingbird moth, is out in the gardens and fields sipping nectar during the day and often at dusk. 

People sometimes confuse Hummingbird clearwings with a real hummingbird due to its habit of hovering while feeding with its long proboscis. Host plants include honeysuckle, hawthorns, plums, cherries and snowberries.

Note the difference in the two species above and below. 

Snowberry clearwing Hemaris diffinis is more black but its coloration can vary. 
As its name implies . . .  this clearwing relies on snowberry. Other host plants are honeysuckle and dogbane.  Snowberry clearwings also fly about in the daytime and are more often seen in the summer months. 

All of the clearwings or Hummingbird moths are spritely flyers and like many butterflies they depend on our not being too fastidious with our clearing of debris, for they need leaves to spin within their cocoons and detritus along the ground offers protective covering through the cold winter months, while the pupa wait for spring. 

The lovely pale green Luna moth Actias luna, is one of the largest moth species in North America and is only active in the dark hours of night. Females can lay up to two hundred eggs. Here at Flower Hill Farm our Shagbark Hickory, White birch, Walnuts and even Sumac act as host plants. The caterpillars munch on leaves and shed their skin five times, as their relative butterflies and then overwinter in their silky cocoons beneath the chosen host plant. 
The adults have no mouth parts . . . imagine a simple life of sleep, flying and mating for one week only and you have an idea of the life of an adult Luna moth.
I forget to turn off a light the night this Luna moth comes to visit. Early next morning I carefully carry the sleeping moth inside, so that the birds will not have an unfair advantage. He sleeps all day and when the curtain of night falls, I hold him out to the dark air and watch as the beautiful creature takes his ghostly flight into a night of pursuing pleasure.  
They have amazingly strong wings but sometimes fall prey to our beloved bats.

A member of the Saturniidae family, Luna moths only have one brood here in the northeast. I usually see them in May but the one above was found in June. It looks like it might be already a few days old.

Another member of the Saturniidae family, the Rosy maple moth Dryocampa rubicunda also has no need of a mouth for they too do not eat as adults. Much smaller than their Luna cousins, the Rosy maple moths will also be attracted to a light and then will sleep through the night and next day. If a light is accidentally left on, I try to get them to fly into nearby plants in order to hide from birds. Females lay eggs on leaves of oak, sugar maple and other maples. The caterpillars spin a cocoon and sleep through the winter months. 

A mystery moth in the clutch of a flower crab spider. 
Moths can be very beautiful and their caterpillars can be very striking too. 

White Spotted Sable Moth Anania funebris, can be found in our fields and gardens in the daylight. 
The host plant is Goldenrod.

Intricately patterned mystery moth found on tree peony leaf.

Lovely white mystery moth with a yellow line through both wings found on iris. 

I missed Katarina's Floral Friday because I was enjoying a break with a dear friend by the sea . . .  and studying color with a fabulous expressionist painter and teacher through Provincetown Art Association and Museum.
Though there is not a wildflower within any of these photos the moths are pretty wild and hopefully considered wild enough for Gail's Wildflower shadings. 

The light and colors in Wellfleet, North Truro and Provincetown were magical! 
Wildlife was wondrous. 
I came home to spring but tonight is dipping down into the teens. Ouch! 

I think it fitting that upon arriving home . . . my first wildlife encounter in the gardens would be this magnificent Turkey vulture. (An amazing encounter I will share later.)
My teacher has encouraged me to use black paint in my work. 
Black can surely evoke power.
Turkey vultures are certainly more 'photogenic' than I had imagined. Attractive might be a stretch but truly . . . what a magnificent creature. 
Happy Spring to All! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Flower Hill Farm BUTTERFLIES OF 2011 ~ Favorite Skippers

Skippers are feisty little butterflies of the Skippers Hesperiidae Family. 
Flower Hill Farm has residents from both the Subfamily: Grass Skippers and Spread-wing Skippers. 
I truly cannot be certain of these tiny creatures but guess this one to be a Black Dash. I am hoping for help from others and then will add the facts about this tiny adorable Skipper later.

Peck's Skipper Polites peckius, may be sighted in the hundreds during one of their flight periods. They  are most likely to be eyed in late May and the first brood flies about till the end of July. Then the second brood will take wing from the beginning of August flying into September. Females attach one pale green egg at a time to a stem of one of their host grasses. Peck's Skippers overwinter in both caterpillar and chrysalis forms.

Zabulon Skipper Poanes zabulon  Or   Hobomok Skipper Poanes hobomok  ??

The Silver-spotted Skipper Epargyreus clarus, of the subfamily Spread-wing Skipperis a very common resident of Massachusetts and it is our most sizable skipper. Normally there is only one brood dashing and skipping about during June through the middle of August. Females fasten green ribbed eggs to leaves of the legume family or more precisely, on a plant near the host plant. Here at Flower Hill Farm I imagine them to favor the Honey Locust along the north field. They overwinter in the chrysalis stage. 

It looks as though there might be a tiny Tawny-edged Skipper Polites themistocles hanging out with these Silver-spotted Skippers. Just a guess from eyeing the bit of red on the wings.

I have read and witnessed the Silver-spotted Skippers dashing about really fast and happily I can say the same thing for spring. 
Warmer days have nearly melted all the snow on our hillside. 
Last evening we joyfully listened to the first woodcocks of the season!! There were three out in the fields and I chanced to see one flying too! Their magical mating dance and wing song is a sure sign of spring!

Mount Holyoke and Mount Tom under the changing skies. 

The landscape is rapidly melting from this . . . 

 to this.  Wild Turkeys are happy too! 

Look out little caterpillars and chrysalises!!

Another friday begins and already mid March . . . I hope you can click over to Katarina's 'Roses and Stuff' to see 'signs of Spring' from Sweden and around the globe.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Flower Hill Farm BUTTERFLIES OF 2011 ~ Sulphurs and Whites

Orange Sulphur on Aster

We now enter the family Pieridae, of fluttering Whites and Sulphurs, found in the gardens and fields here at Flower Hill Farm over the last few years. 
Orange sulphur Colias eurytheme and Clouded Sulphur Colias philodice, can be confusing to identify, but not to the female Orange sulphur butterflies, who are attracted to the ultraviolet in the male Orange sulphur upper wings. 
I enjoy these bright buttery and paler butterflies mostly in mid to late summer and fall, though their flight may begin as early as May. 
The Orange sulphur and Clouded Sulphur female butterflies will lay a single, yellow-white morphing into deep red, egg on numerous legumes but prefer alfalfa, vetches, and white clovers. It seems the Orange sulphur caterpillars enjoy dining mostly in the dark. One would have to enter the meadows towards evening . . .  to see the caterpillars wearing green and white-striped pjs munching their leafy legume supper. 
Both Orange and Clouded Sulphurs overwinter in their chrysalis forms.

Orange or Clouded on Vetch
Clouded Sulphur on Aster
Clouded Sulphurs flutter though these images of the south field . . . full of New England Asters.

There is always a great chase scene in every good story.

The Cabbage White Pieris rapae, and I share a common delight. We both love Brassicas. Planting peppergrass and mustards may encourage the female to fasten her yellow-green eggs on a more diverse group of delicious plants, so there will be enough to go around. 
Unfortunately the green and yellow-striped caterpillar is blamed . . .  and I guess rightfully so . . . for much agricultural damage. Poisons have not worked but only brought more angst to the human community. 
Cabbage Whites overwinter in their chrysalis stage. 
Introduced to Canada from Eurasia in the eighteen hundreds it may also have caused the decline of other native Whites. 

Spring is still harnessed and held back by winters frosty grip out in our New England gardens and landscapes, but the Smith College Bulb show is on, giving all a whiff and whirl of what is soon to be set free. These photographs from last March are as close as I have been able to get this year . . . so far. 

Bluebirds are giving a 'wing up' to our new birdhouses!! 
Snow is melting and next week will be in the high 50's and even 60's! 
Snowdrops are still perky after the heavy carpet of snow . . .  I thought surely had crushed them. 
Ah, to be so supple!
I have seen a few dead honeybees caught out in the cold after the warmer days last week. The Monarch Butterflies are leaving Mexico!

I am late for my flight to Sweden and Katarina's charming world. I am happy to share my garden jewels today!

From the fragile wings to beasts . . . you can see my latest piece on the Eastern Coyote from my Bestiary over at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. But beware . . . it is a chilling tale.

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