First of all, cheers and congratulations to Austin’s newest Habitat Steward Volunteers — the 2011 training just finished up last week! Second, everyone please be sure to go out and support your favorite local nurseries this month as an extra helpful boost for them this October. Oh and one more thing — next week is Texas Native Plant Week. You know what I’ll be doing, starting with the plant sale at the Wildflower Center this weekend. I should probably let my family know that, uh, instead of Family Game Night we’ll likely be having Family Gardening Weekend.
Thank goodness fall has arrived, and with it we’re seeing butterflies and caterpillars again. I’ll let you in on a little secret — if you watch Central Texas Gardener this week, you might just learn about some of my personal favorites.
I was thrilled last week to finally get to release three Two-tailed Swallowtails from the Caterpillar Hotel. The caterpillars formed their chrysalises last spring and then underwent diapause, or a period of dormancy, over the summer. Finally, when the weather cooled a bit, the beautiful butterflies emerged.
Here’s a picture of one of the caterpillars last May — it was munching on Wafer Ash, which is also the host plant for the Giant Swallowtail butterfly.
But wait — who’s munching from behind this next leaf?
Monarchs are here! I’ve been busily keeping several caterpillars of all sizes feasting upon milkweed, safely housed inside the Caterpillar Hotel (also known as a large mesh laundry basket).
We have 2 chrysalises newly formed today, and I expect three more will be there tomorrow — the caterpillars have already selected their metamorphosis locations.
Next up is another sweet creature on milkweed, a ladybug nymph.
It’s a fierce predator of those naughty aphids you can see farther back on the plant, and as an adult ladybug, it will still feast away on the aphid pests. Whenever I see an adult or nymph ladybug, I leave aphids on the plant for it to eat.
I’m trying to ID this next bug — if anyone knows it, please help me out.
I’ve got three of them patrolling the top of my Caterpillar Hotel, trying to find a way in. They look like some sort of weevil. Could they want the milkweed? I don’t know of weevils that eat caterpillars, but I only saw them on the mesh tent where the caterpillars are, not on the rest of the milkweed out in the garden. There’s nothing else inside the mesh that could possibly interest them. Hmmmm…
Most of the hummingbirds have moved on, but I saw one out there yesterday.
At our peak about 3 weeks ago, we had 15 hummingbirds visiting flowers and feeders all at the same time — I’m only just now able to show some of the pictures.
The feeder below was the favorite of most of the birds. At one point we counted 7 sharing the feeder at the same time, but first they had to calm their territorial instincts.
Of course, the other feeders got plenty of visitors, too.
I do miss all the hummingbirds, but they’ll be back. For those birds still trying to make their way south, the flowers and feeders are still here for them (in fact I always keep at least one feeder up all winter just in case there’s a hummer that didn’t find its way south before the cold gets here).
The brief bit of rain last week has done the garden good. What a pleasure it is to be back outside again!