Tag Archives: insects

Ah, Summer In July!

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower) – Meditation Circle at Sunset July 14, 2022

Hot, yes. But summer, ah! My husband and I enjoy the daily comings and goings of hummingbirds and American Gold Finches as they forage. Songbirds and cicadas provide a satisfying soundtrack to garden wanders. Paths in the meditation circle are too overgrown to make room for walking but at least the culprits are not weeds this year, but rather cleome rising up 5 or more feet. They seed easily and though I committed to staying strong and trying to reclaim the meditation circle for walking meditations, I aways think maybe I’ll keep just a few.

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)

Last year I made a habit of checking the garden every day for butterflies, logging 600 individuals from 33 species.  This year I have checked only sporadically, counting 113 from among 20 species. So far I have managed two lifers, a Least Skipper and a Great Spangled Fritillary.

There are two stands of green-headed coneflower in the garden and both are abuzz with activity most of the day with a diversity of insects: bees, a few butterflies and various insects I have identified previously but haven’t learned. They work the flowers with intentionality—some hustle, some accommodate. Their encounters set up a communal rhythm of lighting, feeding, and scrambling for another place to land.

Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

This is one of three buckeyes spotted this year. Like many of the butterflies seen so far it escaped being dinner for something higher up the food chain.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

It is fascinating to discover how varied butterflies present themselves depending on position of wings. This Eastern Tailed-Blue allowed just a tease of its spread-winged blue coloration. Can you spot it in the lower right quadrant above the unopened black-eyed susan?

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

Dragonflies are numerous.

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Since March eight Eastern Tiger Swallowtail have appeared, though it seems like fewer.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Not quite sure but iNaturalist suggests this is Slaty Skimmers (Libellula incesta).

Slaty Skimmer

A second hairstreak showed up this week, also on the Rudbeckia (I suppose it could be the same individual, so I should say second sighting). Last year I observed two other species of hairstreak as well that are absent this year.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) on Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower)

This American Lady was too speedy and feisty for me to approach.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

A few zinnias are established from seed. Never got them all planted because the rabbits were devouring them (even with my rabbit fence—they’re ensconced within the fence!).


This entire section of the border was meant to be full of dahlias. Some tubers didn’t return, some new ones didn’t emerge, some still hold promise. More rudbeckia in background full of insects. Only one phlox survived the rabbits.

Dahlia Decorative ‘Noordwijks Glorie’, Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower)

Lantana and Black-eyed Susans are adding a big splash of color in the southern border. Drought-resistant, yes, but they appreciate water too and it has been very dry. I am headed out soon to give them a drink. A shower yesterday lasted only 2-3 minutes.

Lantana camara (Common lantana) and Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Black-eyed Susan)

Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Black-eyed Susan)

Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Black-eyed Susan)

Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Black-eyed Susan)

Sipping at the butterfly bush, this black swallowtail appeared yesterday and marks the 20th species of butterfly for 2022. The swallowtails are so lovely.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Dahlia ‘Great Silence’ is about 4 feet tall and is beginning to offer a few flowers.

Dahlia ‘Great Silence’ (Decorative dahlia)

The blackberry lily seeds from my sister were a great gift to the garden. Polinators find them attractive. Most are orange but this one has a decidedly red tendency.

Iris domestica (blackberry lily)

Can you spot the Silver-spotted Skipper at center of the frame? The wings glow in the gold of the black-eyed susans.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

Why don’t I stake gladiolas? G. ‘Flowering Performer’ is new this year with a whitish streak in the center of the petals.

Gladiolus ‘Flowering Performer’

Several liatris survived nibbling and have become popular way-stations for bees and other insects.


Liatris Spicata ‘Blazing Star’

The garden is feeling more robust this year despite the dry weather. A haven from worldly cares, it offers a kind respite where the pace of life can slow, where nourishment can be found.

Sunday Morning Musings

Dahlia sp.

Brief though it was I just experienced my first earthquake.   I noticed, wondered, then forgot all about it until I saw some news reports that confirmed a magnitude 5.1 earthquake was reported in Sparta, North Carolina, and felt across the Triangle at around 8 a.m. According to the U. S. Geological Survey database the this is the second strongest earthquake to occur in NC since 1900. The strongest was a 5.2 magnitude earthquake near Skyland, NC in February 1916.

The earthquake bookends a week that began with approaching Hurricane Isaias.  Here in central North Carolina we were spared any problems. We had some rain, mostly on Monday, the day before the hurricane made landfall on the coast. By Tuesday afternoon with the weather cleared, the only affected area in my garden was the Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower). Its stems were bent horizontal and its yellow petals had been stripped, leaving exposed the green cone heads.

Rudbeckia laciniata (Green-Headed Coneflower)

We continued to have brief thunderstorms through the week. On Wednesday morning the flowers which struggle so much during the hot days looked much refreshed. Cerinthe, for example, is much wilted by day’s end but gives no sign of the stress after nourishment from the rain overnight.

‘Pride of Gibraltar’ Hummingbird Cerinthe

Rabbits are still driving me crazy but from a second planting of zinnias I finally had one flower open yesterday from a second sowing.

Zinnia (first of 2020)

There is a 15 by 3-foot strip along the fence that was supposed to host the zinnias. Can you see the rabbit sitting in the very spot the seedlings were nibbled to oblivion? I think this is a descendent of the original culprit. I don’t know how many generations there are in one summer but I found two the day I took this picture and one was really tiny.

Run, Rabbit, Run

There is not much satisfaction in chasing the rabbit. It only goes a short distance and waits. He did at last “high tail it” to the other side of the garden!

Run, Rabbit, Run

There were a few Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in the garden, lingering longer this week than last among the butterfly bush, verbena bonariensis and lantana. This one on purple coneflower seems to illustrate “life ain’t been no bowl of cherries.” I once was given that title as a prompt for a writing assignment. The expression is stuck in my head lately after recently receiving a surprise in the mail—a packet of themes returned to me by my ninth grade English teacher. Though the “bowl of cherries” paper was not among them, still that phrase crops up every once in a while, as it did when I spotted the poor swallowtail.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Here is the dark form. They both are female.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

I’ve seen a lot of Fiery and Ocola skippers this summer and finally spotted one that looks a bit different.  I think it is [ 8-9-2020 update: Eufala Skipper (Lerodea eufala)  Lerema accius (Clouded Skipper).]

Lerema accius (Clouded Skipper)

A duskywing raced among verbena bonariensis flower heads (I couldn’t get a decent photo). Tentatively I have identified it as Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae).

Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae)

This Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) perched on the favorite bamboo stake near dahlias, steering clear of me as much as it could until it finally allowed a few shots.

Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta)

Nearby on the fence sat a strange insect, rather large and ominous.   iNaturalist is very helpful in identifying most of the visitors that show up in the garden. This is Red-footed Cannibal Fly (Promachus rufipes), a species of robber flies.

Red-footed Cannibal Fly (Promachus rufipes)

I saw four social media posts this week featuring a new introduction, Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’. All reports indicate this lavender pink phlox is truly a butterfly magnet. I looked it up and found also in its favor is its excellent resistance to powdery mildew.  I would like a color other than pink but maybe I will give this one a try. I have failed multiple times to establish garden phlox in colors other than pink P. ‘Robert Poore’.  Never have white-flowered P. ‘David’ or ‘White Flame’ nor the dark magenta purple P. ‘Nicky’ made it through one season in my garden.

Phlox paniculata ‘Robert Poore’ (Garden phlox)

We watched an interesting movie this week called The Gardener, which is a lovely tribute to Frank Cabot’s vision and passion in creating a twenty-acre English style private garden in Canada. Cabot founded the nonprofit The Garden Conservancy.

Gardens bring surprises. A single rose bloomed unexpectedly this week on Virgie’s passalong.

Virgie’s Rose

Most of the flowerheads on Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ (Lil’ Ruby dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea) turned completely brown during July’s searing heat and no rain. It would be nice to see it one year covered in flowers turning red.

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ (Lil’ Ruby dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea)

Hummingbirds are becoming even more plentiful lately. They used to make morning rounds to sip from salvias and now show up more frequently throughout the day. This redbud branch is a favorite perch. Sometimes when I am in the garden I forget to look up. Do you know that feeling when you finally do glance skyward?