Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Plague!

   A wisteria choked section along the Happy Valley Trail, in Carvin's Cove. There's an ancient house foundation nearby dating back to the 1800's, this valley was settled way back in the 1750's. Little did they know that sweet exotic vine they planted would unfortunately still be alive today!

   So there I was today, riding down that trail, when I was struck by how differently I see this place now that I'm starting to become educated about invasive plants. Long ago, when I didn't know any better, I used to ride my bike through Carvin's Cove and marvel at the beautiful, monstrous patches of "wild" wisteria. I thought they were little spots of heaven! Actually, rather big spots. Now I've learned they're not "wild" at all. They're non-native, invasive, even classified as a noxious weed in some states, and as anyone who's planted it on an arbor knows, down right destructive. Remember how as it grew it pulled apart all the wood beams? Well that same force will literally choke a tree to death. You can read all about it, including how to get rid of it and suggested alternatives here at the Plant Conservation Alliance: That is a wonderful website for learning about invasives and what to do about them, take time to look around. It especially helped us with our Japanese Knotweed problem. Please don't ever plant wisteria anywhere, and don't let your friends plant it either.

Monarch Update!

   They're still munching along. It's been almost a week since they've hatched, and since this is my first time as a surrogate Monarch mommy, I've had no idea what to expect. They don't seem to be growing as fast as I expected, but perhaps they slow down when it gets cool. Our weather has been very erratic lately, 50 degrees, 80 degrees, 50, 80, etc. I can definitely see their stripes now, and even their little antennae (or whatever they're called). I have a question for anyone out there who has raised monarchs before: What was your mortality rate with the caterpillars, how many caterpillars actually made it to the chrysalis stage? I've already noticed a few caterpillars that have perished for one reason or another. One day they are healthy looking, the next day they are shriveled and deceased looking. I still have about a dozen or more, and those are just the ones I've found without actually looking too hard. I'm afraid to disturb them too much.

   We had a very special visitor on Sunday!

   Rose Breasted Grosbeak! This is only the second time in our 8 years here that we've seen one at a feeder. Sorry about the poor image quality, I need to wash the window in case he comes back!
   Elsewhere in the yard I'm trying to practice a new technique, "Slowing Down and Looking Closely". We're surrounded by so much life and there's so much happening around us if we just take the time to slow down our busy lives and look, sometimes in not-so-obvious places, we'll see it. One trick I've started doing is turning over leaves of a tree, to see what may be hiding underneath. For example I found this lady bug larvae last night on the Birch. It looks like a little alligator!

   It becomes like a fun little game I play, just to see if I can find something, and I usually do! I've seen several lady bug larvae already, and more adult lady bugs just this spring than all of last year. Anybody else noticing more lady bugs this year?

   I also found this Copper Underwing caterpillar, but not by looking underneath leaves. It was quite obvious, I noticed some buds were missing from this climbing rose, so I just kept looking to see if I could find the culprit. He (or she) is quite large and bright, and no I'm not going to spray it with a pesticide or squish it under my shoe just because he's eating my rose! That's not my style. I'll gladly sacrifice a few rose buds to have this beautiful visitor in my yard.
   Thank you for visiting!


  1. Hey Julie,

    Love your blog and pictures.

  2. Julie,

    What fun to see your Monarch Cater. I have raised hundreds and would say I have had 98 percent become butterflies in their own time. Cold weather will make them slow down. If you have some that are not well you should put them outside or if very ill separate them asap. Giving them lots of air and not have too many together is the best way to prevent sickness. Good Luck! How are you raising them? Beautiful Rose-breasted Grosbeak!

  3. We just had a female rose breasted show up yesterday, now I'm looking for the sporty male.