Bees on Agastache

It is a busy time for bees.

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A large pollen covered bee on Agastache ‘blue fortune’ – anise hyssop.

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A jumbo bee meets the ever-present orange bugs.

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This bee is a little smaller.

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False sunflower

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These two bees spent a long time chasing each others.  I was not sure if it was a mating event or something else going on.

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Coleus below my office window

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Bee on coleus

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Hawk chased a squirrel, but came up empty.

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Can you see the caterpillar on the parsley?

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Black swallowtail caterpillar

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Grasshopper on dried coneflower

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Moth on miscanthus ornamental grass

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One of the three prairie drop seed plants has grass heads now.

Butterflies and Zinnias

I see that I have already been posting pictures of butterflies and zinnias this year, but that is where the action currently is, so here are a few more pictures.

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Black swallowtail butterfly on zinnia.

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So many delicate parts and such an intricate design.

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I decided to look for black swallowtail caterpillars on the curly parsley today and I saw a total of four caterpillars on three parsley plants.  The picture above is of a medium size caterpillar.  There was one that was much bigger near the house.

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Here is a tiny black swallowtail caterpillar just getting started.  I was watching the butterfly laying more eggs on parsley this week.

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Black swallowtail butterfly and monarch butterfly on zinnias.  Today I was in the garden and saw three butterflies just a few feet from me.  One was a silver spotted skipper butterfly, which I have not seen since last year.

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A few days ago I took this shot of the zinnias and, in front of them, the pole beans.  It has been dry recently, but yesterday we got a downpour, with two inches of rain, so that should keep the flowers blooming and the zucchini coming.

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Monarch butterfly on zinnia.

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Monarch on red zinnia.

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Eastern tiger swallowtail on zinnia.

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Here you can see the butterfly’s face.

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From the kitchen window I took this picture of the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on the white phlox.

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The most frequent flying visitor is the cabbage white butterfly.  Unfortunately, our yard is a wonderful habitat.

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Here are the collard leaves that have been chewed by the cabbage worms.

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The male American goldfinch pulls the petals off the zinnias.

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Here the goldfinch reaches up to work on the sunflower that is hanging down.

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Now that the yucca plant has pods the downy woodpecker likes to come and work on them.  There are worms inside those seeds pods he is trying to get.

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I like the woodpecker’s  portrait pose!

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Smaller orange zinnias along the east fence.

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Something else along the fence that is orange, but not so attractive, are these milkweed bugs that have been maturing on the swamp milkweed. They feed on the seeds, leaves, and stems of the milkweed.

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Our neighbor decided to grow cherry tomatoes on the fence this year, and they are starting to ripen on our side of the fence.

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Yesterday we took down a rather tired common lilac bush and planted this fothergilla bush.  Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’ is supposed to be 5 to 8 feet tall, so the goal is to have it grown up to provide privacy from our neighbor’s deck.  But this shrub might take a while to grow, so it might not be very effective for a while…

Zucchini, Tomatoes, Collards and Praying Mantis

With an inch of rain recently we have had a break in the drought.  It is a beautiful October day and here is what I saw when I looked around the garden today.

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Male zucchini flower

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Female zucchini flower.  We have had quite a few zucchini flowers over the past months, but without rain few of them developed into zucchini that I bothered to pick.  Now we might get a few if the weather stays warm.  I enjoy these magnificent but short-lived flowers.

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I have been eating these yellow pear heirloom cherry tomatoes for a few months now.  The leaves of the plant are diseased, but I just keep getting enough cherry tomatoes to have a bunch in my salad each day.

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These are tomato plants that my Arab lady friend left on the patio in my watering can, so I don’t know what kind they are, but they are finally producing the first red tomatoes.  On Thursday I made some delicious ratatouille…

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We try to throw in 2 to 10 leaves of collards into recipes when we get a chance.  This plant near the lilac bush is looking healthy.

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In the vegetable garden the inner portion of the collard plants have been eaten by cabbage moths.  We have more collards than we can eat, so I don’t worry too much about it.

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Here come the brussel sprouts.  They have been pretty small, but I think the rain will help them get a bit bigger.

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Backing up, here is what the brussel sprout plant looks like.

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The pole beans are drying on the vines and will be shelled when I pull down the bean structure.

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I looked for bugs on the bean leaves and found a grasshopper.

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Parsley is one of the plants that look beautiful all the way into December.  I have not cooked much with it this year, but it makes a great ornamental plant.  It is an essential ingredient in my fabulous spaghetti sauce recipe.

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I finally saw my first black swallowtail caterpillar for the year on one of the parsley plants.  For me, parsley is a much better host plant than dill for these caterpillars.

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All the native and ornamental grasses have seed heads now.  This is miscanthus ‘morning light.’  I have been searching them the past months to see if I could see the first praying mantis.

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This morning I found a female praying mantis in a clump of miscanthus.  Her abdomen is very  large and I wondered if she was getting ready to deposit her egg sack or if she just ate a very large grass hopper that she is digesting.  I was trying to get a better shot and she moved further into the grass, so I am no longer able to find her.  I find paying mantis egg sacks in the grasses every spring when I am doing clean up and try to put the egg sacs in a place where the ants will not get at them.

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These little zinnias are finally blooming now.  They are called ‘summer solstice’ but seem to be best in the fall.  I plant them from seeds each year, and they are cute in the garden and attractive to pollinators.

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Just to the right in the alyssum I found a little skipper resting.  I almost pulled up all the alyssum during the drought because it just looked like seed heads, but the flowers have returned after the rain and it is buzzing with small pollinators.

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The coral mums are starting to bloom…

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Some migrating warblers have been passing through.  I think this is a palm warbler, as they seem to visit every year, but not sure I can tell from this picture.

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Then there is the usual bird bath ruckus to see how many starlings or sparrows can get in the bird bath at once!

Have a beautiful autumn day!

Look Closely

What a beautiful fall day! Here are a few pictures of things I saw today.

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Small red and blue insect on small nasturtium leaf.  This critter was so small I almost missed it, but I got out my camera to try to magnify it a bit.  I took a quick look in Illinois insects and did not see a picture that looked like this.  It might be in a grasshopper or tree hopper family with its yellow legs and orange behind.  Though of course it could be a flying object.

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I am not sure if this helps, but from the side you can see a black line around the head.

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I have been waiting all summer to see a black swallowtail caterpillar on my parsley and today I saw two of them!

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I saw three different kinds of bees on my asters today.

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White snakeroot plant.  I guess this seed was dropped by a bird into the garden and the plant was blooming before I noticed it.  I saw some white snakeroot in the prairie of the forest preserve today and I guess the bees like it.  It is poisonous to cattle and humans if we drink milk from cattle that have eaten it in the pasture.  Apparently the roots were used for snake bites in traditional medical practices.

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I went to Spear Woods in the Palos Forest Preserves this morning for a nature walk and talk about the Palos Restoration Project.  I had never been to this part of the forest preserve before and enjoyed the walk led by someone who has been working on this site for 26 years to restore the native habitat.

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We did some seed collection of three plants: blazing star, lead plant, and rattlesnake master.  All ages were involved from elementary school to retired people.  I think I am finding my people…  Though I would love to spend some time with birders, too…

Caryopteris, Chinquapin Oak, and Green Beans

The pollinators are shifting over to the caryopteris and soon the sedum.  The zucchini are multiplying.  The neighborhood trees are producing acorns and other nuts.  Just when summer seems to be coming to an end we anticipate really hot weather this week.

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The caryopteris bluebeard is blooming now and covered with bees and other pollinators.  The sedum is just about to bloom and turn pink, as the black-eyed susans die away.  I just dug out the hydrangea so that I can put a nice big circle of mulch around the chinquapin oak.

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Bee carrying pollen on legs on caryopteris bluebeard.

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First sedum blooms.

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Our chinquapin oak is looking healthy.  The laundry posts block the view….  We really love this tree.  Have we said that before?  We planted it in 2009 and it was about 7 feet tall then.

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Acorns on chinquapin oak.

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I saw this baby chinquapin seedling under the crabapple tree.  We pulled up two of these oak seedlings today.  I hope the birds and squirrels plant more of these trees outside of our yard.

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Blue jay in bird bath.  One afternoon I heard the blue jay squawking in the chinquapin tree and then squawking in the bird bath.

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Blue jay’s bright blue feathers

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Pole bean blossom.  The rabbits have left us alone for a while and the pole beans have come back.  I picked quite a few green beans today, for the first time this year, and put them in some soup we cooked up.  We threw in half a red cabbage, collards, zucchini, turnips, broccoli, tomatoes, and potatoes from the garden, along with some herbs.  A couple of cans of beans added a little more protein and we have meals for a few days.

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This is the time of year when the zucchini patch takes over the garden.  Only one zucchini plant successfully survived from the hill of three seeds I planted, but it seems pretty healthy and bountiful, though some mildew is coming on the leaves now.  In front of it on the left, the collards are doing really well this year, too.

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Just have to throw in one more picture of a black swallowtail caterpillar on parsley.  We have several caterpillars chewing on parsley around the garden this week.

Celebration!  Celebrating 35 years of marriage to my true love tomorrow.  I am glad that he likes nature, too!

Summer Ecosystem

I am not sure what to name this post.  Everything is happening in the garden:  flowers, vegetables, birds, insects, and mammals, etc.  Here are a few pictures of what is happening.

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Cone flowers and Joe Pye Weed

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Close up of liatris, opened and closed flowers.  Favorites of bees.

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Zucchini blossom.  Getting ready for lots of zucchini.

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We have been eating a lot of bok choy recently.

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Maybe we will cook up this red cabbage next week…  This is the first cabbage I have successfully grown.

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This huge collard plant is ready to eat, but it will wait while we finish eating all the broccoli that is about to flower.  We have had so much broccoli this year.  There is a pepper on the left of the picture.  The peppers are ripening and I have started eating them.

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I planted cucumbers for pickles, but I am not exactly sure when to pick them.  I don’t seem to have time to pickle anything, but I am just happy to have cucumbers to eat.  I don’t have enough tomato cages so the cucumber vines are crawling all over everything!

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I always enjoy watching the black swallowtail caterpillars chewing the parsley.  This one reached the end of his branch.  Unfortunately the next day I could not find the two caterpillars here.  I can hope the big one made a chrysalis, but I think birds got them.  The chrysalis from a previous blog is still green and under the rhubarb.  I wonder if a butterfly will emerge.

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I counted 7 starlings in the bird bath and 3 on the ground waiting for their turn.  With that kind of riot I need to change the bird bath water twice a day!  Even the robin in charge of the yard does not seem to want to stand up to the starlings.  The parsley plant above is just to the left of the bird bath and the starlings were poking through it today.

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I think this is a starling that is molting into its adult feathers.  If I am wrong let me know.

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I think this is a Baltimore Oriole.  I was sitting at my desk and noticed it through my screen window in the viburnum bush.  Then it went to the hostas and pulled down the hosta flowers to find bugs.  There were two birds that looked the same color, so it could have been two females or two juvenile orioles.  These two birds were under my window for about ten minutes while the robin stood by and watched.

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Hickory tree.  Two winters ago we had snow on the ground for many months so the squirrel never had a chance to find all the hickory nuts it had buried.  Last summer we had hickories coming up all over the yard.  This one came up in a location good for a tree, so we have been watching it grow.  This is the second year.  We mowed down the tall meadow grass that was around it.  We are hoping that it is a shagbark hickory.  We found a shagbark hickory down the street, but there are other kinds of hickories around also, so we will see.

Sightings:  This week there was a baby bunny running around the yard and hiding under the rhubarb.  I did not see it today… Then today we took a walk be the water reclamation lake and there was a coyote.  It was about 5:30 pm.  The coyote was trying to cross the bridge toward us.  Most of us got off the bridge, but one older couple stayed on the bridge looking at the ducks.  The coyote finally managed to run past the couple and into the woods.  It was skinny.  It did not look like it had eaten a duck recently.

Butterfly Weed, Blueberries, Basil, and a Cocoon

Happy Summer Solstice!

We are having a very lush June this year after much rain.

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This is a “yellow” butterfly weed that I planted last year, I think, but it just got going his year.  The butterfly weed are blooming around the yard and hopefully will attract some monarchs.

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This was the view from my lounge chair this afternoon.  In the front some ground cover is blooming yellow.  In the back the orange butterfly weed is blooming and attracting a variety of bugs.  Just to the left of it the pineapple sage is getting taller and looking healthy.  You can also see a few blueberries on our little ‘top hat’ blueberry bush that are starting to ripen in the middle of the picture.

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It looks like my first blueberry is getting  ready to eat on the ‘Duke’ blueberry bush!  We don’t have that many blueberries as I have not worked hard to acidify the soil around them.

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It looks like the basil is ready for me to make some basil pesto!  In front are prairie verbena flowers.

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Just above the basil is Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Sun.”  I was lying on my lounge chair enjoying these flowers and watching the clouds float by.  Summer at its finest.

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We also have some heliopsis blooming in our little meadow.

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I took this dragonfly picture in the meadow early this morning, where it had rested in the grass for the night.  It is probably some type of skimmer.

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A little before noon I found this turtle on the road in front of our house.  We also found a smaller turtle on the road near Lake Katherine this morning.  Maybe with all the rain recently the usual rocks in the lakes are covered with water and the turtles are looking for other places to catch some sun.  That is just a theory.

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Turtle foot.

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The Tokyo cross turnips are coming along well.

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We are throwing in chopped up collard leaves in our recipes now, too.

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I have seen black swallowtail butterflies in our garden depositing eggs, so was glad when I finally saw a caterpillar chewing on our curly parsley.

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Later in the week I noticed it had travelled a few feet to the rhubarb leaves where a cocoon was getting started.

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Today I went back to the same spot and found this cocoon, well disguised.  Little things like this make me happy!

Poetry referring to nature:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

                                          Isaac Watts