Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ABC Wednesday: Bugs and Blooms

Yesterday, on the 15th, I posted many of the flowers that are blooming in my garden for the monthly Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. But plants are not the only thing living in my garden; a closer inspection reveals another thriving living community perfect for today's ABC letter of I--Insects.

Every one of my flowerbeds is virtually humming throughout the sunlit hours with the activity of the pollinators, without whom there would be no flowers.

Honeybees, the most well-known of the pollinators, are difficult to capture for this amateur photographer as their wings are in constant motion.

Often times the photo of a small bee is pure luck, as I try to capture an image of a bloom only to discover later while downloading the photos that a little winged creature has been caught as well.

Even more difficult to photograph than the honeybees are what we refer to as "sweat bees," which is a name applied to many different bees, all belonging to the family Halictidae. They tend to hover over a bloom and move quickly from one to another, so I was amazed that this photo turned out well.

The bumblebees have to be my favorite, though. Their size makes them easy to spot as they go from flower to flower, sipping the nectar. They are much more accomodating about posing for a photo as well.

Not every insect is welcome in my garden, however. I forgot to include a photo of my Knockout roses on my Bloom Day post yesterday; they are finally beginning to bloom again after an early bout with sawflies and then the ravishing by the Japanese beetles. Now that the beetles have finally left, they are recovering enough to bloom once again . . . but wait a minute, that's another Japanese beetle! Doesn't he know the rest of his clan has left for the summer . . . I think.

I'm also not too fond of grasshoppers, which can destroy foliage not only in the garden, but in large numbers can also cause destruction in the nearby fields of corn and soybeans.

I am no expert on insects and certainly cannot identify all those I see. These resting on a black-eyed Susan appear to be some kind of wasp, but I'm not sure. When it comes to wasps, I don't get too close to investigate:)

Nor can I identify these two insects. Hmmm, do you sense a theme here? No wonder I have so many insects in my garden!

Another mystery bug . . . alone, this time:) Rather blurry, but I am hoping that someone can identify it for me. It was the most brilliant shade of blue.

This is an insect that I can identify, and one that is more than welcome in my garden--the praying mantis. Last year, I had a whole community of different types of mantids in my garden and became fascinated with these "good bugs." I learned a great deal about them, which you can read about in a post I did last summer if you are interested in knowing more. This year sightings have been few, a phenomenon I can't explain.

With some insects, it is easier to find the trail they leave behind. These shells of the cicadas look like some kind of prehistoric predators, don't they?

Not every insect has wings, and not every plant in my garden is planted for its show of flowers. The butterfly weed, Asclepias Tuberosa, is host to many butterfly larva, including the Monarch butterfly. Although I have seen Monarchs floating through the trees and the gardens here, I have yet to get one decent photo of one. I do hope this caterpillar is a Monarch and that I will have more adults coming to visit.

Other plants grown primarily for the butterflies are parsley and fennel. This looks like a swallowtail caterpillar, which prefers the fennel.

Another tiny caterpillar I discovered in the fennel is this little black guy with the white stripe. This is when I really wish I had a supermacro feature on my camera! Perhaps someone recognizes him as well.

Aside from the bees, my favorite of all the insects, of course, is the butterfly. For whatever reason, they have been scarce this year, although the garden is thick with yellow sulphurs and cabbage whites right now.

The spotting of any unusual butterfly or moth is cause for celebration and a reason for the photographer to go running about her garden trying not to squash a flower while trying to get one good still photo.

Many flowers are also chosen here because they attract the butterflies. I have been so pleased with the colorful blooms of the cosmos planted this year, but I'm just as happy that the bees and moths like this one enjoy them as well.

Finally, I leave you with one butterfly that has made fewer than its usual appearances here this year--the Painted Lady. It posed quite daintily for me atop a zinnia, another plant that is a butterfly magnet.

For those of you reading this today who aren't gardeners, perhaps you can see another side to my obsession with gardening--it is not only a place of beauty, but also a sanctuary, and a place to observe so many of the small miracles of life.

For other ABC posts today, you might want to visit the ABC blog or our hostess, Mrs. Nesbitt.


  1. Hi Rose - with all that insect life buzzing around, your garden's in good health! I think we must have your share of Painted Ladies this year - we've had them come over from the continent in their thousands if not millions :)

  2. Rose girl ! Great post : ) We are all fascinated at one time or another with the little lives in our garden .. I haven't had much luck spotting a butterfly .. but loads of bess for sure .. and SPIDERS galore .. the webs are every where .. isn't that a sign of a harsh winter coming ? eeuuuwww !! Buckle down and hang on ? LOL

  3. Hi Rose, great capture of insects, and what I wouldn't give to have a Monarch in our garden! Swallowtails seem to be the most prevalent here. Bumblebees: we always have such a chuckle as we stroll along the garden paths in the evening and see them straddling a blossom, motionless, and what seems drunk with nectar. Amazing what little things bring us pleasure. ;)

  4. What a huge variety of insects you have in your lovely garden Rose, you are obviously providing them with a wonderful habitat! As VP said, most of your Painted Ladies came here this year and we have loved having them ;) I too am so envious of your Monarchs and have read such a lot lately about their incredible migratory habit, just amazing!

    A fascinating post Rose with lovely photos.

  5. Wonderful post! Is that Cupid's Dart that the sweat bee is on? It's such a beautiful color.

  6. That black caterpillar looks like a frittilary caterpillar. I'd say the other unknown is surely a monarch. Maybe the blue insect is a blue winged wasp? Can't believe J. beetles are still hanging around. That is a neat praying mantis. Very different.

  7. It's great that you have so many pollinators and other insects! You've got a great habitat there. I'm still bummed about the lack of butterflies here this year but hopefully next year will be an improvement. I've added some host plants such as swamp milkweed and golden alexander. We'll see!

  8. The blue bug might also be a blue flowered wasp.

  9. What should the plants do without the insects? And what should we do without the plants? Not much.

    Nice post!

  10. Hi Rose,
    I enjoyed your post this morning. I'll have to come back after work to see your bloom day blooms.

    I saw where Tina had a different idea, but I am pretty sure your black caterpillar is the immature stage of the swallowtail, and after a few molts will look like the other one you have. Yes, the one on the milkweed is a monarch. I have a lot of the brown ones you thought may be wasps. My son told me what they were, but I forgot. I'll have to remember to ask him again. I think the spiders are daddy long legs. If you come to my blog and look at my Camera Critters, I have some there. I can't remember if they are the same as yours, but I think I have different kinds of them.

    Have a great day!

  11. What a great collection of bugs! Your blooms are gorgeous. I am not a great ID person when it comes to bugs...especially in the bee catagory. You do have a nice variety of them!

  12. Hi Rose, I had the same little fuzzy black caterpillar on my butterfly weed. Wonder what he is. Got some monarch caterpillars but never did get any swallowtails on my fennel or parsley. Maybe next year there will be more butterflies so we will have a better chance for caterpillars.

  13. Hi Rose, you have so many varied and interesting insects, this post was almost like an episode of the Wild Kingdom! :) BTW, are you planning to go to AZ again in Feb.?

  14. I just love all your insects.....
    Seeing caterpillars is very exciting.
    Like you I think seeing the insects shows a healthy garden.
    Happy ABC Wednesday!

  15. How fantastic Rose! So many different flowers with a great variety of insects! Great post!

  16. HI Rose, Wow, you do have lots of Insects In your garden. That little caterpillar with the white spot on its back is the first instar of the black swallowtail caterpillar. They go through several instars before becoming a full fledged caterpillar.

  17. Wow Rose you have lots of critters roaming thru out your garden. I don't know what your blue insect is but it's very pretty and unusual.

  18. insects are SO important to the ecosytem. These are GREAT photos.

  19. Some great photography there, with a lively accompanying narrative.

  20. VP, No wonder we have so few Painted Ladies--they've all flown to the UK!

    Joy, I do hope lots of spiders doesn't mean a harsh winter!

    Di, I find myself watching the bees much more than I ever did before. The Monarchs fly through, but rarely land.

    ShySongbird, The Monarchs are so majestic; yes, their migration is amazing.

    LittleWing, The blue flowers are "Bachelor's Buttons," which I think are the same as cornflowers. They might have another name somewhere else.

    Tina, Thanks for the info on the wasp. The few mantises I've found this year are much different looking than last year's "crew" and not as big.

    Rose, I'm sure with milkweed and the Alexanders, you'll attract more than your share of butterflies. Remember, too, I live out in the country.

    RuneE, I read an article once that without the bees, this planet would eventually die.

    Sue, Thanks for the info on the caterpillar...Lisa has also given some information on them. The mystery pair of bugs aren't spiders, though they may look like them.

    Janet, I'm learning more about insects, but I can't identify them either, even with a book!

    Marnie, I have had so many caterpillars on my fennel this year; I will definitely plant this again next year. Lisa identified the black one as the first stage of the swallowtail.

  21. Monica, Ha, ha, if my friends from my younger years could see me now, they'll wouldn't believe this former wormaphobe is fascinated with caterpillars:) I plan to visit AZ sometime during the winter----are you??

    Sherry, I can never begin to take photos of them as good as yours, but it is fun to try!

    Reader Wil, Thanks! I'm becoming very fascinated by the "critters" in my garden.

    Lisa, Thank you!! That explains why they're so small--fascinating!

    Susie, Tina thinks it's some kind of wasp; if so, it's the prettiest one I've ever seen!

    Roger, Yes, I never really realized this until I started gardening.

    Anthony, Thank you! I have become a passionate gardener:)

  22. Great shot of the Hover Fly over the Batchelor's Button. Those are fast! and hard to photograph, although they photograph beautifully if you can get a shot.

    Your wasp may be a Digger Wasp; they have irridescent blue-black wings and a chesnut-orange abdomen. There are a lot of them around this time of year.

    Great shot of the Skipper too. They win the award for cutest butterfly.

  23. Wonderful shots! You've captured a catalog of insects...interesting!

  24. Small miracles indeed.

    When I was looking at some of the nicer insects like bees (bumbles are my favorites), I was thinking, "yes, we have all those in our garden" but when I scrolled down to the grass hoppers and mantis, I was so glad that we don't have those! Ewwwww! Though Small Sprog would love them all. His book of choice from the library yesterday was a book about bugs!

    That blue one is amazing.

    Fantastically clear photos and lovely post. Thanks :)


  25. Great post and I enjoyed the bugs just as much as the blooms.

  26. Rose, you've motivated me to get out in the garden in search of insects. There's no shortage of bees around here and I luv seeing them. Your grasshopper photo makes me think that I've not seen a lot of them this summer nor the crickets either.

  27. Hi Rose,
    That is a monarch caterpillar on your milkweed for sure... and the anise swallowtail cater is great... that little squirt resembling a bird dropping (aren't they so clever) could be the earlier stage of the Anise Swallowtail. I so agree with you that our gardens or farms are more like habitats for other creatures as well... all the more reason to care for them organically. Great post! Glad to have found you! Thanks for visiting Flower Hill Farm and getting me out to the Prairie. Carol

  28. A healthy garden has all kinds of wildlife in it. I don't know what that blue insect is, but it sure is pretty. Some years I have totally sacrificed my dill to swallowtail caterpillars. Great photos.

  29. You have captured a wonderful variety of insects and your knowledge amazes me!

  30. OOoh, well, you know I love insect photos! You did a good job with the bees, as you say, they're not easy to capture. Although I hesitate to identify foreign insects from smallish photos, I'm pretty sure your 'sweat bee' is a hoverfly. We get a lot of those!

    Lucky you, having mantises in your garden!

  31. Thank you very much for all that great info. There are many different ways to get rid of unwanted bugs in your garden.
    Learn more here or

  32. Rose, I was thinking about your former dislike of worms-all crawlies for that matter. es, we have gone throuh some changes in our lives. :)

    Beautiful captures of such interesting and varied bugs. It is amazingto me what can be seen in a garden if we just take the time to look.

    I have been seeing a few mantis, but none as big as last year. Such a strange year for butterflies and insects.

  33. Rose, Delightful post filled with terrific captures of both flower and bug! It's good that we've lost our squeamishness~~because the good bugs and those pesky ones are everywhere!

    I've noticed a huge increase in grasshoppers~~I've been wondering if they came in on a few prairie plants i got this spring. They've probably always been here...just noting them more!

    Aren't the skippers and little butterflies the happiest little critters! Thank goodness they were still visiting my flowers because there sure weren't many other butterflies!

    Thanks for a great post on this very rainy morning.


  34. I'm with you on the sanctuary bit - I can't imagine gardening without getting into all the other wildlife, both good and bad! I loved all your insect photos although some of the "bad" bugs I could do without.

  35. Rose,
    All your Critter Pics are amazing. It takes a cool head and a patient hand to get pics that nice. Your Fennel looks great too. Mine died this summer--expired from heat exhaustion. I will have to get some more for the butterflies.

  36. Sweet Bay, Thanks for all the info. I've never seen one of these Digger Wasps before; they certainly are pretty.

    Tumblewords, thank you; I seem to have a thriving community of insects here.

    Suburbia, Wish I could mail a mantis to Small Sprog; he would love watching them. They're really interesting creatures; the grandsons collected one for their insect cage and then started finding other bugs to feed it:)

    Galloping Gardener, Glad you enjoyed the bugs!

    Donna, The grasshoppers are really getting thick here; not my favorite insect:)

    Carol, Glad to have met you, too! Now I'm paying a little more attention to these different caterpillars.

    Commonweeder, I haven't harvested any fennel or dill; I hate to disturb the caterpillars:)

    Liz, Everything I know I learned from blogging:)

    Jay, I wondered if the "sweat bee" was the same as a hoverfly. We also have even smaller bees that I think might be the hoverflies. The mantises have become a favorite of mine!

    A1000Things, Not all my bugs are unwanted:)

    Beckie, Isn't this a complete transformation for me? The grandkids have gotten a big kick out of the caterpillars, too. Wonder where all the butterflies and mantises are this year?

    Gail, The insect population seems to vary from year to year as much as my garden does. I hope next year to have more butterflies and mantises.

    Jean, Yes, I'm not fond of ALL insects:)

    MG, I have 20 blurry pictures for every good one:) This is the first year for fennel here; it's done really well and will definitely be planted again next year!

  37. What great shots and so many of them.....the beetles about did us in this year..whew...I hope they are gone your bee shots....

  38. You have done well, Rose. Way better than I can manage this year. The swallowtail shot is perfect! We saw a very late japanese beetle here too, very odd. I looked through the comments to see if anyone knew the orange looking bug, we have loads of them too, but very few butterflies or larva. I keep thinking maybe it is too early for them, but time is rushing onward and still nothing! Have you looking into the National wildlife habitat organization? You look to qualify! :-)

  39. Hi Rose, yes, we are on the same wavelength this week! You've done a remarkable job of posting so many little critters and beautiful flowers! I knew next to nothing about insects before I joined the blogging community. Now I am happy to have learned some.
    I still do not like many of the wiggly ones (earwigs and destructive bugs), but I do like your colourful caterpillars and of course the dragonflies and butterflies.

    I've been having so much fun with my new camera I barely blog anymore. That will change as the weather turns cooler and I'm not outside as much.
    Happy gardening and picture taking!

  40. Hello, Neva! Good to hear from you again. I thought the Japanese beetles were long gone, but apparently not.

    Frances, I am hoping for a better butterfly year next year. Thanks for the suggestion on the Wildlife certification. I might qualify...especially when you see my weed, er wildflower post one of these days:)

    Wendy, I thought you had a new camera! Your pictures have really been good lately.

  41. I love all of your photos of the bugs and blooms in your gardens, Rose! It's a good sign when you see lots of bees...and while I, too, noticed a decrease in butterflies this year, I saw a fair amount. I'm always thrilled to get visitors of those sorts! There are, of course, other visitors that I can do without - not relatives (!!)...I'm referring to deer, who bring along their ticks, and give me lyme disease...for one! Many other pests, like Japanese beetles and hornworms and grubs, voles and the list goes on! Congrat's on your nomination at Blotanical for best Blog in Illinois!

  42. I'm 'way late to the party, but can tell you that the two insects on the leaf in the photo below the black-eyed susan are craneflies. They look something like big mosquitoes, but are nectar-feeders and pollinators.


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