June 30, 2013

Unexpected Guest for Dinner..........by Mrs. Simpson

Caterpillar #3

Caterpillar #3 is an unexpected dinner guest.
I decided to stock up on my supply of parsley.  After all, one never knows when one will have an unexpected guest for dinner.  I was pleasantly surprised to find caterpillars on my new supply  of parsley.  Not just one but four pairs of eyes staring back at me through those parsley leaves. What luck!!  Ohhh.... but how my luck soon changed.
Caterpillars are such big eaters and  thinking that they would stay with their food source, I took a chance on leaving them uncovered  while I searched for more parsley.  Not a good idea!!  Upon returning, I found that I only had 2 left. This is a photo of one of them. I gave Mrs. Blackburn the other one to care for. "Keep your cage closed, Mrs. Blackburn." 
Lesson learned?? Yes, Never leave your caterpillar uncovered while searching for food. 

June 29, 2013

And Baby Makes Two .......by Mrs. Simpson

Caterpillar # 2

It seems like I can't get my caterpillar sanctuary positioned to my satisfaction.  Imagine my surprise when I came face to face with a new little guy inside the house of tulle.  So exciting to see a new addition to the family.

June 27, 2013

Give Me Back My Fennel! by Mrs. Blackburn

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on Fennel from LeeAnn Blackburn on Vimeo.
What do you get when you cross two caterpillar crazy teachers with two hungry caterpillars?
Good ideas! Thank you Mrs. Simpson for suggesting I dig and re-pot the fennel my caterpillar was eating in the first place. See how happy he is!

June 26, 2013

Aphids or Butterfly Eggs? by Mrs. Blackburn

Watering the school garden tonight, I decided to look under milkweed leaves for butterfly eggs. I found these tiny, dark yellow blobs. I think they might be aphids.

June 25, 2013

Creating a safe haven for my caterpillar by Mrs. Simpson

Using tulle, embroidery hoop, and a bungee cord to protect my caterpillar

View of caterpillar as seen through the tulle.
Because my parsley was planted in a pot and so tall, I had to become creative to insure that my caterpillar was protected from birds.  Mrs. Blackburn came to my rescue when she shared how she had used tulle and embroidery hoops to make a caterpillar cage.
I began by attaching the tulle to an embroidery hoop, and then wrapped it loosely around my pot overlapping the open sides.  Using a bungee cord I was able to secure the tulle around the pot. I hung the finished product  on a shepherd's hook as the final step in creating a safe haven for my caterpillar. 

June 23, 2013

Home Caterpillar Hatching Station by Mrs. Blackburn

Day Two After Finding the Caterpillar

This munching machine was enjoying some fennel in my garden. I was worried birds would get it, so I transferred him to my caterpillar hatching station (aka herpetarium). The host plant, fennel, he was feeding on was planted in the ground, so it couldn't be moved. Since parsley is also a host plant for Black Swallowtail caterpillars, I placed a pot of parsley inside. I laid the stem of fennel he was munching on across the top of the parsley, hoping he might decide to try that for dessert. I have read that  caterpillars won't change what they are feeding on. If it won't eat the parsley, I will just keep adding stalks of fennel. 

The rocks are simply to add some weight to the cage so the wind won't blow it off of my patio table. I added some sticks for it to attach its chrysalis. It might attach itself to the cage wall. We will see.

The caterpillar hasn't moved much since this afternoon. Maybe it is ready to go through one of four molting stages. From looking at pictures here, I think it is in the third instar stage because it doesn't seem as green as the caterpillar in the photos of the fourth instar stage. 

One last look before bed. 

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar by Mrs. Simpson

Sitting outside at my home this morning, I discovered this little guy munching away on parsley that I had planted last year. 
I think that it will be a Black Swallowtail Butterfly.  Did you know that the Black Swallowtail is the Oklahoma State Butterfly?  It was designated as Oklahoma's official butterfly in 1996.

June 13, 2013

Vesta Crescent, First Butterfly Sighting By Mrs. Blackburn

While watering and weeding today, Mrs. Simpson pointed out our first butterfly visitor. After searching several identification sites, Butterflies and Moths of North America led me to believe it was a Vesta Crescent. Click on the name to read and see what you think. Please leave a comment with your opinion. If you think otherwise, would you please list a link that substantiates your claim. 

Two observations I made today while in the garden:

1. Slow down and put on your noticing glasses. 
If Mrs. Simpson hadn't pointed it out,  I would have missed our first butterfly sighting because I was busily pulling weeds, watering and talking. This is a good analogy for life. You have heard the cliché, "Take time to stop and smell the roses."

2. Use all of your senses. 
While weeding around the Greg's Sage, I lifted part of the plant that was lying on the mulch and noticed the most pleasant scent. When you are in the garden, lightly brush your hand over the plant and then smell your hand. Greg's Sage not only attracts butterflies, but also hummingbirds. I bet they are attracted to the wonderful smell. 

June 5, 2013

Plants Used and Links to Information by Mrs. Blackburn

Engelmann's Daisy
 (tag says "pinnata", but this is all that was found)
2 planted
Full Sun, 2-3', nectar

3 Wild Senna
Full to part sun, 3-5'

3 Mist Flower
(Link provided is closest match found)

3 Prairie Ironweed
Full sun, 3-6', Moist to Wet,
Best in naturalized area

6 Butterfly Weed

5 Tropical Milkweed (Yellow)
Full to part sun, 3'
Monarch and Queen host plant
*All milkweeds are host to these butterflies.
Swamp Sunflower (First Light)
1 Greg's Sage
Full to part sun, 3', Well drained soil
6 Showy Milkweed
Full to part sun, 2-3'
Monarch host plant
 4 Purple Dome Aster (Card) or New England Aster(Receipt)
Full sun, 18", Moist to Well-drained soil

8 Swamp Milkweed

1 Ox-eye Daisy
Heliopsis helianthoides

6 Aromatic Aster
Aster oblongifolius (card) or Symphyotrichum oblongifolium (website)
Full sun, 2-3', Cut back once in July
Top Nectar Plant

Golden Crownbeard
Verbesina encelioides
 Full sun, 2-4', Moist to well-drained soil
Host for Silvery Checkerspot

2 Sunfire Coreopsis
Coreopsis grandiflora
Full sun, 18-20"

3 Rudbeckia
Rudbeckia fulgida
Attract Checkerspot

4 Purple Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

June 3, 2013

Planting Diagram by Mrs. Blackburn

east end

middle (hose and gutter)

west end

plant list
We also added Goldsturm, Pink Coneflower and Sunrise Coreopsis.

Gutter Problem By Mrs. Blackburn

There are two gutters that drain into the bed. It would be ideal if we could gather the rain water for use on the garden. We are looking for ideas on how to do so. Our immediate problem is keeping the rush of water from the gutter from washing out the new plants.

Temporarily, we placed two flat pavers sided by side and covered them with seashells. The storms tonight will test our solution.

We like the idea of using shells in the garden. To become a Certified Monarch Waystation we must provide a water source for the butterflies. There are several large shells that will hold tiny pools of water.

Fun Fact: Mrs. Simpson's shells were from Galveston, Texas, and Mrs. Blackburn's from Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

**Update 6/12/13 After two heavy rains our shells were still in place and no plants were washed out. I love the way the water holds in the shells, inviting butterflies for a drink.

June 2, 2013

Planting By Mrs. Blackburn

Because students were out for summer vacation and plants needed to be well established for migration of Monarchs in the fall, Mrs. Blackburn, Mrs. Igo and Mrs. Simpson began the planting. First, Mr. Igo tilled the dirt and Mr. Blackburn leveled it. Next, the teachers planned the placement of the plants based on height and grouped them in clusters by kind.

Newspapers were placed around the plants to help with weed control.

Mulch was added for weed control and moisture retention.