Journal for July 17, 2011

It’s hot again – 93 is the high forecast for the next few days – so it’s difficult to work outside.  I do a little work first thing in the morning, but by about 9 o’clock it’s just too hot.

It’s Parsnip pulling time right now.  We still have thousands of Wild Parsnip plants invading our wetland.  I’ve been trying to get some control over them – pulling some areas by hand and having Mike mow others.  Wild Parsnip is a biennial, so if I can mow or pull the plants before they go to seed, I can gradually reduce the number of seeds left in the soil.

This is an old photo of a field of parsnip – taken a few years ago.  (I haven’t been taking many photos lately – I’ve been too focused on pulling.)  Some places look better now, but there are still places that look like this.

This is my compost pile today – mostly parsnip.

I’ve been finding Parsnip Webworms on some of the plants.  Like Wild Parsnip plants, the webworms came originally from Europe.  They eat the flowers of parsnips and other plants containing furanocoumarin – the chemical that causes blisters and discoloration on people’s skin.  Parsnip Webworms are the caterpillars of a small moth.  I’ve still never found an adult moth, but I see lots of the caterpillars.

Parsnip Webworm – caterpillar


“Nest” that the caterpillar makes in the flower of a Wild Parsnip. The brown dots are “frass” – droppings.

I’m hoping that someday the population of webworms will be large enough to actually reduce the number of parsnip plants, but so far that isn’t happening.

Here are some interesting links to information about furanocoumarin, and about what has happened to Wild Parsnip plants and webworms since they came to the New World.

We saw out first Bobolinks of the year in Western Prairie a few days ago.  They don’t seem to nest here, but we sometimes see them in small flocks in late summer.  (This one was quite close to us, but behind some plants.  Not a good photo op – but it does show that it was here.)


The prairies don’t mind the heat – they’re looking beautiful but we don’t walk up the hill to see them as often in this weather.

Western Prairie


Buffalo Ridge


This is the first year I’ve seen much Common Milkweed in our planted prairies.  I planted lots of seeds, but it seems to take a while for them to get big enough to bloom.  This year I’ve been noticing lots of nice clumps of blooming plants.  The leaves are food for monarch caterpillars, and the blooming flowers are great nectar sources for all kinds of bees, butterflies and moths.


Another flower that is blooming well in the planted prairies this year is Butterfly Weed – another of my favorites – and it’s also a favorite with butterflies.


Wild Iris in the wetland


Ann Thering, Mike Reese and I did our annual butterfly count last week.  It was a warm sunny day – about 85 degrees.  We broke our record from last year for the number of species – 39 this year.  Here’s a link to our list.

One of the activities I do that’s helped by the heat is looking for moths.  On these warm nights, my lighted sheet is covered with bugs of all kinds – sometimes so many that it’s hard to get close because they buzz around and get in my face.  But I’ve been seeing lots of new ones.

Tree Frogs show up sometimes too – it’s a good place to find dinner.  This one sat next to the sheet all evening, dining on bugs.


Here are a few of the new moths.

Straight-lined Plagodis  –  sometimes also called The Scorched Wing


Basswood Leafroller Moth


Carpenterworm Moth    This one is large – about 2 1/2 inches long with a big, heavy body.  It came bumbling into my sheet, making lots of noise and bumping around against the lights.


Sharp-lined Yellow    This one only stayed for a moment – just time to take one photo.


Grapeleaf Skeletonizer   I found this one during the day nectaring on a Wild Parsnip flower.


The view after a dramatic thunderstorm.  Wonderful cool air and sunset light.