Journal for August 3, 2016

This is always the busiest part of the summer – lots of projects and lots of visitors.

Last week was our annual Moth Party – in celebration of National Moth Week.  We were worried that the weather wouldn’t cooperate, but just before people arrived, the sun came out, and the storms disappeared.  And at dusk the wind died down, so it was a perfect moth night.

Mike set up his computer and a screen so he could project the moth photos as I took them.  That was a great success.  People loved being able to see the details and intricacies of the moth wing patterns.

Wendy Johnson took a lovely photo of the scene.

moth party - Wendy Johnson

To see photos of all the moths we saw that night, Click Here.


We finally finished our Wild Parsnip project for this year.   Mike mowed some of the thicker infestations, and I pulled acres of Parsnip plants by hand so I could protect the places with the most native diversity.     This is one of the fields where I pulled Parsnip, with Pine Point in the background.

wetland and pine point


The Parsnip project took me into some places where I haven’t spent much time before.    This is the edge of Willow Bend – a part of the creek that’s overhung with Willows, and criss-crossed with beaver dams.  It’s very weedy – with Reed Canary Grass, Parsnip, and Crown Vetch, but still beautiful.

willow bend 2


This is looking the other way  along the creek – across a patch of (native) Joe-Pye Weed.

willow bend 1


Friday was the Buffalo County Prairies group summer meeting  – a field trip to visit two beautiful prairie areas in Buffalo County.

In the morning we explored this recently burned bluff prairie.

bluff prairie 1


We had a good turnout for the tour.

bluff prairie 2


The afternoon part of the tour was to several steep bluff prairies above Nelson, Wisconsin, with dramatic views over the Mississippi River valley.

mississippi bluff prairie 1


Some of the braver folks clambered up and down the steepest slopes to find unusual prairie flowers.

mississippi bluff prairie 2


On Saturday folks from the Wisconsin Entomological Society visited us at the farm.  We took them on a long walk through the prairies.   Here we are at the Indian Grass Prairie Bench.  Back row: Rebecca, Marcie, Bob, Merla, MJ, Kyle; front row: Andrew, Les

2016-7-30 WI Ent Soc


Merla in Buffalo Ridge Prairie, with the stragglers in the distance.



In the evening we set up lights and bait, and watched for moths until late into the night.

Bob and Merla set up their light on top of Indian Grass Point.

moth sheet on indian grass point



moth sheet on indian grass point 2


The first moth to show up at my lights by the garage that night was a beautiful, freshly emerged Polyphemus.

Antheraea polyphemus 7-30-16 1


When I go out to look for moths at night, I’ve been checking on nearby flowers, as well as on my sheet.   I love the way the flowers look at night – so I’ve been taking photos of them even when there are no moths.

Yellow Coneflower

Yellow Coneflower





These are Silvery Checkerspot butterfly caterpillars.  In their early stages these caterpillars feed communally – on sunflowers or Black-eyed or Brown-eyed Susans.

Silvery Checkerspot caterpillars


Tree Frog



This is the caterpillar of a Wavy-lined Emerald moth.  The caterpillars are tiny – about 3/4 inch long.  They decorate themselves with pieces of the flowers they eat to help with camouflage.

Synchlora aerata 7-26-16 1


An adult Wavy-lined Emerald

Synchlora aerata 6-10-16 2


Here are a few more recent moths.

Catocaline Dart

Cryptocala acadiensis 7-25-16 1


Pondside Pyralid – a new species for the farm

Elophila icciusalis 7-30-16 1


American Angle Shades

Euplexia benesimilis 7-26-16 1


Tufted Thyatirin

Pseudothyatira cymatophoroides 7-30-16 1


Mint Root Borer – another new one for the farm

Fumibotys fumalis


Queen Anne’s Lace is a persistent weed in all our prairies.  There’s so much of it that I’ve never figured out how to get rid of it.  The number of plants varies a lot every year – this year there are even more than usual, especially in Buffalo Ridge Prairie.

buffalo ridge 2


It doesn’t seem to reduce the diversity of natives – this is the edge of Buffalo Ridge Prairie – just before the Queen Anne’s Lace starts.  And under all the white Queen Anne’s Lace flowers, there are plenty of natives.

buffalo ridge 1


This week we’ve been seeing dozens of swallowtails puddling on the driveway.  This group includes Black Swallowtails, Giant Swallowtails and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails.



The bench on Hidden Oaks Point has always been out at the edge of the open prairie, but these days it’s much too hot to sit there.  We finally thought of moving it back into the shade – under the trees at the edge of the savanna.  Now it’s a wonderful, cool, place to rest and enjoy the view.

mike on the bench