Journal for June 29, 2020

June at the farm is a time of lush green leaves, summer flowers, and hundreds of butterflies.

Butterflies often do what’s called ‘puddling’ – gathering minerals and salts from damp sand or gravel, animal scat, or dead animal carcasses.  Most of these butterflies are males who use the nutrients for mating. Every day we watch butterflies on the driveway, sucking up salts from the gravel and from animal scat.   The last half of June seems to be the peak for this activity.

Silvery Checkerspots


The butterflies here are Silvery Checkerspots, a Hackberry Butterfly, Azures, and a Great Spangled Fritillary.  There are a few tiny dark moths – just in front of the Fritillary.  They are Spotted Thyris moths, and are about the size of house flies.


Silvery Checkerspots and Great Spangled Fritillaries


Silvery Checkerspots, Northern Crescents, Great Spangled Fritillary, Red-spotted Purple


We’re seeing butterflies in other places too.

Tiger Swallowtail


White Admiral – This is a subspecies of the more common Red-spotted Purple.  Most of the ones we see here are Red-spotted Purples – without a white band.  The white-banded ones are more common farther north.


Striped Hairstreak – the first Hairstreak I’ve seen this year.  This species isn’t very common here – it’s only the third one I’ve ever seen.


Great Spangled Fritillaries nectaring on Poke Milkweed


These are Gorgone Checkerspot caterpillars on Yellow Coneflower.  Their eggs are laid in groups, and the young caterpillars feed gregariously.  Eventually, as they mature, the caterpillars will space themselves out and feed separately.


I’m still raising lots of caterpillars in jars.  I have more success rearing early in the summer so I don’t have to keep either the caterpillars or the pupae over the winter.

This is Ninebark – a native bush that we have growing near our house.

There’s an uncommon moth whose caterpillar eats only Ninebark leaves –   Macaria abruptata  (it has no common name).  I’ve seen the moth at my lights, but I’d never seen the caterpillar.

I found this caterpillar eating Ninebark leaves at the end of May.


It made a pupa at the beginning of June, and the adult emerged on June 16 – the one I was hoping for – Macaria abruptata.


I’m raising a lot of borer moths – moths in the genus PapaipemaPapaipema caterpillars bore into the stems or roots of various plants.  They stay inside the stems, eating the plant from the inside, and then pupating within the plant.  The adults emerge from their plants at the end of the summer, and I often see them at my lights.   This lifestyle makes it more complicated to raise the caterpillars,  but most of them can be coaxed into living – and eating – inside a hole in a potato or a carrot.

Here’s one I found in the stem of a Wild Parsnip.


I offered a potato with an attractive hole.  Eventually – after feeling and exploring all around the hole – it crawled in.


One of my cameras is very good for taking photos of tiny insects – I’ve been enjoying wandering around, finding insects to try it out on.  This is my favorite – a tiny lady beetle called a Ten-spotted Spurleg.  (The legs have tiny spurs on them.)  The beetle is about 2mm long.


Bush Katydid nymph


Crab Spider protecting a nest


A Signal Fly


Wasp Mantidfly – not a wasp or a mantis or a fly.  It mimics a wasp but is actually related to a Lacewing.    There were a few parsnip plants in one of our savanna remnants, and I found four Wasp Mantidflies nectaring on the flowers.


Northern Spreadwing


Katydid in a Wild Rose.  I like seeing nibbled leaves and petals – it means that animals are using my plants, and contributing to a diverse ecosystem.


I’ve been working mostly in the wetland recently, pulling Wild Parsnip.  This is Willow Bend – where huge old willow trees overhang the creek.  The beavers have been at work building a series of dams under the trees.


Willow Bend


Quiet water above the dam at Willow Bend


We saw this beautiful Milk Snake on our driveway.  It was quiet for a few minutes while we watched it, and then slipped away into the prairie.


Golden Alexanders in Buffalo Ridge Prairie


Harebells on Indian Grass Point


Prairie Phlox


Northern Blue Flag Iris


Ohio Spiderwort is blooming in all our prairies right now – especially the planted prairies.  The blossoms come out in the morning, last only a day, and are usually gone by the time the sun gets high.  Sometimes they bloom all day on cloudy days.


Morning on Western Prairie with Spiderwort and White Wild Indigo


Prairie Larkspur


Deer along the Knife Edge path


Walnut Woods


Misty morning in Center Valley