Interesting Insects

We have been getting some visitors in the garden. Most of them can even fly in to have a look around. Some even let us get close enough to snap a photo.
What colorful eyes he/she has. Maybe it was thought that the blue chair on the deck was water?
Many pictures were allowed, from any angle and so very close. This is not the norm for the woman with the camera and living creatures. As the careful quiet footsteps get closer and closer, trying not to frighten the object of a desired shot, just as we are close enough to get the little green box centered, off they go, flittering and fluttering randomly. But not this one, not today.
This larger one is another story. Many attempts were made to get close enough to macro, but this is the best that could be done, using the zoom. Pretty interesting, don’t you agree? This appears to be a white tail dragonfly. I know there is a difference between dragonflies and damselflies, the wings being folded at rest on the damsel. For a good site to help with ID and see photos sent in from around the world, try
What’s That Bug?

Ah, staying put if not holding still on the echinacea ‘Bravado’ is this Black Swallowtail. There are several butterflies with similar markings to this, but the darling green with yellow and black striped caterpillar was seen near this bed chomping on the parsley recently. Then it was gone, and a few days later, here is this beautiful butterfly. Nature at it’s best.

This little Pearl Crescent is resting on an azalea leaf. This is one of the most common of butterflies, found near puddles and flowers. We aren’t well stocked with puddles just now, but flowers we gots.

As far as the most common butterfly here so far this summer, this Great Spangled Frittilary wins hands down. The larva feed at night on violets. Finally, something that eats our overpopulation of violets. Welcome GSF, please have lots of babies, we can feed them all.

The most seen at one time on this clump of asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed was nine. We have been sowing seed of this plant every year to try and increase its numbers. Seed has been the most successful method of propagation, but it has taken three years to get the seedlings to flower. Gardening is all about patience, we know.

With their moth like bodies and hopping flight pattern, the skippers have a different appearance than the other butterflies. There are over two thousand kinds, with many being similar in coloration. We have many, but they all seem to be the same type. If anyone knows the name of this one, please feel free to let us know in a comment. The lantanas are a favorite of the butterflies as well as the humans with their bright colors and laugh in the face of the drought attitude. They are not hardy but are readily and cheaply available. This flower says summer with a capital S.

This is a hairstreak of some kind. They have a swift darting flight pattern and are attracted to flowers. This one is enjoying the blue veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’.

Uh oh. Even though a butterfly, and we love butterflies, this Cabbage butterfly is a true crop pest. The larva feeds on brassicas of all kinds as well as mustards and nastursiums. We have given up trying to grow any of the cabbage family plants in the veggie patch since we don’t want to spray at all. Brussels sprouts, red cabbage and kale were all eaten to shreds by these caterpillars. We are growing ornamental kale this year and it too is full of holes, but since we aren’t going to try and have a meal of it, it can be left to these guys. The flower shown is lavender Hidcote.

This page from the Knoxville newspaper hangs in the guest bedroom for quick reference. It helps narrow down the possibilities when we spot a new visitor.

On to others, this ladybird beetle seems to have different markings than what is expected. It may be the Asian species that is invading our homes. The site What’s That Bug? had some helpful photos of both types of the
ladybirds in addition to the dragonflies.

This is what most of the ladybird beetles look like here. This one shows up well on a furry lamb’s ear leaf.

This sadly is a common occurance. The landscape fabric that lines the paths around the veggie garden and the compost bin causes the spiny legs of these two inch long beetles to get tangled and they get trapped. I always try and free them but wonder if the threads still are binding them after they are tossed into the brush pile. They seem so large for a bird to eat, and I worry about the bird eating the fabric fibers too. Sigh.

We are in the process of adding as many echinaceas as can be afforded to the garden. Fancy ones or old stand bys, this is the flower that has the longest bloom period and is beloved by the insect world. There are baby plants at the base of several mature specimens that promise to enrich the summer into fall garden in the future. These two bumblebees are working so hard, luckily the E. ‘Ruby Star’ is a huge coned flower.

On the climbing rose Moonlight is a suspected spotted cucumber beetle. We are growing cukes here for the first time and don’t wish any harm to be done to them. Why is this guy on the rose anyway, is the rose being eaten? Or is a little drink of nectar being enjoyed?

On the real cucumber flower, this green tinged fellow is bathed in the yellow light as the sun shines through the petals. This act should help insure pollination and more food for us.

On Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’ it looks like there are some small type of hornet. This large plant has been blooming for several weeks and is covered in these winged diners. They don’t seem to be bothered by the camera wielding human but this photo was taken PDQ. Stings and attacks have occurred in this bed by the shed before. But those insects were larger than these. Still, we will do our best not to upset them.

Cover your eyes if you are the least bit squeamish, for we have come upon the bane of the summer garden, Japanese beetles, on a rose flower of course, About Face. Arghhhh! At least we did not enlarge and crop for a closer look to protect the sensitive among you.

Never fear, gentle readers, for Jersey the Mayfield dairy cow is rushing to the rescue with her yellow jug.

Filled with soapy water, the Japanese beetles will be knocked into the milk jug and will not come out alive. While all forms of killing are to be avoided, these beetle scouts will not be returning to their group, a sign to them that there is a dire fate at the Faire Garden waiting for any more of their kind who dare to show up here. We try and welcome one and all for a balanced system set up with brilliance by nature. Some losses are bound to occur and some leaves and flowers will have some holes. That can be tolerated for the satisfying knowledge that we are not poisoning the environment with bug killing chemicals. The birds can safely eat the insects of their choice. We can safely eat the food grown in the garden as we gaze upon the myriad life that shares the garden with us. It is good.


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41 Responses to Interesting Insects

  1. tina says:

    I was just wondering about how to identify the butterflies and you did a great job for me! They all look happy and I sure love the dragon flies.

  2. Frances, says:

    Good morning Tina, you have left a comment before I even got the typos fixed, LOL. I have a little book, like the bird ID guide, that helps with the butterflies along with the newspaper. So many are similar though, so I am never quite sure exactly who is who. It’s fun to know their names and know the caterpillars too. Thanks for visiting.

  3. ourfriendben says:

    Fantastic post, Frances! I love the blue dragonfly delicately displaying itself against the blue chair. Classic! And that close-up of the lamb’s ear is sensational! Who’d have thought they looked like that?! Bless you for your organic attitude, despite a few rude and greedy visitors. I’m a lifetime organic gardener as well, and my own thought is that a few holes are a small price to pay for the privilege of hosting and enjoying nature in all her diverse glory here at Hawk’s Haven!

  4. Sherry at the Zoo says:

    Love the insect pictures! I have tried and tried but I don’t think my camera is capable – LOL!

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Goodmorning Frances. It must be that time of year. We are finally seeing a few butterflies and lots of bug, bees,wasps and their mimics.

    I just love seeing that butterfly weed. I think I finally have a small start growing. I have tried getting it going several times but it has never taken. It looks beautiful in a clump like you have.

    Do you deadhead your purple cone flowers? I have found if I don’t deadhead them they spread like crazy.

  6. Gail says:


    Very interesting insects. Occasionally I can manage such fine photos, but usually my hand isn’t steady or the wind blows…these are great shots. An altogether fun post Frances!

    I thought the bug eating my coneflower petals was Japanese beetle but it is a smaller all black beetle…about 1/4 inch or smaller in size; would hide on the underneath side when I attempted to photograph him…the stinker! Have you seen this critter near your coneflower? The Cabbage Butterfly is prolific in my garden and looks so cute flying about…too bad he is a pest!


  7. kate smudges says:

    The Great Spangled Frittilary is a truly stunning creature. Your garden attracts all manner of beautiful insects. That is a good way to get rid of the nasty Japanese beetles. I love the photograph of the Black Swallowtail on the purple coneflower. Your photographs and post were a delight to read.

  8. Nancy J. Bond says:

    Beautiful photos! The dragonflies and butterflies are especially stunning!

  9. Dave says:

    That’s some great photography Frances! I’ve been trying to catch the butterflies on my camera but I think it is an exercise in patience. Good idea on the milk jug. That’s a little easier than the 5 gallon bucket!

  10. Barbee' says:

    Informative, as well as, lovely post, Frances. Thank you.

  11. Dee/reddirtramblings says:

    Great post, Frances. How do you get so close for those photos of the insects. I find that hard to do.~~Dee

  12. Rose says:

    Lovely photos, Frances. I’ve found, too, that taking pictures of flying insects is no easy task. Thanks for the link to the insect ID site; I will have to check that out.
    It must be that time of year–I just posted a picture of a Japanese beetle, too:) I didn’t have a jug of soapy water handy last night when I spotted them on a rosebud, so I scooped them off to the ground and stomped on them! I felt no guilt whatsoever:)

  13. Frances, says:

    Hi Ellen, thanks. The only real pest that annoys me to action is the Japanese beetles, and they are nearly indestructible, but the earlier you can stop them the better. Vigilence is key.

    Hi Sherry, thanks. You wouldn’t believe, or perhaps you would, the number of photos that were taken to get these few. Especially the butterflies, they don’t stay still!

    Hi Lisa, thanks. I would have a whole yard full of the butterfly weed if I could. It has been a struggle, that is the best one in the photo. It always gets extra water too. I don’t deadhead the pink coneflower, but do the fancy ones, just to keep the bloom going. In the fall they all go to seed and stay all winter, but spreading like crazy is not happening here, yet.

    Hi Gail, Thanks, but these photos are among the hundreds taken to get somewhat clear shots. It can be frustrating. Try that What that bug? site under beetle to ID your fella. We have so many bugs on every plant here, I don’t even notice them. I want butterflies!

    Hi Kate, nice to see you. Thanks for the kind words, the GSF is a looker, but I am slightly concerned about the lack of the other butterflies that normally are here. The swallowtails are usually the most numerous, and I have seen only that one.We have loads of the larva food so it’s not that. Maybe it is too early for them.

  14. Frances, says:

    Hi Nancy J., thanks for stopping by. Those are some of nature’s loveliest creatures.

    Hi Dave, thanks, many photos were taken to get those few. Lots of other insects just would not cooperate so aren’t included here, maybe later. I couldn’t carry a five gallon bucket, too heavy for little me. LOL I used to use a coffee can but it would always rust. I liked being able to put a lid on the yucky things.

    Hi Barbee, thanks, I tried to give some info but not weigh down the post too much.

    Ah Dee, that is the hard part. You have to be quick on the trigger, er shutter with the camera. Sometimes they just won’t let you get close. That dragonfly must have been asleep or something. Thanks for visiting.

    Hi Rose, thank. That is a good site, not too scientific and lots of photos. I have been known to squash them with my foot too but can kill the grubs when found digging with gloved hands. I have to turn my face away, they squirt. Sorry for being so graphic. HA. Maybe that is why there are fewer, but really I think the drought has affected everything in the garden.

  15. cindee says:

    Those bugs are beautiful…well except the beetle of course(-: The milk jug is so cute. Love the cow on it(-: We had a jersey milk cow named Bessie(-: She was a good producer(-:

  16. Benjamin Vogt says:

    Fantastic! The other evening toward sunset we saw 8 dragonflies like yours sunning themselves on the fence. Cool things! And now the fireflies are out en masse–it seems late!

  17. Frances, says:

    Hi Cindee, thanks. Bessie is a great name for a good producing cow. ;->

    Hi Benjamin, Happy Anniversary. I couldn’t get a solid ID on our little dragonfly, even with that close up shot, many have the blue tail, but none of the photos had the blue eyes. They are magical. Our fireflies have been out for quite a while, and there are many of them. Not as many butterflies as other years, yet anyway. Thanks for stopping by.

  18. Darlene says:

    Wow..I love this interesting and informative post. I LOVE the pictures of the butterflies and dragonflies. Thanks so much!!

  19. Skeeter says:

    I have been working on a post for Tina on Butterflies so I happen to have my book on the desk today! I am guessing your little moth to be either a Yellow-patch or Broad-winged Skipper. The other may be the Gray Hairstreak but not sure on that one. The spots and markings do vary from the pictures.

    I know what you mean about taking lots of pictures to capture that one perfect shot! “Been there and done that” the past 2 weeks! I hope to have the Butterfly post ready by this weekend… Not many people such as you and I have the patience for snapping pictures of quick moving bugs and flies!

  20. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    That Frittilary on the Butterfly Weed is fake! :^D It looks too perfect. You should enter that shot in a photo contest. I have a lot of those white-tail dragonflies in my garden. They just love all my mosquitoes. Chomp, chomp!

  21. Amy says:

    You can always be counted on to have wonderful photos 🙂 I’ve never seen a dragonfly with a white tail before – very pretty and interesting. If you really, really want to try cabbage etc. again, I know you can buy special fabric to cover the crops with that let sunlight in but keep those pesky cabbage butterflies out. I might try some out next year and see how well it works.

  22. Frances, says:

    Hi Darlene, thanks and welcome. So glad you enjoyed your visit and do come again.

    Hi Skeeter, thanks for ID on the skipper and hairstreak. Just knowing those names helps. It is a commitment to get those shots. Sometimes it is easy, like the GS Fritt, they float languidly on the flowers. Can’t wait to see your post.

    Hi MMD, you never fail to crack me up. Good deal on the dragonfly mosquito chompers. I will be more respectful towards those visitors.

    Hi Amy, I have seen those covers in the catalogs and thought about using them. Maybe next year. Thanks for those kind words. We do have a pond, although very small, that might be the draw for the dragonflies. They are very mysterious looking to me.

  23. Eve says:

    Wow Frances, where to begin. I didn’t know about a damselfly. That is so interesting. I guess you do learn something new every day. The pic of the Great Spangled Frittilary just glows. That is a beautiful picture. I would need to look at these quite a few times, not to miss anything. It was a wonderful post. Thank you.

  24. Frances, says:

    Hi Eve, thanks and welcome. Blogging really has taught me a lot, having to research topics that I write about. I have a group of those shots of the GSF on the butterfly weed, all are lovely. The light was just right and there were so many butterflies and the flowers were at their peak. Lucky for the camera woman.

  25. Robin's Nesting Place says:

    I’m lovin’ the insect pictures! I don’t spray for the beetles, (or anything else). I pick them off by hand. It’s a nasty job that I really dislike, but it’s worth it.

    I planted butterfly weed this year. I can’t wait until it matures and is covered with butterflies like your magnificent plant.

  26. chuck b. says:

    What a fine, exhaustive exhibit of your garden insects! I also gave up on Brassicaceae due to cabbage whites. The most common butterflies in my garden are Vanessas. They outnumber every other visitor by 10-to-1, at least.

  27. DP Nguyen says:

    What lovely pictures of little critters doing their job in nature!

  28. Frances, says:

    Hi Robin, glad to see you, I must come visit you. Thanks, coming from one who takes such amazing photographs is a true compliment. Don’t you wonder why a plant that grows readily along the side of the road is so hard to get going in the garden? I love that orange color and have seen yellows in the catalogs. My last pack of seeds was supposed to be a mix of colors, they should flower next year. Waiting is hard!

    Hi Chuck, thanks for visiting. This is not nearly all the insects here, just the ones I could get a decent photo of. It is really easy when they are stuck in the landscape fabric. The butterflies are the most difficult. I need more patience. I will have to look up Vanessas, lovely name. Like so many of your plants, I have never heard of that one. So ignorant here.

    Hi DP, thanks. Hope your garden is not being bothered by some of the bad guys.

  29. Yolanda Elizabet says:

    What a lot of interesting visitors your garden gets. Love those buterflies, most of them are quite different from ours except that cabbage butterfly. 😉 That ladybug looks indeed very different from the normal ones.

    Grrrrrrrrr to those Japanese beetles! Soapy water is the better option, I agree!

    BTW must check out that Name that bug site. Sounds like fun. 😉

  30. Annie in Austin says:

    What a lovely post, Frances – thank you for all the time and patience you put into this collection of lovely and not-so-lovely insects. Even if they’d stay still for me my camera couldn’t get anything like your photos! The spangled frittilary is beautiful, but he’d starve here – no violets.

    A few years ago I was trying to identify a dragonfly with “windowpanes” similar to yours and ran across this Dragonfly ID site. I think we both have a common whitetail?

    I may steal that milk jug idea, too – looks more stable than my wire-handled drowning pail.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  31. Frances, says:

    HI YE, thanks for taking time from your busy project to visit. I wondered if you have the same butterflies as we do, since we do grow many of the same plants. Sorry the cabbage one is one of your too though.

    Hi Annie, thanks for those appreciative words. The white tail is pretty cool, isn’t he? Much bigger that the other one. The milk jug works well because of the handle to hold it. And at the end of the season you can dump out the dead beetles and recycle it! ;->

  32. Layanee says:

    Hmmm, I am wondering if there is a butterfly chart available at Amazon. It would be a great reference piece. You certainly have a wealth of birds, bees, butterflies and dragonflies! The beetle is pretty sturdy looking and hopefully a bit of fiber won’t keep him down!

  33. Frances, says:

    HI Layanee, thanks for stopping by. Having the chart makes for a quick ID. I have a little book also, but since the chart I have is of the most common butterflies in our area, they are all there at a glance. The poor beetles get stuck and cannot get free without my help. Sometimes I don’t find them before it is too late. ;-<

  34. mashley says:

    hellooo. i’m so happy you did an insect post. i try to take pictures of all the cool bugs we come across in our garden. i think we should get some butterfly weed and lantana as well. both good bright filler and butterfly attractant. we have cabbage butterflies galore and at least 100 bees on the lavender and salvias. i love to sit on the stone pillar right in the middle of all the buzzing and fluttering. miss you and your garden! love love

  35. Frances, says:

    Hi Mashley, glad to see you. So happy that you liked this post, I really know very little about insects, other than they are good for the habitat and ecosystem here, all of them. You so need some butterfly weed, it is perennial, the lantana is not, but grows so quickly and blooms so heavily, cheap too. You can garden while the cat is away! Love.

  36. Kathryn/ says:

    Frances, didn’t read all the comments so maybe someone has said this–but I *always* find those dreaded cucumber beatles on my roses, so it must be common. I squish them and say, “Go back to God.”
    K. xox

  37. Frances, says:

    Hi Kathryn, thanks for stopping in. I wasn’t sure if that was a cucumber beetle when the photo was taken, but after the research was sure it was the spotted one. I thought they were only striped. I will take the necessary steps from now on when they are noticed. There are honestly insects on every plant and flower and they are hardly noticed unless there are large holes or chewed flowers. Little holes I can live with.

  38. Kim says:

    WOW! What lovely, beautiful, amazong photos. I’m so jealous. And I know what you mean about taking many to get a few good ones. I wonder if your Black Swallowtail might not be the black form of the Tiger Swallowtail? We have lots of the black Tigers here, but I’d never seen a Black Swallowtail until this year. I thought it was another black Tiger until I compared the photos. The Black Swallowtail has some yellow spots on its body, and the black Tiger doesn’t. I have a few photos of the Black Swallowtail on my blog here: and a picture of a black Tiger here: – maybe they will help. I use the Peterson’s Field Guide – Eastern Butterflies.

    Thank you so much for your lovely photos!

  39. Frances, says:

    Hi Kim, welcome and thanks for that info. I am often unsure about the black butterflies ID. This one I had seen the caterpillar on the parsley so feel it is the same one. I just saw several smaller of the same black swallowtail caterpillars on the bronze fennel, that should mean more of the butterflies if they don’t get eaten. You have some incredibly beautiful photos on your blog, wow!

  40. Jon says:

    Frances, such a treat to read this fine post with your wonderful insect photos. I too share your philosophy about NOT using poisons and toxic chemicals in my garden. Live and let live I always say.

    Best regards, Jon at Mississippi Garden in Vicksburg, MS on 7-13-08

  41. Frances, says:

    Hi Jon, thanks for the kind words. The whole system is meant to work in a certain way, and since I am not a professional farmer, losses are more tolerable. I do like to discourage the Japanese beetles however. ;->

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