There has been rain. Lots of rain. It has stopped, for now. Let us explore the aftermath. Here is an example of what the showers, make that flooding deluge has left behind. Many fungi are cropping up hither and yon. This one is in the knot garden quatrefoil, among the elfin thyme. But this is not one of the two things mentioned in the title of this post. It is gratuitous macro to get your attention. For the first of the two new things is not particularly photogenic.
With the goodness that the recent falling liquid has offered the thirsty plants and soil, there has been badness in the guise of many mosquitoes. So many that working out in the garden, or even taking a leisurely stroll between cloudbursts has been cut short due to biting of any uncovered skin, including cheeks and noses. This was just intolerable. But who came to the rescue, you might wonder? Fellow blogger Silence Dogood from Poor Richard’s Almanac had written a post about bad, bad bugs and in the comment section Bonny Story of Back 2 The Land left a link to this jacket. Click here to see the product. Full disclaimer: I paid full price for this item and have received no contact from this company in any way, shape or form. It was ordered immediately and arrived a couple of days ago.
The camera came along as the package was opened and the Little Fly jacket unfolded. The pouch is part of the sleeve so it can be stowed neatly in a backpack for those outdoor types. It was slipped on with a baseball hat to keep the netting away from our face. A size small was ordered, a medium would have been better, but it will work okay since light weight clothing is worn when this jacket would be needed. Time for the test run.
For the first time in many weeks, we sat down and remained still in the worst mosquito area in the property, back by ferngully on the veggie bed wall. It was expected that a photo could be snapped of the bad bugs trying to light on our arm and be stymied by the netting. They did not even try to land, and I wonder if the fabric is treated with some kind of repellent. There is a slight odor. Instead the rascals were all over my black yoga pants, trying to stick their pointy nose/mouth through the knitwear. This is my knee in case you were wondering. There was not even the hint of a buzz around my ears or head, a miracle.
Relaxing nearby, as usual was our neutered male gray companion, Kitty. The mosquitoes were hovering around him, but did not land. He has extremely thick fur, maybe that is his protection from those blood suckers. The cuffs of the jacket have a nice thumb opening to protect the hands, this is great since normally if not wearing gloves I have had to pull my hands up into my sleeves to keep from being bit there. Kitty gave a questioning sniff at this new getup.
We went room to room trying to get a self portrait to show what the jacket looked like on the body. There are lots of mirrors here, not because we want to see ourselves, we don’t at all, but because in a small house mirrors reflect light from windows and give the illusion of more space. None of the shots indoors were satisfactory. However while walking around outside we noticed the reflection in the sliders of the addition and clicked. You can even see the muhly on the hill in the image. It was a hot day, temps in the eighties, and the jacket was a bit too warm to get any gardening done. Normally the garden chores are done quite early in the cool of the morning, as soon as there is enough light to tell a desirable plant from a weed. This jacket will be perfect. No more cotton balls in the ears to keep out those pesky flying devils. No more slapping of arms, neck and face to stop the blood from being drawn out. Success. This ends the story of thing number one.
There has been moaning, groaning, whining and general worry about the lack of butterflies here in the Fairegarden this year. Last year’s photo files are full of close ups of various colorful flying visitors partaking of the nectar rich plants grown just for their enjoyment. The plant numbers have been upped and yet there has been scant activity on the larval plants, passionvine, milkweed or carrot family. Until now. The largest stand of self sown bronze fennel has been adopted by many of these juvenile black swallowtail caterpillars, Papilio polyxenes. The Black Swallowtail is found in open fields and woodlands meadows. It frequents clover and flower gardens, always flying near the ground. The eggs are laid on members of the carrot family. There are usually three broods laid per season in the south. This is the first brood that has been noticed with significant numbers of catts this year. The daily attendance check was postponed during the spat of rainy days and as the sky cleared a startling number of these black and orange spikey punk rocker babies were present on many stems. The red/orange spikes show up more brightly right after molting then fade some.
Various transformation takes place as the plentiful fennel is munched. There are five instar looks to the black swallowtails. When they first hatch the caterpillars are only around 2mm long, and are black with a white band around their middle. Second and third instar caterpillars look a lot alike, both are black with red/orange spikes, with the white band around their middle. Size range for 2nd instar is about 4.5 to 8 mm, for 3rd instar – 8mm to 13mm (1.3cm). They eat the skins soon after molting, as seen here.
Different stages of development were visible on the same plant on the same day. Fourth instar caterpillars look very different from the 2nd and 3rd instar. It has black and white/ pale greenish bands, or stripes all along its body and yellow spots. On early fourth instar, the middle white band can still be seen, but it fades away as the caterpillar grows and stretches its skin. Their size ranges from around 1.3 cm to 2.5 or so cm. When these shots were taken, none had matured to the fifth instar stage of green and black bands with yellow spots along the black bands. They grow to about 4 cm before pupating.
Somehow the mother of these catts escaped our keen eye, but giddy with excitement best describes how we feel about these second new things.
These are the most plentiful large butterfly that calls our garden home. Many plants of the carrot umbrellifer family are grown just for them, including parsley, fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace and yes, carrots. There are no images of the adult butterflies just yet. This shot from last year’s garden, taken August 21, shows what we hope to see soon in mass quantities. Click here to read Plant It And They Will Come.