Tag Archives: nature

Bandits in the Yard

14 May

A Time to Live

Melody Hendrix

 

A video of Melody’s bandits.

 

Melody
Welcome! I’m so glad you stopped in to visit. I am retired and enjoying life. My hobbies are my 5 grandchildren, son and daughter, and my loving husband. I am a photographer and extreme nature lover. I love spending time in my garden or in the wilderness connected to God my Creator.
What a beautiful world we live in. We all have that in common. Natural beauty is everywhere, but sometimes we are not connected until we see a picture, taken just right, that makes it really come into focus and be admired. My passion is to make a connection between the lens and your soul. Photography is my passion.
My photography passion began when my Father handed me his old Ricohflex box camera when I was 12.  It was love at first sight. I still have it. My hand was never empty of a camera since.
Rocoflex
I am a native Floridian. I am so lucky to call it home. I was born in Orlando BF (before Disney). My family moved to the Winter Park area when I was very young. Central Florida was so simple and quaint at that time. I wandered the streets barefoot with my friends, never worrying that something bad could ever happen. My Mom used to pick the sand-spurs out of my feet. I still go barefoot. It grounds me to earth and connects me to nature.
I have extensively explored Florida and its diverse beauty. So much to see and so little time. I would love for you to join me in my travels through the images I have taken. I wish you could hear the sounds, smell the fragrance and feel the breath of it. But for now we must be content with exploring with our eyes and only imagine the rest.
Thank you for your interest.

Morning High Jinks

26 Apr

I mentioned our rascally squirrels in a previous post this week. They are devilishly clever. They seem to know exactly how many steps one can take out the back door before they need to run.

Last night, I put batteries in my camera (husband wisely insists that batteries not be left in the camera) and decided to try to capture a few shots.

Sure enough, as I sipped my morning coffee, I saw not one but three squirrels. One was on the feeder, one on the bird bath and one on the ground. I didn’t capture the one on the ground as he scampered when he saw me.

I wish the pictures were more clear but it is hard to hold the camera steady and focus. The one on the bird bath was getting ready to dash into the trees and was followed by the feeder thief who made like a fire fighter and slid down the pole!

He didn’t go far though. There were still seeds to eat! He parked in one of the aloe plants we are are rooting and continued eating. Pretty clever to rake some seeds into the pot! Even with his thieving ways, he is cute.

I usually post a Seeking Peace blog on Fridays but the one I am working on still has work to be done…in me. I will give you a hint. It involves fried chicken. Yum.

Florida Butterflies~Hairstreak Butterflies

13 Feb

A Time to Live

Melody Hendrix

 

 

The Gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) is one of the most common lycaenids in North America. Its larvae feed on the fruits and flowers of a variety of host plants including several species. Gray hairstreaks do not prefer one specific habitat. They are widespread in tropical forests and open, temperate woodland areas. They can also be found in meadows, crop fields, neglected roadsides, and residential parks and yards are often homes of this fascinating and rare butterfly. Its larvae feed on the fruits and flowers of a variety of host plants including several species mallows, members of the pea family, buckwheats, clovers, and many other plants.
In Florida, the most common hairstreaks are the “Gray Hairstreak”
The adults are quick fliers and are seen most often between the months of May and September. The larvae of gray hairstreaks, when abundant, can become pests to commercial crops, including cotton, beans, corn, and hops.
 
Habits such as these have earned the caterpillar the common name of “cotton square borer” and “bean lycaenid”. However, I love spotting Hairstreaks in the garden.
The are small and fly fast, but once you focus your eyes on them you’ll see their delightful display of confusing preditors, by rubbing their hind wings together in the typical fashion of most hairstreaks.
This back-and-forth movement makes the tail like extensions on the hindwings look like anntennae, apparently to fool predators into attacking a less vital part of their body. They like to bask in the sun with their head down and hindwings up with it’s false antenae in motion. Below are two videos showing the motion of the wings.
Another very different looking hairstreak is the “Atala” butterfly (Coontie Hairstreak)   Scientific name: Satyrium pruni
Some hairstreaks don’t have tails like the gray hairstreak butterfly. The Atala butterfly is also called the Coontie butterfly because the Coontie plant is it’s host plant.
Sunshine State gardeners have rediscovered the Florida coontie as a native plant well adapted to Florida yards. Its increased use in landscapes has encouraged the presence of the rare atala butterfly. This is such a beautiful and unusual looking butterfly. Even the caterpillars are unusual looking. To me they look like pretty gummy candy.
There are many many different hairstreak butterflies in Florida, some common, some rare and many endangered.
Next week we will look at a few more butterflies and a few more ways to photograph them , then off to another adventure. I’m not sure what yet, but it will be a surprise to even me.

 

 

 

I am retired and enjoying life. My hobbies are my 5 grandchildren, son and daughter, and my loving husband. I am a photographer and extreme nature lover. I love spending time in my garden or in the wilderness connected to God my Creator.
Melody

Dangerous Caterpillars

6 Feb

A Time to Live

Melody Hendrix

 

I have moved the Hairstreak butterflies to next week. I thought it would be a good idea to show you some dangerous moth caterpillars before we move on, since we talked about harmless Florida moths last week. Most are harmless, but there are some Florida moths that can cause severe pain and possible reactions. Many caterpillars have hairs or spines. Some contain poison glands. In contact with human skin, they can cause pain, rashes, itching, burning, swelling, and blistering like this puss moth caterpillar.

Avoiding caterpillars with hairs or spines is best.
To treat a caterpillar exposure:

1. If the caterpillar is on the skin, remove it without using your hands!Gently put tape over the exposed area, sticky side down. (Any kind of tape will do.)

2. Pull up the tape, removing the hairs or spines.

3. Repeat with fresh pieces of tape as often as needed to treat the area involved.

4. Wash the area gently with soap and water.

5. If the area itches, put on a paste of baking soda and water.
Use ice pack to reduce swelling.

6. If that doesn’t help, try Zanfel Benadryl or a hydrocortisone cream.

7. If that doesn’t help, try an antihistamine cream. That shouldn’t be the first choice, as it doesn’t always help. Also, some people have skin reactions to these creams.

8. If the area is badly blistered, contact your health provider.

9. Call your health provider about a tetanus booster if your shots are not up to date.

The southern flannel moth, Megalopyge opercularis is an attractive small moth that is best-known because of its larva, the puss caterpillar, which is one of the most venomous caterpillars in the United States. The southern flannel moth (puss caterpillar)  is found from New Jersey to Florida and west to Arkansas and Texas. It is common in Florida but reaches its greatest abundance in Texas from Dallas southward in the western central part of the state. Found on Oaks and citrus.

 
Buck Moth found on Oak and Willow.
The adult buck moths have a flight period that occurs between October and November. as late as December in Florida.  The adults are active during the day and are very quick fliers, and can be found flying most commonly between noon and 2:00 pm in oak forests during sunny weather
Lo Moth

Lo Moth found on Ixora and rose. Adult moths are strictly nocturnal, flying generally only during the first few hours of the night.
Saddleback

Saddleback caterpillar and moth. Host plants are many plants, vegetables, flowers, citrus, maples, oaks, and blueberries.
Spines can become airborne and consequently be inhaled or contact sensitive tissues like the eyes and nose.
Spiny Oak Slug
Spiny Oak-Slug Host plants – Oak and willow, apple, blueberry, sycamore and more.  caterpillars seen from late June to October.

Tussock
 A large caterpillar 1-3/4 to 2-1/4 inches.  Stinging hairs are intermixed with soft hairs in diffuse tufts. Host plants – Oak, willow and deciduous plants.

I love spotting Hairstreaks in the garden. They are small and fly fast, but once you focus your eyes on them you’ll see their delightful display of rubbing their hindwings together in the typical fashion of most hairstreaks. It’s mesmerizing.  This back-and-forth movement makes the moving appendages on the hind wings look like anntennae, apparently to fool predators into attacking a less vital part of their body. They like to bask in the sun with their head down and hindwings up with it’s false antenae in motion.
Please join me next week. We will look at the Hairstreak butterflies.

 

 

I am retired and enjoying life. My hobbies are my 5 grandchildren, son and daughter, and my loving husband. I am a photographer and extreme nature lover. I love spending time in my garden or in the wilderness connected to God my Creator.
Melody

Florida Butterfiles~Moths

30 Jan

A Time to Live

Melody Hendrix

 

Moths are insects that belong to the order Lepidoptera. They are less-colorful cousins of butterflies. There are more than 150.000 species of moths that can be found around the world. Moths inhabit forests, fields, meadows, agricultural fields and human settlements. In most parts of the world, moths are classified as pests because they destroy commercially important types of fruit and crops.
Interesting Moths Facts:
Moths can be small as pinhead or large as the hand of adult man. Their wingspan ranges from 0.11 to 12 inches.
Moths are active during the night and their bodies are usually dark colored (they blend with darkness of the night). Moths have feathery or filament-like antennas on the head. Antennas are equipped with scent receptors that facilitate finding of food and partners. Moths are able to detect females that are 7 miles away thanks to exceptional sense of smell.

Indian Moon Moth / Indian Luna Moth {Actias selen} head-on view showing feather-like antennae. Captive insect.

Moths have long, curled tongue designed for diet based on nectar, fruits and berries.

 

Moths are important pollinators of various plant species. They use moon, stars and geomagnetic field to navigate during the flight. Moths are important source of food for the birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and numerous invertebrates. Even people in some parts of the world consume moths as valuable source of proteins and minerals.

Moths use several strategies to distract predators. Some secrete repelling fluids like this Leopard moth below. It’s larvae is also equipped with spines for protection.
Moths produce from 40 to 1.000 eggs in a lifetime. Eggs hatch after few days or couple of months (eggs of some species remain dormant during the winter and hatch at the beginning of the spring). Females reproduce only once in a lifetime, while males can mate a couple of times.
Larva (caterpillar) lives from few weeks to couple of months. It usually eats plant material, wool, silk or even other insects. Fully grown larva encapsulates itself in the cocoon and transforms into adult moth. They are usually found in dirt or plant debris in the ground.
Adult moths live from 1 to 4 weeks. Males have longer lifespan than females.
The Sphingidae are a family of moths (Lepidoptera), commonly known as hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms; it includes about 1,450 species. These moth species are found in every region. They are moderate to large in size and are distinguished among moths for their rapid, sustained flying ability. Their narrow wings and streamlined abdomens are adaptations for rapid flight.
Some hawk moths, such as the hummingbird hawk-moth or the white-lined sphinx, hover in midair while they feed on nectar from flowers, so are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds. The hummingbird moths are among the fastest flying insects on earth. These moths can fly at over 12 miles per hour.
A hummingbird moth! Yes, you read that right―a moth that resembles a hummingbird to the minutest detail, yet does not even fall into the same species.
❖ Like hummingbirds, these moths can sustain flight for as long as they need to feed and can move sideways and backwards.
❖ It is also interesting to note that the hovering of some like this Sphinx Moth cause a humming sound like a hummingbird.

Some hummingbird moth larvae are large with stout bodies, and called tomato worms or horn worms. . They have five pairs of prolegs and most species have a “horn” at the posterior end. They are seldom welcomed, but adult moths are very beneficial.

 

Some caterpillars fall prey to the braconid wasp that lay their eggs on the moth larvae and feeds the wasp hatchlings with it’s life.

 

Moths primarily hide during the day and emerge at dusk or during the early morning hours. This is when I see them in the garden. Luna, Atlas and Prometheus are species of moth that do not have a mouth.

They have short lifespans and their only purpose is to reproduce and lay eggs. Moths are important pollinators of various plant species. Below is a surprising moth. The polka dot wasp moth.

 

The species is also called the Oleander Moth after the Oleander plant, from which its young feed. Like most wasp moths, these moths are day fliers. It looks like a very dangerous wasp, but in fact is a harmless moth.

 

The caterpillars are orange or dark orange with long black hairs. The caterpillars look dangerous too, but the setae do not inflict any harm.

Next week we’ll return to butterflies. We will start with a delightful species of little butterflies called Hair Streaks.

 

 

 

I am retired and enjoying life. My hobbies are my 5 grandchildren, son and daughter, and my loving husband. I am a photographer and extreme nature lover. I love spending time in my garden or in the wilderness connected to God my Creator.
Melody

Giovanni and the Magnolia Tree

29 Jan

My Take

DiVoran Lites

 

 

Hot pink flowers growing through green grass

Yellow cosmos glowing to be seen

Cherry laurel with a network of roots

Choke the yard. Call them choke-cherries.

A neighbor who owns a store knocks

On our door, wants to know if he can chop our

Chokers that grow yellow, inedible seed pods

That drop to the ground like accomplices to

The network of underground roots that choke out all other vegetation.

“I have too much energy,” says Giovanni “don’t want to spend it at the fitness center.”

We said yes, but tied a ribbon to the small, misshaped baby Magnolia

Which yearned to be free of overshadowing.

On Sundays, sometimes, we’d hear the crack of the ax

Against a tree and the ker-thump when the giant fell.

We never had one pang of remorse.

We and the magnolia wanted sunlight and at least a glimpse of blue

When most of the cherry laurels were gone,

The magnolia began to grow.

It was warped and scraggly and would never be anything but a runt.

Didn’t look like other magnolias, but it was free now and perhaps someday we’d pick a big flower from its

Boughs and wouldn’t have to ask someone else in the neighborhood

For a blossom to put in on a bowl where it could fill our olfactories with

Fragrance and our eyes with its creamy white petals and bright yellow filaments.

One day, I suppose it was a few years later,

I happened to look out a high window

To see the Magnolia tree, though still not shapely,

Reaching with its grateful branches

Into blue background

Taller than the remaining cherry laurels

With every dark green leaf polished to a flash.

In my mind the tree

Told me all it had needed was light

And there it was, thriving,

Giovanni thrived, too

And fairly newly married has

Possessed a baby son,

Giovanni may be seen every day walking the

New walking child

On cold days the tot wears a thick white sweater with a fuzzy, matching cap.

Sometimes you see them with the stroller coming home from store up near the highway.

Maybe someday they will chop trees or hike the world just to be together and spend their energy.

And the magnolia with be white with flowers.

Raising Your Own Butterflies

5 Dec

A Time to Live

Melody Hendrix

 

Raising your own butterflies
Raising your own Monarch butterflies at home can be fun and exciting. Especially if you have children or grandchildren that can experience it with you. It’s a wonderful display of God and nature. It also teaches struggles and responsibility for being a good stuart of our planet.

Let’s start with what you will need.

1.  You will need a container. What size and what kind depends on how much you want to engage in butterfly rearing and for how long. If you just want to raise a couple of butterflies, you can use a large jar, or anything that doesn’t give off chemicals. Just put a paper towel on the bottom and a stick that the caterpillar can climb up on inside. Mesh or panty hose secured with a rubber band at the top. Don’t use a jar lid with holes poked in because it is not enough air circulation and it can cut the caterpillars.

I recommend, for ease and enjoyment, that you purchase a butterfly house made for raising butterflies. They are made of a fine mesh that the caterpillars can easily climb. They keep out most preditors. They allow air to circulate. They are lightweight and fold up when not in use, and they can be cleaned and sterilized easily. I prefer a large one because I can put in a whole potted plant in it. When it is eaten, I exchange it with another and set the eaten one outside to regrow. Otherwise in a small container, you have to put cuttings in a vase with water. Caterpillars can fall into the water, so be sure to put foil or moss or something so there are no gaps in the stems for the caterpillars to fall through.

The caterpillars when ready to stop feeding, will make their way to the top of the mesh container or a stick. They will either climb a limb that is touching the mesh side, or most likely they will climb down the plant, across the bottom and up the mesh side to the top.
Monarch butterflies are the easiest to raise because their nectar plant and host plant is the same. So you can have many potted milkweed plants in your yard for the butterflies to have nectar and keep some in the butterfly house for the caterpillars. Try to keep the potted plants free of ants and insects by setting the pot on something instead of the dirt. Check plant for spiders or other insects that may be harmful. Water the plant and rinse the leaves before you put it in the house.
There are many sizes and shapes.
2.  Host plants. Be sure to buy enough host plants to last. It’s shocking to see how fast the caterpillars can consume an entire potted plant.
3.  Mist bottle. With all the machanics that go on inside the caterpillar, it needs moisture to be successful. Mist inside of the house and on the plants every few days. You can also keep damp newspaper on the bottom if you are raising them inside. It is better that they are kept outside unless it is cold.
4.  Calendar. You will want to know when to expect stages to happen so you won’t miss anything
5.  Q-Tips. You may need to move a caterpillar from the garden to the buttefly house. It is best to just break off the stem and lay it on top on the designated plant. It will move on it’s own. Or you can take a q-tip and gently work its feet off the plant. Extreme care must be taken not to drop or injure it in anyway.
6. If you have a small container, you can put host plant cuttings in a flourist water pick which will supply water to the plant for a day or two. Or use a vase as mentioned above.

7. Something to climb up on. In a mesh butterfly house, you don’t necessarily need anything for the butterfly to climb up on because it will find it’s way up the mesh sides and form it’s chrysalis at the top. If it is in glass, it will need to climb a stick to form it’s chrystalis at the top of the stick. Be sure there is a clear path from the plant to the stick.  Make sure there is plenty of room for the butterflies wings to expand once it’s emerged.
8. Weight. The mesh butterfly houses can blow away. If you have potted plants inside, there is no worry, but if you just have a vase or something plastic, you may need something sitting on the bottom to keep it from moving. Usually the house comes with tie downs to anchor it, but some rocks or brick sitting on the floor, will weight it down.
9.  Newspaper. Caterpillars poop a lot. You may wish to put some newspaper in your caterpillar condo to catch the frass and make it easy to dispose of. It’s very important to get rid of it – if frass stays in their refuge, they could get sick and die. Make sure where ever you will be raising your butterflies that it is not in a windy location. That will dry them out. Also keep them out of extreme cold or heat. They like humidity, but not to the point of growing mold.
If a chrysalis falls off, but not injured, you can hot glue, tape or pin the silk that holds the chrystalis to the top of the mesh house. The chrystalis can lay on the bottom on a paper towel, but when it emerges, it must have a way to immediately climb up on something to pump it’s fluid into it’s wings.


It will take 9 – 14 days for the butterfly to emerge once it makes it’s chrystalis. Mark it on the calendar. You will see it turn from green to almost black with color showing through. It will emerge the next morning. Probably very early. If the chrystalis stays black for more than 2 or 3 days. It’s dead. Remove it.


When the butterfly is ready to emerge, it does so very quickly. So be ready. Observe the butterfly for a few hours. When its wings are almost dry, you can put your finger under its legs and it should hop on your finger. Walk outside and set it on a flower for some great photos. It cannot fly until the wings have completely dried. It’s a perfect time to get great pictures. You won’t have to chase it all around the garden.

If you see a butterfly laying eggs on a plant, you can collect that plant, keep it in a water source and put it in the buttfly house to allow the eggs to develope and become the butterfly that laid the eggs. Keep picking fresh leaves from the same plant. Most butterflies drink from many different plants for nectar, so your new butterfly will likely have a food source nearby. Having many kinds of nectar plants is the key to attract many different kinds of butterflies.

Raising butterflies can be bitter sweet. They are not all meant to survive. Many things can go wrong and there are enemies lurking. but you can help its chance to survive and multiply. With more and more habitates lost and deadly chemicals everywhere, helping nature is a good thing.

One common problem is when the butterflies wings don’t get proper circulation for the wings to inflate and don’t straighten. It will never fly. The best thing you can do is set it concealed on a nectar plant and let nature take it’s course. Once I thought I would keep one alive. You can feed them red gatorade or cut some bananas or other fruit and they will eat the nectar juice. I wouldn’t recommend doing this. It lived 3 weeks. An unnecessary tedious effort.
Next week I will profile another easy to raise butterfly…. The Black Swallowtail. It loves dill and parsley.

 

 

 

I am retired and enjoying life. My hobbies are my 5 grandchildren, son and daughter, and my loving husband. I am a photographer and extreme nature lover. I love spending time in my garden or in the wilderness connected to God my Creator.
Melody
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