Monthly Archives: July 2007

Beautiful Bugs and Butterflies

milkweed bug
On my weekly walkabouts, I often snap a shot here and there of interesting creatures. I’ve had to buy new reference books to identify some of them, a moth book, a dragonfly book, help from the web. Some of them I don’t have a name for but they’re all cool!

I’ve noticed that milkweeds attract they’re own cadre of critters, besides the Monarch Butterfly. The bug to the right is a Milkweed Bug, identified by the “don’t eat me” orange X on it’s back.

milkweed catepillar

I came across this caterpillar, there were several, munching away on Whorled Milkweed. On one of the plants I also found this little pile of beetles covering the milkweed pod (below).
milkweed beetles


Hanging around the pond also offers opportunity to photograph critters. Dragonflies are constantly patrolling the pond in search of food and protecting their little territories. The biggest and most common is the Common Green Darner (female, left). The Green Darner is a little easier than most to identify, especially when you see the little bull’s eye in front of their eyes.

widow skimmer

Another easy-to-identify dragonfly is the Widow Skimmer. He was very cooperative, returning to the same twig time and again, until I got a really good diagnostic picture. So far I’ve identified 7 species of dragonflies.


Not as easy to photograph and even harder to identify, are the damselflies. I think this is a Spreadwing, but I’m not positive. This little gem caught my eye because of it’s opalescent wings, which you can’t see in this picture, of course. I’ve attempted to photograph four or five species of damselflies, but they’re so tiny and skittish I just managed to capture two of them.


The second damselfly I photographed is quite common. I suspect it’s the Familiar Bluet (the name sounds good for a common damselfly). These little gems would hold on to the top of a plant and as the breeze would blow their bodies would swing around the plant stem like a tiny wind vane. You can imagine how tough it is to snap a sharp photo of it.


I haven’t managed to photograph many moths, but this little guy was very cooperative, hanging out on my glove while I went looking for my camera. It took me quite a long time to identify this one. I knew it was an Underwing (from the brightly colored hindwings), but there are so many different underwings that I had to get a moth book to pin it down. This one is the Sordid Underwing.

Gulf Fritillary top

Butterflies are so much easier. These two photos give you a topside view and an underside view of the Gulf Fritillary. This is a fairly big butterfly, 3 inches, and I think one of the most beautiful.



I’ve been trying for a long time to get a photo of the Common Buckeye. They’re very flighty. Wouldn’t you know that the best shot I get is a specimen that can’t fly very well because of a bite taken out of it’s left hindwing.


This lovely yellow butterfly is an Orange Sulphur. I know you can’t see any orange, but trust me it’s there hidden by the hindwing.


I decided to buy this lantana plant on the spur of the moment. I was at a garden center to get pots and saw the lantana out front was just swarming with butterflies. Shortly after I brought it home and set it in the sun out front, this little Skipper showed up. This species is called Sachem. It didn’t take long before I had several other Skippers, Sphinx moths and Swallowtails all partaking of the nectar.


Wandering around my garden, I found this tiny white egg on the tip of a fennel frond.

black swallowtail

Those tiny eggs eventually become the magnificently colored caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail, Oklahoma’s State Butterfly. I just checked my bronze fennel today and the plant is now hosting 30 small caterpillars. I’m not sure it can sustain that many, but I’d hate to remove butterfly caterpillars if I don’t have to.

If you’re squeamish about spiders, stop now. Otherwise, continue.


These wolf spiders are all over the place in the grass out front. They’re BIG, two inches across.


Stemming the Tide

Back in March when he had flooding in the house, we thought that the event was unusual and we’d have time to find a contractor and go through the tedious bidding process to have the drainage around the house fixed. Well, two near misses and another flood later and I had a single bid contract signed. Thus began the trenching of our back yard.

It always amazes me what kind of trash gets buried in a yard. Of course the trencher chewed up the previous drain pipe (below), but they also came across buried facade stone (useful), old electrical wiring (recyclable), and a teddy bear (creepy).

When the contractor came out to look at the job, they discovered that the drain running along the back of the house, east of the patio, was completely filled with sand and gravel, and drained uphill. As anyone with a shred of common sense knows, that doesn’t work. So, the new drain has 3 pick up points along the wall that drain directly out from the house with a 2″ fall, which should take any water near the house away quickly.

In order to do that, though, they had to dig under my garden and the walkway. The workmen were fairly conscious of the plants and moved most of them out of the way. I supervised the moving of the perennials and sacrificed the annuals. The garden was an experiment, so I wasn’t too upset, and the herbs that were displaced are doing fine. Of course, now that the work is done, we haven’t had a drop of rain. Not that I’m anxious to have a near flood again, but I’d sure like to know if the work did the trick.

The frog that ate Windhaven

I was sitting out on the front porch swing the other day, taking a well deserved afternoon break, when I heard a frog call nearby. I managed to locate it above our bedroom window. Look for a small black dot on the right hand side of the upper window frame. The photo gives you an idea of how hard it is to find these little fellows. I was able to zoom in on it with my camera, and got the shot below. This is a Gray Treefrog. Very common in this area, but hard to see because they’re so cryptically colored.

It was even more of a surprise when I opened the front door the next morning, and found the very same frog stuck to the storm door window.

It’s hard to focus on something through a window, but the photo does show the little round pads on the frog’s toes that enabled him to perform this fantastic feat of dexterity.

Let the Sun Shine!

We finally had a break in the cloudy rainy days and I took the opportunity to do some solar cooking. I bought our solar oven back in April. Since then I’ve experimented with cooking muffins, quick bread, fruit crisps and cobblers, steaming corn, carrots and potatoes, and making vegetable chili. This time I decided to try roasting a chicken.

The principal of solar cooking is simple. Place the food in a black, lightweight cooking pot or pan, place it in a black, insulated box with a glass top, place it in the sun and cook.

My solar oven has some fancy stuff like reflectors to direct sunlight into the box, a swinging tray to keep the food level, an adjusting foot to catch the best angle of the sun, and an oven thermometer.

I bought a nice little organic chicken, seasoned it with salt and pepper, fresh rosemary and fresh thyme (both from my garden). I lay it on a bed of sliced onions and added a little chicken broth. Put the lid on, closed the oven and walked away.

I did have to adjust the oven once in a while (I’d love to build a clockwork turntable for it), but basically just left it alone.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t set the chicken out soon enough in the day to cook it entirely. I ran out of daylight. However, I was also baking some bread for dinner and it was a simple matter to stick the chicken into the oven with the bread, uncovered, to brown up the skin. The chicken was juicy and tender, fully cooked and nicely flavored. I still have some experimenting to do to get the timing right, but the chicken was delicious, and cooked for free!