Butterfly Diary 2017, 032517 edition

Costa Rican clearwing

Sadly, I am not volunteering as a butterfly caregiver at Butterflies in Bloom at Dow Gardens in Midland, MI. Work commitments made a weekly two-hour afternoon shift prohibitive this year.

I am cheered by knowing I made someone very happy with the opening of that shift, as the job always has people eager to fill it. I hope that next year I can return. In the meantime I still can visit, which is what I did Friday:

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DG032417orangecurly

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DG03242017ovalbananas

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DG03242017marigolds

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DG032417malachitewrist

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DG03242017upsidedown

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DG03242017pinkflowers

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Plant Pics, 100916 edition

flower bed

flower bed

On Wednesday I drove to neighboring Midland (Michigan). I was picking up honey from an entomologist friend and when she suggested Tuesday or Wednesday to meet, I jumped on the latter because it’s a Farmers Market day. (The other is Saturday. More on the Midland Area Farmers Market within the next week.)

Midland can be an odd place. It’s very much a company town, and that company is Dow Chemical. Because this global behemoth needs to keep employees happy in a town of 42,000 people, there are amenities that don’t usually show up in small Midwestern cities. Also, things are neat and attractive, hence its Sparkle City nickname. That’s not a compliment; it’s a dig at the gentrification and greenbelting.

One positive is that the public plantings often are stunning. This is especially true downtown, where the beds and containers sport interesting plants and combinations – so much so that I had to stop for pictures just outside the market.

flower bed

I love texture, so I’m intrigued by this prickly plant against this feathery one.

flower bed

Looking back up the hill toward Main Street.

purple flower bed

Color groupings are common, such as this purple…

red flower bed

…and this red.

flower bed closeup

Sometimes the combinations are ones that never would have occurred to me, like the one above where the flowers and foliage have no similarities at all.

tall tropical plant in flower bed

 

 

 

I wonder if my hibiscus would like a tall tropical plant friend like this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

plant closeups

These prickly things among the zinnias remind me of baby birds.

plant closeups

More satisfaction for my texture obsession.

Butterfly Diary 2016, Week 7

She also said she thought she had found a mating pair, and she had – these blue morphos. They’re by the outward-sloping metal walls of the conservatory and the netting inside them.
A blue longwing, notable for its iridescence, and a zebra longwing feed on orange zinnias.
A blue longwing, notable for its iridescence, and a zebra longwing feed on orange zinnias.
These yellow marigolds attracted painted lady butterflies.
These yellow marigolds attracted painted lady butterflies.

This was my last week tending baby butterflies in 2016, as Dow Gardens’ Butterflies in Bloom is nearly over. The varieties we have only live a few weeks, so when the exhibit ends, the conservatory is closed to visitors while all our insect friends finish out their short but happy lives.

A couple of small postman butterflies hang out with a zebra longwing.
A couple of small postman butterflies hang out with a zebra longwing.
The vestibule, with warning signs and a long-handled net
The three signs on the door all say essentially the same thing: wait for the attendant because the inner and outer doors may not be open at the same time. The net gets occasional use when butterflies escape into the vestibule and must be retrieved and returned.

The “rules” posted in the vestibule – Elly Maxwell, our entomologist, prefers to limit the rules as much as possible – include

  • Please keep fingers out of food dishes!
  • Watch your feet! Be aware of butterflies on the floor.
  • Please don’t pick the flowers.
  • Watch out for hitchhikers!
  • No outside plant material in the display.
These may be the most retro restroom signs I’ve seen.
These may be the most retro restroom signs I’ve seen.

I brought my lovely daughter Heather, who proved adept at finding hidden butterflies – the camouflaged Southern white covered in mist from a fan below, and the Mexican bluewing hiding deep within a plant but still in a sunny spot, below that.

Southern white butterfly

Mexican bluewing butterfly

(As a child, she was our “finder” when objects went missing. The Southern white butterfly eventually concerned her enough that she asked me to check on it, so I moved it to a sunny and dry spot, and it took off immediately.)

This butterfly is also blue and the same size, but it is a bluewave. While the Mexican blue is blue with white stripes, the bluewave is black with blue stripes.
This butterfly is also blue and the same size, but it is a bluewave. While the Mexican blue is blue with white stripes, the bluewave is black with blue stripes.
She also said she thought she had found a mating pair, and she had – these blue morphos. They’re by the outward-sloping metal walls of the conservatory and the netting inside them.
She also said she thought she had found a mating pair, and she had – these blue morphos. They’re by the outward-sloping metal walls of the conservatory and the netting inside them.
I told her I was hoping to get a blue morpho open (me and so many other people) so she kept an eye out for me. This one in the orchid room was a tease.
I told her I was hoping to get a blue morpho open (me and so many other people) so she kept an eye out for me. This one in the orchid room was a tease.

We didn’t plan to have moths this year and so our moth case isn’t out in the exhibit. Moths lay eggs quickly so we don’t want them out in the conservatory and always keep them separate. But a supplier sent us some luna moth cocoons so we dealt with it. Elly is collecting the moths for possible use in a pinned collection she is creating.

A recently emerged luna moth next to a row of cocoons.
A recently emerged luna moth next to a row of cocoons.
This arched-wing cattleheart emerged about 15 minutes before I took the picture. Note how fat the body is, with waste fluid yet to be expelled, and that the wings have not fully unfolded, let alone begun to dry. This butterfly takes 2-3 hours to be ready to leave the emergence case.
This arched-wing cattleheart emerged about 15 minutes before I took the picture. Note how fat the body is, with waste fluid yet to be expelled, and that the wings have not fully unfolded, let alone begun to dry. This butterfly takes 2-3 hours to be ready to leave the emergence case.
A blue morpho ready for release, clinging momentarily to the inside of the emergence case door.
A blue morpho ready for release, clinging momentarily to the inside of the emergence case door.
The brilliant blue topside of a blue morpho's wings
Gotcha! Or at least enough to show why these are among visitor favorites.
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An orange Julia sunning itself.
This plant was a popular perch for zebra longwings.
This plant was a popular perch for zebra longwings.

Butterfly Diary 2016, Week 6

Gray cracker butterfly
Trio of butterflies on pink zinnias
This trio enjoying the pink zinnias brought in for the butterflies includes a monarch, orange Julia and buckeye.

A sunny day made occupants and visitors alike happy at Dow Gardens’ Butterflies in Bloom.

One of the questions I was asked most often Tuesday was, as one child put it, “Why are you putting water on the floor?” With sun pouring through the glass, I had to do this about every hour, more often than usual.

Using a hose to fill two watering cans

I tell people that many of our butterflies come from jungle and rain forest environments, and while we can’t bring in all of their native plants, we replicate their humidity and temperature the best we can.

Five butterflies sunning on orange zinnias
The sun and orange zinnias combined to make this a popular spot.

Some butterfly nicknames make sense, some less so. Crackers get their name because the males make a “cracking” sound when being territorial. The two below are a gray cracker, which is gray, and a red cracker, which is blue.

Gray cracker butterfly

Red cracker butterfly

Two butterflies, including a blue morpho, eat bananas

The butterfly on the right above is a blue morpho. You can just barely see the blue topside at the wing opening. If you’re wondering why I didn’t just wait for it to open, you clearly are not one of the people who has waited 20 minutes or longer for this to happen.

Butterfly Diary 2016, Week 5

Inside the conservatory, which is filled with tropical plants year round and has a glass ceiling and walls
Inside the conservatory, which is filled with tropical plants year round and has a glass ceiling and walls
This was a great day for butterfly flight, because they tend to be more active when the sun is shining. The pond is straight ahead; the emergence case is just around the bend to the right.

This is perhaps the zooiest week at Dow Gardens’ Butterflies in Bloom … spring break. We had loads of babies in arms inside the conservatory and strollers parked outside.

There wasn’t time for much picture taking but I did answer a LOT of questions, mostly of the “What kind is that?” variety. With a lot of emergence in the case there were ample opportunities to observe brand-new butterflies, and when one came out halfway but got stuck, I unpinned it from the shelf, brought it around for people to see and as quickly as I could move gently, removed the rest of the chrysalis to free its wings. “It’s like separating layers of wet tissue paper,” I told the handful of people watching, before moving the baby back into the case.

While the wings attract the most attention, I find it interesting how much difference there is in the coloration of the bodies. There is even variety in the eyes, with some solid black while others are spotted.

Four butterflies sharing a food dish
Among the butterflies on this food dish are a zebra longwing, front, and a paper kite, hanging off the side. The former’s body looks black with white markings, the other white with black.
A green banded peacock butterfly on a tree
Toward the left you can see the edge of this green banded peacock’s left wing, and the brilliant color it sports on its top side. Look toward the right and you can see that its body matches.
Frog and blue morpho butterfly next to each other in a pond
This is one of the resident pond frogs. There are two, a male and a female, and they are maybe a decade old. And next to it is a blue morpho, looking pretty oblivious and stupid. Maybe the butterfly was just too big, because the frog ignored it. When one around swallowtail size started to light, though, the frog leapt into action, and both butterflies flitted away.

Plant Pics, 032416 edition

Pitcher plant
One variety of orchid, in a smaller room off to one side.
One variety of orchid, in a smaller room off to one side.

While I love tending baby insects at Dow Gardens‘ annual Butterflies in Bloom, it is also fabulous to hang out among the plants of the conservatory for a couple of hours at a time. It’s a large version of a dream space, something I could only wish for my own home.

A wall-mounted plant, from the front and from the side.
A wall-mounted plant, from the front and from the side. Like most of the conservatory plants, it is not labeled.
Plant with twisting leaves
This twisty plant is the kind of thing I would take home …
Plant with narrow triangular leaves that are red on the back, green with spots on the front
… ditto this one.
Plant with what look like tiny peppers, half yellow and half red
This pepper-looking plant has caught other people’s eyes too.
Pitcher plant
Pitcher plants are tough to maintain at home. I killed a hanging version but hope to have success another time.
Another variety of orchid.
Another variety of orchid.

Butterfly Diary 2016, Week 4

We had giant owls already, but now we have magnificent owls as well. They are slightly smaller but also differ by the yellow band on the wing.
Paper kite and buckeye butterflies on yellow marigolds
Today we had the largest paper kite any of us present had seen. Toward the upper left corner is a buckeye.
Butterfly on camera equipment
When I first came in for my Butterflies in Bloom shift at Dow Gardens, there were several photographers set up in the conservatory. While one of them was focused on another butterfly, this one settled on his remaining equipment.
Gold banded forester butterfly on a yellow marigold
The object of their attention was this gold banded forester.
Orangetip butterfly
This great orange tip was content to sit on the emergence case for a while. Down below are some of our laminated ID sheets, which show some of our more common varieties. Once we topped 140, we gave up on listing them all because the photos would have been tiny.
Black and yellowish green butterfly with brown, white and pink tones on underside of wing
This is one of my favorites, because it is so different on the two sides of the wings. While the top is black with a greenish yellow, the underside has tones of brown, white, green and sometimes pink.
This was a crasher, a blue butterfly that fell as soon as it emerged. I scooped it up and moved it to a less crowded spot. Within minutes it had opened its wings fully and was well on the way to growing strong.
This was a crasher, a blue butterfly that fell as soon as it emerged. I scooped it up and moved it to a less crowded spot. Within minutes it had opened its wings fully and was well on the way to growing strong.

 

We had giant owls already, but now we have magnificent owls as well. They are slightly smaller but also differ by the yellow band on the wing.
We had giant owls already, but now we have magnificent owls as well. They are slightly smaller but also differ by the yellow band on the wing.
This blue morpho and two giant owls were deeply camped on this food dish. This was the first time I saw butterflies act territorial; many smaller ones got pushed firmly away by an owl’s leg.
This blue morpho and two giant owls were deeply camped on this food dish. This was the first time I saw butterflies act territorial; many smaller ones got pushed firmly away by an owl’s leg.
Emergence case full of varied chrysalises and recently emerged butterflies
Can you tell it was a busy day for emergence?
Atala butterfly
This atala hairstreak butterfly is perhaps our tiniest.
Clearwing butterfly on a yellow marigold
Just a little larger is this Costa Rican clearwing (yes, cleverly named).