Shaking of the Trees Post
Working at Shades of Green in Frisco, I have opportunities to observe nature in action. One day in late April we received a batch of tropical milkweed from our farm in Collinsville. This particular batch was covered in monarch caterpillars.
[Monarch Caterpillars on milkweed | Photo by Lauri Diamond]
There is a peculiar connection between the monarch and the milkweed. “The latex-based sap produced by milkweed plants contains toxic compounds called cardenolides. But monarch caterpillars actually absorb these toxins as they feed on milkweed leaves, rendering the caterpillars themselves toxic to potential predators. The toxins found in the monarch butterfly host plant actually help protect the caterpillars and adult butterflies from birds and other predators.”(Savvy Gardening)
[Monarch Caterpillar on milkweed | Photo by Lauri Diamond]
The Tropical Milkweed should be cut back in the fall to avoid encouraging late season breeding and egg laying.(monarchventure.org) Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, is a good choice for home gardens and the seeds are available online (Amazon).
[Monarch chrysalis | Photo by Lauri Diamond]
Of course, I had to bring a milkweed home with two caterpillars. Randy and Marvin were ready to form their chrysalis’ almost immediately. I ordered a habitat and, in the meantime, they lived in a canvas cat carrier. Randy formed a chrysalis on the zipper! Relocating a chrysalis is not a problem. Very carefully removing the chrysalis with as much of the white webbing as possible I transferred Randy back to a stem and attached with some dental floss. The chrysalis formation is actually the final molting for the caterpillar. The wings of the developing butterfly are clearly visible in the new casing.
[Chrysalis reattached with dental floss | Photo by Lauri Diamond]
The bright green chrysalis was amazingly beautiful with metallic gold droplets around the rim and base. There are several hypotheses about what the gold dots are: 1) Camouflage — they could reflect colors of the surroundings and break up the shape of the pupa, and they might also look like Dew droplets. 2) Warning coloration. 3) Filtering particular wavelengths of light which might be harmful to the monarchs. 4)Oxygen exchange.
[Darker Monarch chrysalis | Photo by Lauri Diamond]
At the end of the week, the chrysalis’ began to darken. This is a sign of development and the emergence is close. Both Randy and Marvin went from dark to clear in a few hours. Try as I may I could not catch them emerging! I turned away for a few minutes and there they were!
[Translucent chrysalis | Photo by Lauri Diamond]
Randy emerged first and we found out she was a Randie! There are two spots on the inner wings that denote males. Males also have thinner black veins and claspers at the end of their abdomens.(https://journeynorth.org/tm/monarch/ id_male_female.html) Marvin was a male and Randie a female.
[Monarch | Photo by Lauri Diamond]
The monarch journey began a fascination with butterflies and moths for me. As a new Master Naturalist (almost!) I have enjoyed learning about these wonderful creatures. Since Randie and Marvin, I’ve raised a Virgina Tiger Moth and six Swallowtails all from garden finds.
The journey is just beginning and I look forward to learning more and growing in the process!
[Monarch | Photo by Lauri Diamond]
I’ve also enjoyed painting butterflies from photos taken on Master Naturalist hikes.
Just for grins. Today started out as pretty normal, but it’s 2020, so nothing is normal. I woke up early to do the Senior Hours shopping. I’m not a morning person. We mostly just needed milk. Anyway I picked up quite a bit, mostly frozen/refrigerator items, and half way thru self check-out, the power goes out in the store. Register stops. Some registers were still working, and in the dark, I followed a cashier to her register, and I unpacked my groceries, and she gets about half way thru, and her register stops. A security alarm is ringing, they take my phone number and groceries, and I have to leave the store. Driving out there are police cars and fire engines coming to the store. On my way home, I stopped at Walgreens, so I at least have milk. I’m thinking about going back to bed and starting over, but meh, it’s just 2020.😝
Chase Brooke, county extension agent and our chapter AgriLife sponsor, asked us to please share the following press release concerning the plethora of seeds being received with Chinese shipping labels:
COMMISSIONER MILLER ISSUES WARNING ON UNSOLICITED SEEDS FROM CHINA (7/27/2020)
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is urging Texans to take extreme precaution when receiving unsolicited seed packets from China. These packets have been mailed to multiple states, including Texas, falsely labeled as jewelry. Residents are advised not to plant the seeds as they could contain harmful invasive species or be otherwise unsafe.
“I am urging folks to take this matter seriously,” Commissioner Miller said. “An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture. TDA has been working closely with USDA to analyze these unknown seeds so we can protect Texas residents.”
If you receive a foreign package containing seeds do not open it or plant the contents. Keep contents contained in their original sealed package.
An invasive species is an organism that is not native to a particular region. The introduction of this “alien species” can cause economic or environmental harm. In agriculture, an invasive species can destroy native crops, introduce disease to native plants and may be dangerous for livestock.
Please report unsolicited seed packages to SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov
More information can be found here: http://ow.ly/Dlcy50AJjlr
Chase T. Brooke
County Extension Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources – Collin County
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
I am a stalker of AgriLife guru Mike Merchant. He posted this link and thoroughly enjoyed it. BTW he started his master naturalist journey through BPTMN!
Tonight I slipped out onto the patio as it got dark and sat quietly for about thirty minutes. I saw the last vestiges of the sunset, two squirrels dash about in the tree and then climb into some vines, a rat run the roof and drop to the fence and then to the ground, three owls come through on their nightly prowl ( one was a kid and sat in the tree above me and clicked his beak. He wasn’t sure if I was ‘good or bad’.), and heard the katydids and the Rio Grande frog begin their nightly chorus.
For more info –
For more info –
Just as I started to rise to come in something came from the area of the creek and went across the yard. It was a skunk. It was very busy and had its tail very low. It went into the bushes and I dashed into the house. Didn’t care to visit with that one tonight! Such excitement. Last evening we had a yellow-crowned night heron in the yard about ten. This is our fun during the pandemic. Oh, yes, the mosquitoes were there too as well as some fireflies.
Here’s my latest project. I got the idea from the North Texas Gardner’s Facebook page. We just had foundation work done along this barren side of the house that’s always been a messy storage area for miscellaneous stuff.
It’s always had drainage issues from the downspout to the right, plus my neighbor told me it floods his yard every time it rains.
So I dug a trench from the downspout and along the fence line to the front of the house and put in a pipe and filled it in. Then installed a weed barrier. I already had the concrete steppingstones that were used for my son’s motorcycle that is now long gone.👏👏👏.
Then filled in with the rocks (900 pounds) which I hauled one bag at a time. Now I have a 4’x28’ blank canvas to play with. Water won’t be a problem with 3 sprinklers along the wall but it does get about 5-6 hours of intense western sunlight plus radiant heat into the evening. Whatever goes in there will have to withstand the punishing Texas sun including me.
With us all hunkered down at home, there has been a worldwide spike in eBird.org observations by citizen scientists. If you’re one of those staying home with more time to gaze out the window, wander in the yard, or play in the garden, consider starting your own list of yard birds and contribute to the eBird database of avian observations.
Have a look at “Discover the Birds in Your Yard and Garden” (https://ebird.org/news/discover-the-birds-in-your-yard-or-garden).
Here are some additional tips…
- Report all the birds you could identify. And don’t report the ones you couldn’t. That’s perfectly OK. All of us see or hear birds we can’t identify for a wide variety of reasons.
- Select the “Stationary” observation type if you spent time focused only on birding and you didn’t wander more than about 30 yards.
- Select “Incidental” type if you were focused on another task, like gardening or working on a project, but you want to report the birds you saw and heard.
- Select “Traveling” if you were focused on watching birds, but wandered more than 30 yards, like when you were taking a walk.