Posts Tagged ‘pollinator’


Silver-spotted Skipper at hosta flower.


Read Full Post »


The Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) is a common and widespread butterfly. Great Spangled Fritillaries have just one brood each season, but are in flight through the summer. The males emerge first, with females following. The eggs the female lays hatch into tiny caterpillars that hibernate through the winter. When they emerge in the spring, they feed on native violets, their larval foodplant. Great Spangled Fritillaries are named for the metallic silvery-white spots that spangle the underside of the hind wing. This individual appears to have had a narrow escape from a predator.


It is nectaring at a monarda flower. Purple monarda (Monarda fistulosa) is an easy-to-grow native plant that is popular with pollinators. There is also a red variety (Monarda didyma). Both make attractive garden plants that hummingbirds, bees and butterflies all appreciate. In fact, one of the common names for monarda is bee balm. Monarda is also referred to as bergamot because it has a scent that is similar to that of the bergamot orange, which is used in Earl Grey tea. Monarda is a member of the mint family and was used by natives to brew a hot drink, which is the source of yet another name, Oswega tea plant.


Read Full Post »


When I glanced up from the work I was doing in the garden, I spotted one of my favorite garden visitors at the nearby phlox.
Now, if you haven’t seen one of these before, you might well wonder what it is. A tiny hummingbird? It is hovering in front of a flower and sipping nectar just like those tiny birds do. Or a giant bee? It is striped liked a big bumblebee. In fact, it is neither. It’s a moth!

Hummingbird Clearwing moths (Hemaris thysbe) are quite common and widespread. When you think of moths, the creatures that first come to mind might be the drab little characters that flutter around your porch light at night, but some moths fly by day. The Hummingbird Clearwing is also sometimes called a Hawkmoth, and is a member of the Sphinx moth family. Sphinx moths are fast, powerful fliers. The Hummingbird Clearwing has narrow wings with a dark band surrounding the translucent centre that gives this moth its name. Sphinx caterpillars are called hornworms because they typically have a short “horn” on their posterior end. Most hornworms don’t spin a cocoon but pupate in an earthen cell, built from leaf litter, just below the soil surface.

You can watch a Hummingbird Clearwing visiting flowers at this Youtube site. Moths are definitely underrated. There are some amazing moths, and you can see a lot of them in your own backyard. For more about moths and how to view them, visit the North American Moths Backyard Inventory.


Read Full Post »


There is lots of talk about food these days. Slow food. Local food. Organic food. And now, no less a personage than Michelle Obama is leading the way to a healthy, locally grown, DIY organic diet. With help from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and a group of fifth graders, a 1,100 square foot vegetable garden was recently planted at the White House, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden of World War II. It has quickly become one of the most high-profile vegetable gardens in the world. The garden will provide fresh vegetables and herbs for the first family’s meals and formal dinners. In addition, it is hoped that the garden will play another important role, teaching children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

The garden will also include a couple of hives of honey bees, highlighting the plight of pollinators, with White House carpenter Charlie Brandts serving as the First Beekeeper.

Not everyone has been positively impressed by Mrs. Obama’s new organic garden, however. The pesticide industry is offended. In a letter, Mid America CropLife Association, an industry association representing more than 60 companies, set out information about the benefits of technology and pesticides in agriculture.

If you would like to follow Mrs. Obama’s example, but don’t have the time, space or inclination to grow your own vegetables, you can still enjoy farm-fresh organic produce. CSA farms (Community Supported Agriculture) are on the rise. To find one near you, check out the Ontario CSA site, or google your own locality.

Photo credit: Official White House, from The Daily Green.

Read Full Post »