Monday, April 9, 2012

Garden buzz

Our rainy spring season makes me look like a really good gardener.  While I enjoy spending time in the garden, I'm not sure how much credit I can take for its lushness.  One of my favorite things about the garden is seeing all the bugs and critters that are out there (not including leaf-footed bugs or squash bugs- they are the worst pest to my tomato plants, and they drive me crazy!)  


This weekend I discovered a butterfly caterpillar on some potted violas, and then I discovered the same caterpillars on a weed that grows next to the house.  The caterpillars will turn into Variegated Fritillaries.  I have not been able to identify the weedy plant.  It has a tiny purple bell shaped bloom with a tongue for a petal.  It made me feel good that butterfly larvae are using plants in my yard for food.  I had no idea that violas are a host plants.  I picked them because they are pretty.   


Yesterday a Carpenter Bee spent at least 20 minutes checking every knot, and crack in the boards of the porch.  I tried to get a photo of it visiting some flowers, but it just wouldn't sit still.


One other and slightly disturbing thing I am seeing are Zombie caterpillars.  These are caterpillars with a virus.  The virus makes the caterpillar crawl to the top of a plant, and kills the caterpillar then the exoskeleton 'melts!'  The dissolved exoskeleton allows the virus get out of the dead caterpillar, and it's up high so the virus can drip down to infect more caterpillars.  The virus isn't really a problem, and is used as a biological control on some pests.  But it is kind of creepy to see the dieing caterpillars and I hope it doesn't infect my butterfly larva.  Here's a link to a Cornell's entomology web page with more bug virus info.  
http://www.biocontrol.entomology.cornell.edu/pathogens/baculoviruses.html

A tiny beetle eating pollen while
pollinating a sunflower.
Weedy plant flower in focus.
Do you know the name of this plant?
Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar
on Weedy plant
Sunflower


Melting caterpillar

Melting Caterpillar
Unphotogenic carpenter bee


Garden view
(front to back) Lettuce, dill, tomatoe plants, and 6ft peas