About Me

My photo
I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Butterfly Sex

Yesterday I learned how to tell the boys from the girls, at least among monarch butterflies. (I did figure this out for humans a few decades ago, although I pay less and less attention to such things as the years go by.) At the end of a delightful one-day symposium on sustainable landscaping, the director of the Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio, released several monarch butterflies bred on the site and tagged for research. These butterflies are part of the fall brood that, if all goes well, will find their way to Mexico to spend the winter.

The release took place in the arboretum's pollinator garden, a smorgasbord of nectar and host plants to leave any pollinating insect drooling (if insects could drool). None of the plants were new to me, but the garden was a delight, anyway.

My takeaway for the day was a lesson on how to sex monarchs. The males, like this handsome specimen resting on a swamp milkweed, have two black dots on the hindwings,

while the females lack such ornamentation. They're gorgeous, anyway.


Not long after these pictures were taken, despite its being a chilly day, these young adult butterflies began their spiraling flight into the first leg of their long journey south.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Mixed signals

Here it is, almost mid-September in the Mid-Ohio Valley, and the temperature the first part of the month hovered uncomfortably near 90. Tomorrow, on the other hand, is predicted to bring a high in the mid-sixties and quite a bit of rain, not perfect weather for the end-of-summer festival held in our town the second weekend of September. After a cool weekend, mid-eighties are predicted to return. The weather in our part of the world has trouble making up its mind.

Today brought mixed signals from our local flora and fauna as well. The tulip poplar across the street has already dropped at least a third of its leaves, most of them, it seems, on our sidewalk. Asters of various sorts are blooming in the front pollinator-garden-to-be (still too much in its infancy to be called a real garden).

One of our rudbeckias, however, has gifted us with thirty or so tiny seedlings, certain not to reach blooming size this late in the year. Sitting on the front patio grading papers (or trying to) this afternoon, I was distracted by adolescent cardinals sitting in the holly, demanding food. Such young birds (and such amusing bird behavior) have been more common in June than in September, but some of our local cardinals evidently managed to get in a late clutch of eggs, promising more color at the bird feeders next year.

But--squirrels have been sighted carrying fruits from the kousa dogwoods in the lawn strip and walnuts from the trees in the arboretum, evidently stuffing themselves with fat from the dogwood fruit and beginning their fall stashes of nuts. Hyperactive, foraging rodents are an almost-sure sign of fall. (So too, I fear, are the several hundred baby kousa dogwoods that need to be removed from the lawn strip before it becomes a kousa forest. Sigh.)