Black swallowtail butterfly egg

I started raising native Kentucky butterflies four years ago.  It has been a relatively easy and enjoyable learning experience.  Black swallowtails (Papilio polyxenes), also known as parsley butterflies, are one of my favorites and one of the easiest to raise.

Black swallowtail butterfly egg on dill plant

Last week I saw a black swallowtail butterfly fluttering around my small patch of dill, parsley and fennel plants.  I grow these plants partly to eat, and also to attract the butterflies.  I have found eggs on these plants in the past.  Sure enough, when I looked later I found this tiny light-colored egg on a small dill plant.

Black swallowtail butterfly adult

I have brought the plant and egg inside.  I hope to photograph the black swallowtail’s life cycle.  I look forward to watching it change into a caterpillar, then a chrysalis, and finally an adult butterfly like the female above.  I am checking the egg daily and will report the happenings.

Polyphemus Moth

A friend gave me a cocoon in early March.  I felt sure it contained a moth, but I didn’t know what kind.  I put the cocoon in a cage outside the dining room window where I could watch it.

polyphemus moth

Recently, I looked out to see this big, beautiful moth that had emerged – one I had never seen before.  It had a wingspan of about six inches.  Using my Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America by Arthur V. Evans, I discovered it was a Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) and that its range is most of the U.S. and Canada.  The information on Wikipedia was also helpful.

Close-up of eye spots on polyphemus hind wings

The moth gets its name from these big spots on the hind wings that look like eyes.  In Greek mythology Polyphemus was a giant who had one big eye.  The moth’s eye spots are thought to confuse and scare away its enemies.

Polyphemus moth just emerged from chrysalis

I took this image shortly after the moth emerged.  I think the cocoon now resembles a finely crafted miniature basket and I’m amazed that the caterpillar could create such a work of art.

This has been another fascinating adventure in the ways of nature.  My thanks to Dave Leonard for sharing the cocoon.

Redbud time in Kentucky

Redbud tree in bloom

It’s redbud (Cercis canadensis) time in Kentucky.  I love seeing all the pink along our roads and highways.  However, my favorite is the one that’s blooming in our backyard.  I enjoy its big splash of pink and the lacy texture of the blossoms.  As the flowers begin to drop, I’ll enjoy the tiny red heart-shaped leaves.  These will turn green as they grow larger and I’ll enjoy them all summer.

young redbud tree soon after planting

This is the tree soon after it was planted five years ago.  When we reworked the backyard, we added three new native trees – a redbud, bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), and black gum or tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica).  We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how fast they have grown.

I’ve always liked trees, and I’ve recently become aware of how important they are to a healthy environment.  In particular, native trees are nurseries for many kinds of insects, which are essential to nature’s food chain.  For example, birds depend on insects as food for themselves and their young.  If we don’t have insects, we won’t have birds.

I enjoy our trees and the wildlife they bring to our backyard.  It’s exciting to see another season of growth begin.

Celandine Poppy – Easter 2010

Celandine poppy flower

This was a bright spot of yellow in the backyard on Easter Sunday.  It was the first blossom of the celandine poppy or wood poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) which is one of my favorite backyard plants.  I can usually count on lots of bright yellow blossoms in April.  If I remove the old flowers, I will likely have blooms until late summer.  It’s a hardy plant, and it grows in dry shade.  In addition, I like the texture of its foliage.

The poppy is the brightest spot in the shade garden right now, but other blossoms include sessile trillium, Dutchman’s britches, anemones, Virginia bluebells, wild ginger, and bellworts.  I enjoyed finding these these same flowers blooming abundantly in the woods this past weekend, and it was nice to come home and see them in my own backyard.