Monday, September 6, 2010

Monarchs in the Act, Mantis Dinner, A Sage Hummer

The Deep Middle has eclipsed 100 monarch chrysalides this summer, and eggs are sporadic outside (peak migration in SE Nebraska is 9/8-9/20). Inside, several dozen larvae await their chance to turn the color of baby boogers, while 31 freshly hatched cats are alive and well--the last of the broods. This week also marks the first time a monarch died in the chrysalis after turning black, and the first time a monarch couldn't get her head off of a torn piece of chrysalis for hours. This female ended up not fully inflating two of her wings (and so is doomed), but I released her anyway, and within hours this tattered fellow had her in his clutches:

She's hanging on by an abdomen 

Tis better to be in the grasp of love than the grasp of a mantis, though:

Headless silver-spotted skipper

For a week I have timed the on again off again appearance of a hummingbird. Precisely 1 hour before sunset he comes, beaming in and out like some Star Trek tease, and I finally got some photos. Thus, as eco theorists might say, I now own the hummingbird and have made it an object, a possession, and so devalue it. At least I don't mount them above my fireplace (wouldn't that be a little bit cool, though?).

Hummer on 'Nekan' sage

Sage 'Nekan' on hummer

Mr. Hummer had interesting flower choices: pink althea on a standard, purple morning glory, white boltonia, and blue sage. Quite the hodgepodge. Maybe the red sunflower was at least a lighthouse of sorts calling out to him?

Finally blooming after bouts with black stem weevils

The caryopteris is also blooming. I'm sure it isn't blooming anywhere else, and so this image will astound and delight you. I like to click on and expand it, to see the bee and the stamens tickling the air:

Is my negative space working for you?

The grasses are looking good. And since this once was a tallgrass prairie, I have some... that go on to flop all over the place with lack of neighborhood support (you should see my big "30 leg octopus" bluestem). But the heads are fascinating, as on this indian grass:

Better negative space in this photo?

And finally the arbor, adorned in 50% less clematis virginiana than last year (why?), but harboring blue lobelia and pink turtlehead at its base:

Trees in back are nice borrowed scenery

The school year is on to week 3, so I start grading in force. Submissions of the garden memoir to agents and presses masochistically continue, quasi positive rejections keep coming from them and journals that have seen shorter bits, and I'm taking baby steps jumpstarting research for my Great Plains historical memoir opus. Oh, and the full-length poetry collection is a finalist for a book contest, in the judge's hands as we speak. Amidst this all is my 9 month thinking-ahead panic of June's garden tour, and some plants I really should get in the ground this fall--probably my favorite time of year to dig (it's yours too, right?).


Les said...

This is not my favorite digging time, that will be in another couple of months. Although it has been pleasant enough to dig hear, what I really want to do is cut back summer's rampant growth, but I have misplaced my machete.

Randy Emmitt said...


Lucky that mantis has not gotten any Monarchs, they will eat therm. Back in 2004 I tagged 50 Monarchs one day on Seaside Goldenrod in VA. The next day I found one of my tagged Monarchs being lunch for a mantis.

Town Mouse said...

Quite a lot going on in your garden! Not sure about that hummer above the fireplace, though... I myself would favor a crochet elk (even seen them?).

Unknown said...

I like both negative spaces, actually... but am more enthralled by the Indiangrass photo, since my caryopteris is already blooming. (But my Indiangrass is not.) ;)

James Golden said...

Caryopteris blooming, Indian grass blooming, drought, drought, drought. One bright spot, drought has controlled the explosive growth of the Japanese stilt grass.

Kyna said...

Jeez, Benjamin...resorting to posting butterfly porn? Tsk, tsk.


Great shots, I have been enjoying my hummingbirds as well. I fear that this is the end of the road to watching them for another season. I think they disappeared last year at the end of September...

wiseacre said...

I can't recall a better year for Virgin's Bower around here. There's still a few straggling flowers but most are well on the way to becoming Old man's Beards.

Kimberly said...

Wow! Really great photos! Impressive! Although the headless butterfly is not for the weak! Great shots of the hummers, but I especially love the macaro of the grass seed head...lovely!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Les--Has it been wet by you? I don't know if everything is so lush here because it's year 3 for my garden, compost, or 7" of extra rain.
Randy--Geeze, nice story! We try to be careful where we place the monarchs when we release, but of course they'll fly off wherever they want. But no crab spiders, assassin bugs, or manti (?).
TM--A crochet elk? That sounds terribly faux pas!
Kim--The absence of a thing is that thing (because we perceive loss and doubt more deeply, make it a bigger deal?)
James--Drought? Geeze, you can have some of the 3.5" we had overnight last week. But everything is early by you too, right? 2 weeks early?
Kyna--Resorting, if you only knew. I seem to see hummers only every other year, but this year the sage is more mature so it helps.
WA--I wish! My whimpy clematis should bloom later this week, maybe a fuzz behind schedule, whereas everythign else is early. It confounds me.
Kimberly--LAst year it was a headless bumblbee (whose head was still very much alive and in the other arm of the mantis).

debsgarden said...

What a delight it must be to witness the monarch's transformation! You have presented some very nice photos. I love caryopteris, and mine is blooming too. (My current post has a photo of it) This is also my favorite time of the year to plant; and fall planting is better for our plants, too, because it gives the roots time to become well established before next summer's heat. Good luck with the school year and all your writing endeavors!

Anonymous said...

Loved your images. It takes patience to get such shots. I liked the mantis image. I never see them.