The annual phenomenon of antler development in whitetails begins in the spring with the appearance of antlers in velvet and ends in late August/early September when antlers harden and the velvet is shed.
The following images were taken during two photo shoots, one on July 10, the other on July 18. Several bucks are represented, ranging from yearlings to a mature buck that appears to be four or five years old (maximum antler size generally occurs at age six or seven). It’s safe to say that the basic antler structure of these bucks is now apparent because growth will soon be slowing down to a trickle. These are farm-country deer, foraging in cultivated fields (mostly alfalfa hay fields).
In recent years milkweed has received much attention as habitat for dwindling populations of monarch butterflies. Most of the more than 100 species in the Americas are tropical, but one species in particular is a staple of monarchs in the North: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).
My backyard milkweed project started in 2015 with a few transplants from a nonproductive, roadside location. Establishment was slow, but they’re now flourishing. Vegetative reproduction by root sprouts has created a colony of about 30 stems and the large, fragrant flower clusters are insect magnets (according to the US Forest Service, over 450 insects are known to feed on some part of the plant, including flower nectar). I focused on the Lepidoptera, attempting to document the variety of butterflies and moths that benefit from flowering milkweed. Multiple benefits from a single management action is a best-case scenario. The value added from a colony of milkweed is much greater than monarch habitat.
I’ve observed 9 or 10 species of butterflies and moths thus far, as well as countless bees, flies and other insects. This is a sample!